Day 3: Juneau
Today we woke up to fantastic sunny, crisp and clear Alaska weather — the kind that makes you want to throw open the windows the second you roll out of bed. Our plan was a hike up Mt. Roberts (the one right behind the city overlooking the port). But before that, we decided to fuel up with a delicious breakfast at the hotel’s cafÃƒÂ©. In my continuing effort to eat local-sounding foods whenever possible, I can report the Salmon Hash was delicious.
The Mt. Roberts trailhead is about 10 blocks north and uphill from the Westmark Baranof Hotel — not to be confused with the Mt. Roberts tramway, which is located to the south (by the cruise ships) and is the lazy-man’s method of getting to the top.
The Mt. Roberts trail is a solid two-mile hike up 1800 feet to the wildlife center and the tram drop-off. We encountered a few other hikers along the way, and although some guy in the hotel elevator told us there was a bear sighting in the vicinity, the most threatening wildlife I saw was a chipmunk. At the bottom of the trail, there were some rough patches, and near the top of the trail, some sections still had snow and ice on the ground, but nothing impassable.
Mt. Roberts offers some great views of Juneau and the city’s port area. A resident told us she hikes up the trail everyday to train for an annual race they run up the trail each fall. The trail continues beyond the tram station for several miles to higher peaks such as Gastineau Peak (3800 ft) and Observation Peak (4k-something feet), but the views from Mt. Roberts are great because it looms so close to Juneau.
In addition to the great views of the city from Mt. Roberts, there is also a large population of bald eagles patrolling the area. Some hawks show up from time to time, but the eagles steal the show.
Beyond the Mt. Roberts visitor center, ten more minutes of hiking brought us to a couple of great observation points which marked our highest elevation of the day.
For lunch, we decided to eat at the Timberline Bar & Grill in the complex at the top of the tramway. When you buy at least $10 of food or merchandise at the top of the mountain, they will waive the $10 fee to purchase a one-way down ticket. So that was a no-brainer. We were seated shortly after noon, but after about 45 minutes, it became apparent they forgot about us. We tracked down somebody to take our order, but after another 45 minutes, it became apparent they forgot about us again. LOL. Lucky for them, the view from our table was pretty sweet, we were still hungry, and we still wanted that $30 receipt to go down the tram! Finally, our discounted lunch arrived but the Halibut sandwich tasted 100 percent great.
After lunch, we strolled through the gift shop, and then boarded the tram with the rest of the cruise boat folk. With four cruise boats in port, it was pretty busy and they packed us into the cable car pretty tight (even asking passengers to take off your backpacks).
Upon our return to sea level, we spent the remainder of the afternoon strolling through town. Mom and Dad stopped by Juneau’s Rainbow Foods health food store (not to be confused with the Rainbow Foods giant grocery store chain) and picked up some fruit for an evening snack. We all kicked back at the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the day, soaking up the evening’s beautiful weather until the sun finally decided to set a little before 10PM.