I recently returned from an Alaskan cruise. It wasn't my first visit to this area of the US. A decade ago I was in Alaska conducting research for my master's thesis, which focussed on an intertribal musical group that fused powwow with pop, rock, and country. Led by singer and guitarist Paul Pike of Tkaqmkuk (Newfoundland), much of Medicine Dream's music speaks to the Mi'kmaw experience in Newfoundland, but members represent a variety of Aboriginal cultures, including Chocktaw, Mescalero Apache, Inupiaq, and Yupik. You can view a Medicine Dream video on Youtube or visit their website for more information on the group.
This time, I embarked on an Alaskan adventure with my parents and sister. I guess you could say that Alaska has always been on my father's bucket list. This trip (our first family vacation in almost two decades) was arranged with the goal of checking off that item. We left from Vancouver and visited Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, and Ketchikan before returning home.
While on the ship, we attended a lecture on excursions. We already had ours booked months before boarding the ship, but picked up a few tips for the communities we would be visiting. The one piece of advice available for Juneau was to buy a ticket for the tramway as a way to pass time between multiple excursions. When we arrived in Juneau, we were docked at the base of the tramway, so my sister and I decided that after our excursion to Mendenhall Glacier, we would take a trip to the top of the mountain just for the view.
What we discovered at the end of the tramway was quite impressive: the Mountain House recreation and cultural centre included a beautiful gift shop, a bar and grill, the Chilkat Theatre for viewing a free short film on Tlingit history and culture, extensive hiking trails (currently closed due to record snowfall this year), and even a resident bald eagle (he is injured and cannot return to the wild).
Opened in 1996, the Mt. Roberts Tramway was initially a partnership between the Mount Roberts Development Corporation and Goldbelt, Inc (the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act corporation for Alaska Natives in and from Juneau with approximately 3300 shareholders). Two years after opening, Goldbelt, Inc purchased the MRDC interest and has since operated the Tramway. The Tramway and Mountain House provide employment opportunities between May and September for community members and cruise ships deliver tourists from all around the world to their doorstep.
What a view!