Our morning began bright and early at 3:30am because we wanted to witness the summer solstice sunrise of 2018. However, to our dismay the skies were cloudy. While some of the early goers, decided to go back to bed, the others went to a viewpoint for the sunrise. We woke up for second time at 7:30 and had a splendid breakfast of cereal downstairs. After packing for the day, Al arrived and we were set to go on another physical journey. For another day, the sun shined high over our heads to guide us.
We took the 45 minute bus ride through downtown Juneau and finally arrived at the Mt. Roberts Trail. Mike told us it was going to be a mile long, but an elevation change of 1200ft. During the first 15 minutes, we realized that he was not joking how steep it would be, but we also learned from a trail sign it would be 2 ½ miles. After many water stops, rest breaks, and a few viewpoints, we reached a large building that many believed was a private residence. Mike however informed us that it was a theatre, gift shop, restaurant, and most importantly a TRAM!!! We slowly climbed the last hill to the building, and then spent a long time searching through the gift store looking for the best presents. Once we had spent around an hour in the shop, Mike rounded us all up, and we ate lunch outside in front of a bald eagle cage. (The rapture was shot in the eye earlier in its life and now was used to help inform people about them. Though we missed the movie in the building, Mike treated everyone to a desert before we witnessed the spectacular views on the tram down the mountain.
Al picked us up in downtown Juneau and we traveled back towards Auke Bay where we stopped at a local joint called Hot Bite that looked out over the harbor. Here we dined on hamburgers and grilled cheese. To our surprise as we arrived at our cabin, we had a local tribal woman who was going to teach us about the native culture. She explained how the balance between nature and people was the most important aspect of life and how we must focus on the preset life and not the past or future times. Lastly, she explained her tribal medicine kit. Instead of containing actual medicine, it contained natural remedies( eagle feather, rock, shell, pine cone, and driftwood) because they are able to soothe us. The night ended with evening prayer, but instead of the chapel, we walked the labyrinth and witnesses the beautiful Alaskan sunset.
Sam Kennedy and Charles Kyle
This morning, we conquered new frontiers, so to speak. We rose bright and early to make the move from our original lodge to Jubilee Cabin. Although we were less than “jubilant” during the uphill hike to our new abode, the peace and quiet of the secluded space was amazing. After settling in and getting accustomed to our rooms, we played board games and enjoyed each other’s company. We then enjoyed a light lunch and set out on our exciting afternoon activity. As usual, we spent the bus ride chatting and singing playful tunes. We were in for a pleasant surprise, seeing that today’s activity would be less strenuous than the long yet enriching hikes on which we’d embarked previously.
The bus released us into a field surrounded by luscious forest, vaguely reminiscent of “The Sound of Music”. While waiting for our guides, some of us took part in an impromptu planking competition. Once the professional tour guides and kayaking instructors arrived, pilgrims were divided into two groups; one would kayak while the other went on an educational hike. Afterword, the groups would switch places. Preparing for kayaking was an endeavor as we had to put on the correct gear, including the very stylish “splash skirts,” and carry the kayaks to the shore, but luckily our guides were well-prepared and experienced. We were truly blessed with clement weather: the skies were clear, and the sun was shining. Even the notoriously chilly Alaskan waters were refreshingly cool with relatively calm waves to cradle our kayaks.
The two groups switched on the beach, with the kayaking group handing off their gear and the hiking group eager to hit the waves. The hiking guide pointed out edible plants and interesting symbiotic relationships and told us stories typical of a born-and-raised Alaskan. Accompanied by an unfortunate volume of bugs, we made our way back to our starting point. When we met up with the rest of the group, we attentively listened as our tour guides taught us the varieties of salmon native to Alaska, then headed back to the bus.
Tonight, Kevin’s team was up to prepare dinner. We went the Italian route, with bruschetta for an appetizer and risotto for the main course. During our first supper in the new cabin, we enjoyed lovely conversation. Finally, everyone shared fresh-baked cookies with vanilla ice cream as a dessert. After dinner, we visited the columbarium for a reflective prayer session as the sun began to set on the summer solstice. Cooling down, we prepared for bed, as we had all planned to rise very early to view the very special sunrise. All day, we felt a supportive embrace through community and new experiences.
Eden Rowe and Catherine Opsahl
After waking up today, we slowly made our way up the hill alongside the lodge and piled onto the bright yellow school bus to begin our journey. The morning air was cool and crisp as we navigated through Juneau with the windows down, watching as downtown flew by in a flurry of color and narrow roads. It was mid-morning when we arrived at our first destination, the mining museum, which was tucked in the woods and hidden up a steep hill. Juneau used to have a major gold mine. Although the mine shut down in the 1940’s, there are still miles of tunnels winding beneath the jagged mountains. In fact, there are more mining tunnels than there are roads in the city of Juneau.
We left the museum with a better sense of the rich history that lay, seemingly invisibly, beneath our feet. Lunch time was fast approaching, so we began our ascent into the mountains that towered above our heads. It is extremely rare to be in a place of such obvious beauty, and this hike allowed us to experience that beauty with a new kind of awe. Our feet hurt and the climb left us short of breath, but every moment we looked up and gazed out at our surroundings, we found a greater purpose or intention for the day. Waterfalls ran down the rocky face of mountains like great veins and peaks struck the air dramatically. Upon reaching the waterfall for lunch, we had already found a new kind of peace. One of the best things about our lunch spot was that it was extremely loud. The waterfall allowed us time to observe its beauty, but it also allowed us to sit in our own personal silence and reflect. Most lunches, we engage in loud and excited conversation, but today we were able to sit collectively as a group and not say a single word. This was not an experience I was used to, but it proved to be very valuable.
After lunch, we made our way back down to the bus and drove to a lake for an afternoon swim. In the beginning, I was seriously considering not getting in. However, once we reached the water, I soon changed my mind. The dock was crowded with people taking advantage of the warm weather and the sun beat down harshly. Sam was the first one to jump in, and reluctantly, five of us followed him. The water was freezing, but it was completely worth it.
Later, we dried off and made our way back home to the shrine. Despite the fact that we’ve been here for less than a week, I can still call this place home. Every moment here is so precious. Every laughing fit, joke in the kitchen, or meaningful conversation is something that I will always remember. I have an abundance of things: of warm weather, beautiful hikes, and wonderful people. The sun sets and every day I have an abundance of beginnings in Alaska.
So I guess you could say that today was a bit of a rollercoaster for everybody. We knew that we were going on a long hike today, 9 miles in total. It was an amazing hike and I enjoyed every bit of it. The hike was difficult and especially difficult for me because the part of the soles of my hiking shoes decided to fall off so now I have some horrible blisters but the result from the group’s hard work was worth it. We got to see the Herbert Glacier which was truly amazing to see. Not only did I get to learn about the amazing parts of nature, I also got to learn about the amazing parts about each person on the trip. While hiking for about 3 hours I really got to learn a lot about the people around me. Helen played a fun game where she went around to the other pilgrims and asked them about their “life story.” And while at first many of the stories devolved to jokes and humor, sometimes I got to see really special moments where people got to connect through these stories that were being told, whether it was things they can relate with or people that they both happen to know. For the first time this trip I really got to feel like we were becoming a family instead of just being a group of pals.
The group only grew closer from there. That night was the first night that some of the pilgrims got to cook for the rest of the group and I was lucky enough to be part of the first group. We made tacos and it was a great success. I was happy with the result and I really enjoyed working to make something wonderful with my group that everybody would enjoy. The end of the day however was where it got truly wonderful. We had our evening prayer in the chapel at the shrine, and while I don’t really consider myself a religious person, I really enjoyed getting to listen each person as they talked about their favorite parts of the day and where they were able to find God in the world. After that we all gathered together near the shore to watch the sunset, or least it tried to since the sun never truly sets in Alaska. Here in this gathering, we started a game together which is what really inspired me to write this. We started by having each person in the circle talk about an insecurity they had. Yes, it was difficult at first, but it was nice to see everybody, even the adults, open themselves up to the rest of the group and trust them. After that we decided to let each person go around and talk about one or two of their strengths or best qualities. Seeing each person find something that made them truly unique was amazing to witness. It allowed people to realize that the insecurities that they had mentioned earlier were overpowered by these things and the support and love of the rest of the group. I felt like I became much closer to these people that I now consider my family.
We woke up at our Super 8 hotel and gathered in the lobby for breakfast. After prayer, we went over the days plans and boarded our Wonderstar bus. Once we had finished filling our water bottle we set out towards the Mendinhall Glacier spotting a porcupine and Stellers Jay. We had a lovely hike to its neighboring water fall where some of us realized how cold the water could be as its crashing water shot mist into the air. Then we were off to meet our home for the week, but before we could get there, it was time to shop.
We were split into cooking teams, each responsible for one dinner this week, and given a $70 budget with the restriction of no pasta or breakfast for dinner. We quickly divvied up rolls of who would go find what. Trying to keep budget in mind we went of comparing price tags to find a product for a bargain. After a half hour of gathering, calculating, and appreciating Alaska’s 5% sales tax, we brought our carts to checkout. Kevin’s team got through first with $7 to spare, next Carter’s team, but they didn’t have as good a time with it having to ditch their lettuce, guacamole, and Angel food cake. Finally it was Kristen’s Team, who squeezed through with $1.67 left. With our shopping done, and after we finished buying a few personal items, we were finally ready to get to the Lodge.
Once we finished unloading the bus and moving our bags to the rooms upstairs, we set out to discover our beautiful surroundings. We visited the chapel on this little peninsula right in front of our cabin, then explored the woods and rocky coasts it had to offer. We played sardines and infection tag, set up our Eno Hammocks, played music, and talked till the sun got low. To close the day, we gathered together out front of the chapel and prayed as the sun hit the mountains on the Horizon.
The thoughts and observations of our Journey to Adulthood pilgrims on their journey to Alaska.
Keep our kids
in your prayers: