Clean, crisp air, ferns the size of small trees, glaciers that spill from rugged mountains into the sea, and wildlife everywhere. Breathtakingly beautiful. That’s the setting I experienced growing up in Juneau, Alaska. Paul Henderson has asked us to share our memories of the most unique or special place we have lived to date. Here’s my story.
Juneau is always in my heart, and not just because I have a son and grandsons who live there. The little fishing town shaped me into the person I am today. It instilled in me a deep love and profound respect for nature and all of its creatures. We moved there when I was eight years old, when dad was transferred for a new position in the Alaska State Troopers. I moved away in my mid-twenties for a new adventure and never returned - permanently. I’m not sure I fully appreciated the gift of growing up there until I left. Small towns can feel quite limiting when you’re young.
Dad taught us how to fish, read weather, and safely operate a boat and a gun. Mom taught us how to garden in a short growing season, and which berries were safe to pick in the woods. Frequent snow in the winter months required learning how to put chains on a car. Hiking the local trails, I knew to carry a bell or sing loudly to let the bears know I was around. They hate surprises. Garbage can lids were always tethered down too, preventing visiting bears from finding an easy food source. Bears have plenty of company in Juneau. Eagles soar overhead, mountain goats dot high ravines, and deer frequent meadows. Marine mammals include whales, porpoise, dolphin, seals, and sea lions.
To me, the only downside to living in Juneau is the frequent rain. More annual rainfall than we get in the Pacific Northwest. After all, the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. You can thank the rain for creating this magnificent environment of towering hemlock, spruce, and yellow and red cedar. Underneath the canopy of massive trees, young evergreens, shrubs, and berry bushes thrive. Moss and ferns cover the ground and lichens hang like lace from many tree branches. And in spring and early summer, an abundance of wildflowers burst forth in vibrant colors.
Visits home to see my oldest son, his wife, and their two young sons fill me with joy, and memories. They own an adventure guide business and are thriving personally and professionally. When we're in Juneau, we go for hikes, boating and rafting adventures, and the sights, smells and sounds of my old hometown tug at my heart strings. Yet when I leave, it’s not with sadness, or a longing to permanently return. It’s more of a sense of satisfaction and the anticipation of getting back home. There really is no place like home.
(Photo Snowy Juneau was photographed by my son, Sean Janes, while backcountry skiing on Saddle Mountain in March, 2012 - The photos of the wild Lupine and boys on the boat were taken by me in July, 2015)