We got up at 3:45 am Alaska time. There was already some twilight. We stayed at a motel right next to the airport (which was about 1/4 the size of the G.R. Ford Airport), so it was an easy walk to the airport. The light rain had tapered off to a very light drizzle. It was a very simple and quick check in. There was both a paved runway and a long canal next to it for the seaplanes. The seaplanes take off and land on water and we saw dozens of them. They take tourists up for a view of the city, often flying just under the clouds. They also take sportsman inland to fish and hunt.
I mentioned that the population of Juneau was 32,099, which makes it slightly smaller than Holland, Michigan. More people live within the city of Denver, Colorado (738,554) than live in the entire state of Alaska (736,990). Juneau is the cloudiest city in the United States, averaging just 30% sunshine over the year.
Juneau has one golf course. It boasts a view of a glacier and you’ll probably see more eagles flying thru the air than recorded on your golf card. The course is just 9 holes – all par 3s. It’s cash only and inexpensive. With the rainy climate of Juneau, the course is sometimes on the soggy side and as you can imagine, it’s a challenge to cut the grass amid the showers.
High school football is a real challenge in Juneau. There is one team, comprised of players from the two public high schools. Because Juneau is geographically isolated from the rest of Alaska’s football-playing schools. The Huskies have to fly to every road game, and they have to provide airfare for the teams that come to play them.
Because of the cold climate, the season starts and ends earlier. This year the Huskies play 5 home games and 3 away games. Their first game is August 13 and the last is October 1.
Gas was $5.17 a gallon in Juneau, but they have cheap and reliable bus service and you don’t drive far to get where you are going.
Juneau has reached 90 degrees just one time, back on July 7, 1975. The coldest ever was -20 back in 1972. The average high temperature ranges from 30 in January to 64 in July. It rains a lot. The record is 51 days in a row with at least a trace of rain. Wednesday they had 0.38″ of rain, bringing the yearly total to 40.63″. That’s 12.58″ above average. That’s 12 days out of the last 14 with measurable rain. Thursday from midnight to 5 pm, the high temperature was 53 and the low temperature was 51. They get about 80″ of snow per winter, though some of the higher mountains can see 200″.
Our plane departed at 5 am and it took awhile to get above the persistent stratus deck. We climbed to 17,000 feet and saw a vast ocean of clouds in all directions. Then there were breaks in the clouds and gradually the skies cleared.
I had a window seat and I was like a little kid looking down on the snow capped mountains below (see pic. above). I cannot find the words to convey the wonder and excitement I felt. We must have gone 200 miles over the white mountains and dark forest valleys of hemlock and Sitka spruce without a single sign of civilization. There were no towns, I could see no roads. Even from several miles up, you can see where the prevailing west-southwest wind had pushed the snow into gigantic drifts. I saw several mountaintop lakes there were still frozen over.
Here’s current North American snow and ice cover. You can see the snow covered mountains from SE Alaska down thru British Columbia almost to the Washington State border. That’s what we were flying over. Also in this pic. you can see that there is still some ice in Hudson Bay along the southwest shore. There’s also plenty of ice cover over the Arctic Ocean.
Here’s a record of Arctic Sea ice extent. Currently the ice extent is well below average, but above the extent of 2012 (ten years ago).
This is a picture I took from the plane window. We passed a large area with snow covered mountains and valleys filled with fog. As you looked west, closer to the Ocean, the mountains were smaller (lower in elevation) and they were more apt to be bare instead of being covered with snow. There was also more fog. Finally, on the horizon to the west, it appeared the Pacific Ocean was solid low clouds and fog
Finally, as we reached SW British Columbia. Skies were mostly clear and we had a good view of the landforms below. Now, you could pick out a road or two and crops growing in a farmer’s field.
This was the view of downtown Seattle. Can you find the Space Needle? We saw a ferry crossing Puget Sound.
Shipping dock with cranes in Seattle
As we approached the airport, we passed this shipping dock. You can see the cranes that unload the big ships that arrive from overseas. Seattle-Tacoma is the 4th largest sea port in the U.S. with a volume of 3.7 million TEUs (Twenty-foot equivalent units). By contrast, Shanghai, China is the biggest port by volume, handling 30 million TEUs per year. The largest export is food-related. Oil seeds, various grains, seafood, fruit and vegetable move through the port. The biggest ship to come into port is 1,310 feet long and 177 feet wide.
Elliot Bay is 600 feet deep and does not require any dredging.
The sun was shining at the Seattle Airport. We had a wait of about 3 hours. The next leg of our trip home was from Seattle to Dallas (hub city for American Airlines). We fly standby and only board if there are empty seats 15 min. before departure. We lucked out – got on the plane…we were taxiing out to the runway…and…a red engine light came on. Uh-oh – we had to go back to the gate.
Fortunately, a bigger airport has maintenance personnel there (smaller airports sometimes do not). We waited on the plane. Unfortunately, there was a computer issue they couldn’t fix quickly. So…now what? We had to all deplane.
Paying customers go first, so we had to check flights that might have empty seats. Michelle was speedy-fast with her phone looking for an alternative. She found a flight. Was it full or…did they have room for us? We went to the gate and Michelle checked us in. This plane was going to Chicago (a lot closer than Dallas) and we got the last couple seats.
It was a relatively quick trip to Chicago with favorable winds and no thunderstorms to steer around. I read about 100 pages of a book and talked with a lady who lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. I asked her what it was like to have nearly 22 hours of daylight (2 hours of bright twilight) in June and the corresponding very brief amount of daylight in winter.
After we landed, we had about 30 min. to grab a bite at the Admiral’s Club – then headed to the flight to Grand Rapids. Fortunately, it had a handful of empty seats. We got back to Grand Rapids – and it was raining lightly. By the time we got back to our house, it was 12:35 am. Long day!
It was a fun trip – Juneau is a cool place, both literally and figuratively. We dressed for the weather and really enjoyed the trip. I’ve now been in 45 states (left on my list: Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Montana and North Dakota) and Michelle in 48 states (just Vermont and New Hampshire for her).