I woke up this morning to find Juneau blanketed in snow. At night, Mother Nature had pulled its white covers over our town, lulling it sleep. It feels as if it’s been a long month and in its slumber, Juneau hasn’t climbed from out of its bed.
While many wish for sunlit summers this time of year, I prefer to watch our town in slumber. After all, it’s difficult to enjoy downtown Juneau when hordes of tourists come to obscure the view. The snow, on the other hand, highlights every figure that walks across it and hides every problem that lies beneath it. In Juneau, our winters can even creates bridges; a frozen lake forms a glacial overpass to the Mendenhall Glacier, a few thrown snowballs can form a friendship between two kids, and a snowy mountain slope speeds a person’s ski down the hill.
It’s in the winter that we cross bridges to things we haven’t seen before.
In the summer, Juneau is different. We all know the drill: a cruise ship pulls into the docks, the summer season begins, and tourists come marching down the docks to visit a few gift shops and occasionally the tram, before walking back to their suites on the water. For hours a day, Gastineau Channel is obscured by the noise of boat honks and talk in a vast number of languages. Juneau doesn’t regain solitude until the sunset sees every cruise ship away.
In the winter, there are no ships. The channel, and the downtown seawalk neighboring it, is free for any Juneauite on a search for a moment of peace. My favorite spot in Juneau is down this dock. Walk far enough, past the last tourist shop and down to the start of Thane Road, and you’ve made it. Out there is a section of dock always sheltered in unpacked snow. A few emergency ladder docks jut out from the side, where you can sit and gaze at the channel. This end is the only portion of the dock without a port hiding the view of the frozen channel or the homes on Douglas. Out there, you’re close enough to see a little Outback Subaru twinkle on the tiny Douglas Bridge, but far enough to hear nothing but the occasional raven cawing enthusiastically in your ear. On a bright, clear day, the snow glitters as if each flake was winking at you, sharing a secret.
In the winter, Juneau feels like another town. In the summer, I love bonfires out on unknown beaches, kayaking from island to island, hiking up mountains and swimming in hidden reservoirs — but moments wandering around downtown on dark, cold nights when no one else can hear my feet crunch the snow on the seawalk are what I envision when I think of Juneau. In slumber, Juneau builds bridges with its dreams.
• Tasha Elizarde is a recent high school graduate living in Juneau. Read her bimonthly column in the Neighbors section of the newspaper. Contact her at Tasha.firstname.lastname@example.org.