/Features

Juneau & Icy Strait Point: The Last Frontier Alaska
/ 10 September 2013

Alaska is one of the most distinctive places I’ve ever been, in an extraordinary way for sure. It’s located up far to the north of this planet Earth, that’s why people called Alaska as The Last Frontier. This state now belongs to The United States and officially become its 49th state union, after Russia sold it. Extreme weather goes with low population as an effect, at some point I believed only ones who brave and adventurous enough could take living there. Now let’s estimate how many people alive with bravery in Alaska, while even Wolverine and Captain America have never taken a visit? The answer is just truly that I mistook this state’s strong impression, because the fact is that Alaska is owned by peaceful people. It’s extreme but calm at the same time. Already intriguing and I haven’t started my story yet.

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Traveling to Alaska was like coming back to nature, no skyscraper buildings but lively little village. A grandpa sitting on his wooden chair in the house terrace; wearing woven hat and striped socks while smoking pipe; looking at the breezy land as white air comes out as he breathes, pretty fit the image of how I actually saw Alaska.

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Cities in Alaska are quite quiet, such as Juneau, Ketchikan, Anchorage, Sewards, and Hoonah, with fishermen and gold miners living all along. It sounds so suburban-like but you can expect to have more leisure time by hiking, going Kayaking, taking Zip Line, and last but not least: eating. Firstly I visited Juneau, the capital city of Alaska. Since Juneau is a city with second-biggest human population in Alaska, it means more mouths to feed, and say what? More interesting stuffs!

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I understood that I couldn’t compare this capital city of Alaska with other capital cities in the US, but positively Juneau got her own charm. The downtown is small and noiseless although Juneau itself is the second-vast area in United States. Seems like the word ‘second’ has been said twice so far, well it’s Alaska, you give peace sign with both hands.

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In Juneau I came across a Saloon (local traditional bar) named Red Dog Saloon. Saloon was a place where all gold miners assembled and hung out in the past, searching for Bloody Mary-a cocktail consists of vodka, tomato juice, pepper, and Tabasco, which now becomes one of Alaska’s signature drink. Red Dog Saloon is one of the oldest bars in Juneau that still got its genuine style even after decades. The waiters and waitresses give a cowboy feel through their uniforms and the piano was being played while they walked here and there greeting the customers, wow, I was thrown back to the ‘Gold Rush’ era! The walls were decorated with hanging preserved-animals as I stood on the floor made of sawdust. Just need a pair of guns on my belt, and then it would feel pretty much awesome as if I’m a wild cowboy with failed trendy-shirt. In this bar, you can see memorabilia from Wyatt Earp, the legendary sheriff with thick moustache whose role is often being played by today Hollywood actors. Wyatt Earp inadvertently left his gun in Red Dog Saloon when he was on his journey, like the signage inside the saloon said “CHECKED BUT NEVER CLAIMED”. Before coming here, I’ve never thought that I’ll experience being an Alaskan Cowboy instead of being Ice Age’s Sid.

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After I heated my body with some delicious liquor, I continued my day-walk around Juneau by visiting Alaska State Museum. Here in this museum is archived all information from A to Z about the native development. It has fascinating exhibits on local culture, artistic innovation, natural history, and the settlement of Alaska. The museum is an excellent place to get a broad overview of Alaska’s history, its regions, and people that populate them. Ancient people of Alaska are still in one lineage with the Paleo-Indian, this relation can be seen through the rich Indian taste in all of their cultural heritage sites and handmade legacy. The Tlingit, Inupiat, Yupik, and others whom I thought as some Eskimo Tribe with their infamous igloo, were originally ingenious carvers and seamstresses. Many of their handmade items are displayed in the museum. The more I learned about Alaska’s history, the more I was able to emerge and connect it with what they thought when they made all of these artifacts. All of their cultural heritage, from textiles, arts, and carvings, are dominated by the pattern of animals like owls or salmons. A very honest truth about how they lived side by side with nature and it still stimulates me until today.

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After sight-seeing for souvenir, I visited Hubbard Glacier which is located outside the downtown of Juneau, specifically inside the area of Tongass National Forest. I went for a little-laid-back hiking, enjoyed the breeze and freshness of the conservation forest, and witnessed the unbelievably-super-striking-for-my-eyes Glacier that was shaped naturally by stream of the river. The ice was the most beautiful blue, and the view from the glacier was breathtaking! Like I’ve said, everything in Alaska is very distinctive, nothing looked less-like to what I’ve seen anywhere before. Hike, bike, or ride helicopter to the Hubbard Glacier, it’s worth every penny!

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In order to get to the deeper sea of Alaska, and to satisfy my thirst searching for more treasure, I went diving to Icy Strait Point in city called Hoonah. It’s metaphorical, not a sane-minded tourist would jump into the water at this kind of temperature. Icy Strait Points was a salmon fish processing and canning factory, so I didn’t lie about the sea treasure, except the fact that now this place has become a museum and tourism object. Besides looking at the history of salmon-canning development, of course I couldn’t miss to ride the Zip Rider, the longest Zip Line track in the world! Hung up at 1km height above the tree-top, with around 2 km rail length, it was like floating in the air. With the average speed of 65 mph, I was swung from top of the hill straight down to the shore. 1.5 minutes spurred my adrenaline, super fun! Arrived at the shore, I figured it wouldn’t hurt me if I walked down the beach for a moment. Okay, not a moment, I even tried to go a little further to the sea, cross-fingered if I was allowed to have a little luck for seeing pack of whales and sea-lions. I wasn’t.

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Tired of all-day-long activities, I believed I deserved good food and drinks. I went to some restaurant that provided fresh crab, fulfilled my feast with fresh and giant King Crab, my sense of taste was in heaven. I didn’t forget to order meal made of salmon of course, since it’s the most iconic dish of Alaska. Forget that the salmon was cooked based on American-food style, because you will swallow the unbeaten flavor of freshness. After spoiling my stomach, what else could completely dry my saliva? Toast to the breezing land! Or should I say beer-zing?

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Photos and words by Aditya Arnoldi

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