I kept my nose pretty much plastered to the windowpane the entire ride up - much akin to a 5 year old. The low lying clouds gave way in spots to the rolling green beauty that is British Columbia. Eager to start the next phase of my life, my head got a little dizzy as I first glimpsed the islands and waters of Ketchikan harbor. It was twilight, which up here means about 8:30pm in May. As we bumped and landed onto the runway, the girl next to me turned, half assuming I'd be deplaning here.
"Are you getting off here?" She asked
"No, I don't live here." I said.
"Oh, are you from Juneau?" She asked
"Not yet, I'm from Boston." Says I
"Oh cool...I live in Juneau. I haven't seen you before. You moving here?" She asks
The conversation that followed was a play by play of living in Juneau, where to find the right jobs, the prices of rent, the advantages over living in Anchorage and the bums of downtown Juneau (She wasnt kidding). It was nice to have the luck of sitting next to a local rather than another dumb transplant like myself. One thing I've been rational about keeping in check is that starry eyed concept that Alaska would be a land of Utopia, where one goes to escape something and everyone is wild and happy. I know that Alaska is also part of this world, and can fall victim and make you a victime of the same bull that made you up and quit in the lower 48 in the first place. I suppose I could say that I there are a few things I'm running from...a failed engagement, deadending in my budding career before it left the ground, recycling the same rotation of bars and local places over and over for another 25 years of life...but truth be told - I'm not running from that. I am, however, running towards something will all the speed and stamina that I can muster.
One look at the Chilkat mountains undulating in the distance in snowcrested grandure, and I know I've made the right choice. I took a walk down to this beach on Thane Road the third day I got here. I spent the first two meeting my new fellow workers and taking in downtown.
I got to the beach in the morning, directly after breakfast. It was empty but for several eagles and two men fixing some sort of transformer. I walked fairly far down, snapping up pictures of every possible angle. I stood there on the beach and watched float planes depart the inlet. A cirlce of eagles flew high above Douglas Island before divebombing their spotted prey. Behind me, meltwater thundered down the mountain side and gurgled into a stream not 100 feet from me. A sign I'd just passed read "Avalanche Zone"...this is where I belong.
Juneau is a beautiful big-little city. I was told by my coordinator not to bother with a car since I'll be in the bush most of the time doing trail work. That being said...this place has a lot of road distance for a city with no road outlet. I considered the idea of renting a bike, but my old back injury has been a bit sore...rather not push it considering the work ahead of me. I've taken the bus to the Mendenhall Valley to do some shopping for necessary items, as well as to take a trip to the famed glacier. (Pictures later).
The one thing I've noticed here is the level of alcohol and substance abuse. I knew that it was a problem per my research prior to making this leap, however seeing it in action really gives it a face. They are mostly men, about 35-50 from what I can tell. Its disgusting to walk by them in the evening as they have no problem hollaring anything at you that comes to mind, and I'll leave that to your imagination given I'm usually walking by myself. So far I've been leered at, whistled at, hollared at, grunted towards and "motioned" towards. I was also plauged by two native men fixing a roof who obviously had a panorama of my movements everwhere I went for several blocks...
Juneau is breath taking, it has its drawbacks, it has its positives. Taking the good and the bad together I am in Love. There are a few things that could improve as mentioned above, but there is a plethora more that I love. This is a huge place, with mountains in the distance and mountains in the fore on all sides. You can step into the woods and get lost for hours, you can board a ferry or a plane and be flung thousands of miles into the wild. There is so much here that man has not touched. And some places where man can be found. Alaska, I can tell, is what you make of it.