Friday, December 31, 2010

The Hand Of Man

It snowed heavily almost the entire day yesterday, and by the end of my workday there was at least another six inches of new snow on the ground downtown.
I checked the weather forecast while at the office, and those who study the sky had determined that the temperatures were going to rise for almost the next week, and that it was going to rain almost for the entire next week.
Heading home last night the roads were a mess even though snow ploughs had been kept busy all day.
By this morning it was raining heavily and the huge amount of snow we have had around our house was already beginning to melt.
My Mountain Boy and I had every intention today of driving out to the End Of The Road and never made it.
In fact, it is now 2:40 in the afternoon and I am still sitting here in pajamas.
With it pouring with rain and very windy outside, with a crock pot full of chili, with endless football bowl games on TV and with my Mountain Boy and my dog with me, somehow all seems well.
About half the snow is now gone.  We still have a lot to go, but if the weather holds true most of the remaining snow should be gone by the time I head back to work on Monday..........

These are all pictures of the hand of man in and around Juneau.
I take endless pictures of birds and bears and fish and dogs and mountains and trees and rivers and lakes.
They are all wonderful pictures because this is a wonderful place filled with endless nature.
But there are also many times when I unexpectedly run into something in my travels that has been touched by man.
Sometimes it is a piece of art.  Sometimes it is a monument made out of rock.  Sometimes it is a relic tied to a rich Juneau history.  And sometimes it is something completely off-the-wall such as a fence made entirely out of skis.
I have photographed many professionally made statues, signs and paintings throughout this region.
But these things, made by amateurs who somehow and for some reason felt compelled to leave their mark as evidence that they had been to these places, are one more wonderful way to simply

The picture above was taken on a beach in Thane. 
Thane is a community on the far side of Juneau whose claims to fame include the homeless campsite in the woods that is overseen by the city, and the fact that the entire area is in an avalanche region.
There is a fish hatchery out there, a couple of seasonal restaurants, a few trail heads, a number of homes, and a long and very beautiful beach stretching from town all the way to the end of the road.
This face was burned into a long-ago downed tree resting along the shore.
It is located close to the road, and far enough way so that it does not get swept out into the channel when the tide comes in.
It is beautiful, totally unexpected, and whenever I see it I wonder who made it and why he chose this place to make it.
It is beautiful..........

LC and I walked a trail Out the Road this past summer and eventually made it to a state cabin at Cowee Creek.
Inside this very small and rustic but beautiful cabin, and sitting on the table, was this home made leather-bound book.
Inside were pages filled with handwritten messages from visitors to the cabin.
I love the amateur character of this little book and the cartoon-like grasshopper on the cover.  
I love the fact that visitors leave messages telling stories of their families and their experiences at the cabin, and I love the fact that it has not been stolen.
My Lower 48 mentality and expectation is that it would not last long in cabins down there............
On a visit to Eagle Beach this past summer I spent about 15 minutes collecting rocks and writing my name in the sand with them.
Compelled to leave my mark as evidence that I had been to this place...........
A sweet little painted heart, found on a rock on the beach at Echo Cove.........
Hebert Glacier Trail is a smooth, flat and wide open gravel-filled trail that leads directly to the glacier.
About ten minutes walk on the trail you come across this old, rusted and bullet-ridden vehicle.
I was shocked to see it the first time I walked on the trail, because it seemed so completely random and so out of place.
I am always very curious to know what the story is behind this car.
It looks like it has been in this exact spot for many many years...........
There is rock everywhere in Juneau.
The city and state both make good use of the rock - blasting it, crushing it, storing it, transporting it, laying it during road building, gravelling the roads in the winter with it.
The locals do something much more fun with it.  They build rock towers.
I have found rock towers at every rocky beach in town during my travels over this past first year in Juneau. 
Some of them are small and were obviously made in just a few minutes.  Others are much bigger, more intricate and obviously took some time.
I have built a couple over this past year, also on rocky beaches.
At first I wondered why locals seemed to take such pleasure in building them, but after giving it a try I found that there is something very relaxing and cathartic about the process of building.
And so now I understand it a little better.
On one unusual day this past summer at Mendenhall Glacer LC and I became aware of the fact that there was not just one or two random rock towers at the glacier.
They were everywhere.
On every trail, on every rock, all over the beach.
It was almost as though, on that particular random and sunny day, as if every local and every cruise-ship visitor at the glacier had taken the time to stop for a few moments and build.
Curious tourists asked us what the significance of the rock towers were.
I told them that there was actually no real significance. 
That it was just a simple and quiet activity that Juneauites like to do. 
That it was therefore just something that we did.
And so they stopped for a few moments and built a rock tower too............
This past summer LC and Jamie and I walked along the beach at Echo Cove at the End Of The Road.
We walked on the beach a long way, just taking our time and enjoying what was a very beautiful and sunny day.
On the spur of the moment we decided to leave the beach and explore trails that we knew were in the woods but had not yet seen.
Surprisingly and totally randomly, the first thing we saw when we made it to the trail was this tire swing.
There is a church camp closer to the channel that we were walking towards, and I guess this swing belongs to them.............
On the way back to the truck, and while still at Echo Cove, we came across this abandoned trap.
There is something very rustic and artistic about them, I am drawn to them and I took this picture.
I have a lobster trap in the living room of our house, a yard sale find that I bought probably 10 years ago that is being used as a coffee table............
There is a youth center in downtown Juneau that is run by a lady who loves doing what she is doing.
She loves working with young people, loves not only what she can teach them but also what they can teach her, and when I look at her face she has this "aura" about her of happiness and contentment.
A very nice lady who also goes moose hunting in the interior with her husband every fall, so a true Alaskan.
This small painting was on the outside of the youth center building and I took a picture of it this past summer.
I have no idea what the story is behind this picture, the reason for the human body and bird head, or who painted it.
Another one of those strange, random, eye-catching things that I am drawn to in my travels........
While LC was sighting in a new rifle at the gun range this past fall I took Jamie (who is terrified of all loud noises) for a walk down the road.
I had never travelled on that road before so had no idea what was there, but was eager to find out.
Eventually my dog and I unexpectedly came to a trail and had a great time exploring a new place that paralleled the river.
All of the signs along the road and all of the metal garbage cans along that road had been used for target practice, including this End Road 1000 Feet sign...........
A huge skeleton hanging from a crane at the ferry terminal in Auke Bay this past Halloween..........
Out in Thane again and also along the beach, there are many many signs of boat docks that used to be in this place during the gold mining era over a century ago.
Now this entire section of beach is an interesting and lovely boat and dock graveyard..........
Last February while still staying at an extended stay hotel in downtown Juneau, I rode a borrowed mountain bike over to Douglas Island and headed north, wanting to take some pictures of the boat ramp and open channel that I knew was located about 10 miles or so down the road.
When I left Juneau it was cold but clear and sunny.
By the time I was only a mile or so down the highway heading north on Douglas Island I was completely enveloped in heavy and freezing cold fog.
I ended up making it to the boat ramp that was my goal destination, but when I arrived the fog was so thick I could see absolutely nothing.
It was as though the world had completely disappeared.
I looked down at my fleece sweater and it was covered in a thin layer of ice.
The fog was like a wall of white, completely obscuring everything (Water and mountains?  Completely gone.  Lost in the fog), and it was so thick that for the first time I was in fog that was almost claustrophobic.
Needless to say, I did not stay at the boat ramp for long.
I added more layers of clothing, froze my ass off all the way back to town, and when I crossed over the Juneau-Douglas bridge again I was greeted by what I had left a couple of hours earlier - cold, clear, blue sky and sunshine.
While heading towards the boat ramp earlier that morning I came across this structure.
It is a fence and door created completely out of skis (there is a house behind it somewhere), and although it is unusual and not something I could ever envision at my own home, it is a wonderfully creative thing.
And somehow, on this island that is also home to Eaglecrest Ski Resort, and at that time of year when the entire town is consumed with downhill skiing, it seemed to fit.............
One more rock tower - this one taken at Auke Village Recreation Area, not too far from the ferry terminal..........
This picture was taken during my very first trip out to Eagle Beach late last winter.
One more of those blue-sky freezing-cold no-choice-but-to-be-outside kinds of days.
When I pulled my mountain bike into the parking lot of Eagle Beach and looked out at the channel and looked out over the Chilkat Mountains I was speechless at its beauty.
A very very far cry from small rural town Tennessee....
I spent a long time at Eagle Beach that first day, freezing but loving it too much to leave.
While walking and picture taking, I unexpectedly came across this thing.
There were no identification markings on it, but I have developed a habit of (rightly or wrongly) assuming that unattended and scientific looking gizmos belong to NOAA.
Regardless, I took a picture of this strange piece, with the blue sky and snow-covered mountains in the background............
Two pictures taken on Sandy Beach over on Douglas South.
This beach is one of the very few in Juneau that is wonderfully and stereotypically sandy, in contrast to most of the local beaches which are filled with rocks.
On a beautiful day this beach is usually busy with walkers and kite flyers and frisbee throwers and dogs running and kids playing.
It is a very beautiful beach.
Along this beach and also along the adjoining Treadwell Mine Trail are hundreds of artificacts that speak to the mining history of this area.
The beach is beautiful.  The trail is beautiful.  And both are filled with hugely interesting and non-stop history.
An old pump house and remnants of a boat dock..........
This has been one of my very favorite artistic encounters.
Shells, rocks, sticks, dandelions,'s got everything and I love it.........
I checked out the Juneau Empire for a few days straight after learning that someone had fallen through the ice at Mendenhall Glacier last week.
Surprisingly there was no report of the incident in the local daily newspaper.
I found this today, reported on a local radio station website:

Man falls through ice at base of glacier
Capital City Fire Rescue responded to the Mendenhall Glacier Sunday morning on a report that a man had fallen through the ice at the base of the glacier.
Captain Ed Quinto says they were alerted just before 10:30.
He says the man was out of the water with the help of a friend by the time they arrived.
Rescue personnel went to the face of the glacier with a rescue sled and a 4-wheeler to retrieve the man.
He was taken to the hospital by ambulance where he was treated for hypothermia.
The man's identity was not released.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Walk Downtown

All morning I worked downtown, and took these pictures while walking to and from a meeting at a coffee shop that I had this morning.
There is a lot of snow downtown, but nowhere near as much as there is out in the Valley and especially Out the Road.
The roads are quiet now, and the sidewalks are also very quiet this time of year.
Locals can even find on-street parking nowadays.....
This time of year it is difficult to believe either that Juneau is the capital city of Alaska, or that in another five months there will be twice as many stores open in town as there are now, and thousands of tourists walking, gawking, picture taking, and carting around Juneau-bought trinkets..........

The low white building on the corner in this picture is a McDonald's restaurant, and surprisingly it will be closing soon.
I find it hard to believe, since it is located in such a prime spot not too far from the cruise ship docks, that it does not do enough business to continue.
But apparently not.
There is one more McDonald's in the Valley that is only a drive-through, and there are three Subway shops spread out around town and that's about it for fast food.
I miss Zaxby's Chicken Finger Sandwich Meals, and would pay big bucks for a Wendy's Frosty.  I miss pizza from a mom and pop Italian joint down in Tennessee called Raphaels.  But that's about it.
LC misses Burger King. 
I know many people who speak longingly of Popeyes and Taco Bell and Ihop.
It is amazing how fast food joints are ingrained into our collective American psyche.
When Juneauites talk about the things they miss the most from their previous lives down in the Lower 48 family and fast food restaurants are always mentioned............
Fully half of all stores in downtown Juneau are owned and operated by the cruise ship lines and close up once the last boat sails out of town in September.
With the exception of the banks and either city, state or federal office buildings, the remainder of downtown is made up of independent and locally owned businesses - coffee shops, book stores, an expensive outdoor gear store, an impressive number of bars, artsy and fartsy stores, that sort of thing...........
Quiet streets.
Truthfully though, these downtown streets can be a little creepy this time of year - and especially late in the afternoon into early evening - lots of homeless people milling around.
When I came up for my interview in early November of 2009 I remember walking around town around 4:30pm.
It was almost dark, there was nobody else walking around, lots of bars open but almost no stores open.
On that day, in a strange town alone, I ended up going back to the hotel feeling creeped out when I walked down a street and passed a soup kitchen, with a good number of homeless people milling around on the sidewalk.
Lovely town that is surrounded by lovely mountains.
But I do feel uncomfortable walking late in the afternoon and into the evening in Juneau in the winter. 
The days are darker and colder, and so are the homeless people...........
My 9am meeting was at a downtown coffee shop called Silverbow Bakery.
One of those yuppie urban vanilla-frappachino-whipped-cream-in-your-coffee-four-bucks-for-a-blueberry-scone type of places.
My regular black coffee is a bargain in comparison.
I had been taking pictures downtown off and on during my walk up the hill towards the coffee shop.
I turned back towards the downhill and was stunned to see part of the sunrise down at the channel.
I could only see a small part of it through and over the downtown buildings.
For one split second I forgot about my meeting and felt compelled to walk back down the hill, down to the channel and to take pictures of what looked like a very beautiful sunrise filled sky.
I looked at my watch.
The sunrise was just going to have to continue rising without me..........
I mentioned once before while blogging pictures during my visit to Sitka that there is a lot of wonderful painted art work to be found on the sides of buildings in Alaska.
This lovely and large whale painting is located directly outside the coffee shop.............
This painting close to the back of Juneau is absolutely amazing.
It is huge, taking up the entire outside length of one building.
It is colorful, it is beautiful, it adds so much color to what was otherwise a very grey and cold winter day in Juneau............
Homes far too close together with rugged mountains in the background..........
Walking down a side street that I do not usually travel on I surprisingly found two more colorful and beautiful paintings...........
This road deadends at the channel in one direction and at the mountains in the opposite direction.
Up the hill at the end of this road is a set of stairs (probably 100 or so steps).
The stairs take you up to the next street.
Last February I walked up this road, climbed up the stairs, and then took a picture from the steps looking all the way back down to the water at the bottom of the very long and narrow street.
Beyond the steps are more back roads that eventually lead to a secondary gravel road and then trail heads. 
I climbed Mt Roberts up to the tramway terminal on that day.................
Inevitably in my travels downtown, I end up at Marine Park.........
A pretty town.
And I am so glad I live Out the Road..........
This afternoon I had a meeting out in the Valley.
My 4-wheel drive truck without the camper...........
Late in the morning it started snowing.
The snow was fine but heavy, and when I called LC at home he told me that it was also snowing heavily out at the house.  Big fat heavy flakes.
These are pictures he took of the snow this afternoon..........
On the way home tonight I pulled off Glacier Highway and saw just how much snow had actually fallen close to the house.
The side road was filled with new and deep snow, the road was unploughed, and my 4-wheel-drive was making it through that mess without a problem.
Too cool.
As I made my way further down the road I had to pull over and stop the truck.
A large box truck was sitting in the ditch in the snow bank, and a tow truck was parked sideways across the width of the road trying to pull him out.
15 minutes later the box truck was free, the tow truck had pulled off the road and over to the side, and vehicles that had been blocked in both directions (including mine) could continue on...........
One last look at colorful retaining wall artwork..........
Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories ~ From the movie An Affair to Remember