Juneau is a major stop for cruise lines, and for the most part, downtown Juneau catered to this crowd. Three cruise ships lined the dock at all times with another few ships docked a little further. I wasn’t expecting so many people cramped into narrow streets lined with crappy souvenir shops. Do people really travel to Alaska to buy pearl necklaces? Confusing.
There is a phrase known as “out the road” in Juneau. It basically means driving on the Glacier Hwy away from the city and the chaotic throngs of cruisers. In other words, “out the road” means that the further away one gets from the cruise ships, the more beautiful and peaceful (and uncrowded) the surroundings.
We booked a very rustic cabin at the Shrine of St. Therese – a cabin in the middle of nowhere with no plumbing and no electricity, just a potbellied stove and a spectacular view. Unfortunately, they renovated our cabin a day before we were scheduled to arrive. so they offered us their largest retreat cabin that slept like 18 people, and had running water, heat, and electricity. Given the weather, I was almost thankful for this change of plans – walking to the outhouse in the cold rain would have kind of sucked.
We met Ruth, the caretaker/coordinator, her two kitties, and John (?), a volunteer who gave us a grand tour of the shrine compound. He showed us the spot where salmon swam upstream from the sea (again, awesomely compelling to watch), and told us, “People watch too much Discovery channel. They see these salmon and think they can catch them with their hands, so I had to put up this sign.” I laughed nervously…yeah, why would *anyone* want to do that?
Some guys didn’t quite make it.
We tried spotting whales from shore, but we didn’t have much luck.
We explored the Shrine of St. Therese the remainder of the day. What I loved about the Shrine of St. Therese is that even though there’s a Catholic church on premise, they preach a beautiful message that I think everyone of any faith can relate to: natural beauty restores and instills serenity, peace and love internally and towards others. I don’t really subscribe to any religion in particular, but I found this place extremely spiritual. If only all churches were like this in message (and location).
As corny as this sounds, my spirit really did feel ‘renewed’ being here.
After hiking around the church grounds and exploring the coast, we walked through/around the Merciful Love Labyrinth – yet another meditative activity.
We retreated to our cabin and cooked (we tried to recreate our amazing King Crab experience for dinner. It was good, but not the same. It was also only 1/3 of the price of the crab shack), read, and did crossword puzzles. We watched small groups of people wander through the grounds. We enjoyed tiny miracles like indoor plumbing, a commercial cook station, heat, comfy couches, hot showers, kitty kisses, and each other. We didn’t speak much during our time there, perhaps because we were both lost in our own thoughts, absorbing our surroundings, or maybe because it was enough to just be there together.