Here are the top 3 places in Juneau, Alaska to sip your coffee during the winter! Things can be dark and stormy this time of year so here is a short list of easily accessible places to take your coffee and your thoughts.
#1 Point Louisa
Head north along Egan Drive past the ferry terminal and keep your eye out for a brown sign that points to Auke Recreation Park which will be your first or second right after the guardrail. Both entrances will lead you to the park, the first is an extension of the trail. The further north you drive the shorter walking distance to get to Point Louisa.
This is one of my all-time favorite walking trails because if you follow the beach along it will lead you to Point Louisa which is one of the best places to drink your coffee while watching your dog have face-offs with the seals.
Once at the point, you’ll have a 270 degree of ocean front view. To your left Auke Bay and Coghlan Island, straight ahead is Portland Island, and to your right is Shelter Island, the beginning of Lynn Canal and Lena Point.
The weather tends to be better in this part of Juneau so you can usually get away with light layers. For this trail I recommend a light hoodie, a waterproof outerwear layer. Since this is a walking trail you’ll warm up without over heating or getting too cold.
Historical Side Note:
The gorgeous black sanded beach hardly has any large rocks, this is said to be because the Auk Clan Tlingits enslaved the Aleuts and had them remove any obstructions. That way canoe landings were much smoother.
John Muir, a California Naturalist, first sailed to Auke Bay in 1879 (138 years ago), and described Auk Glacier, now known as the Mendenhall Glacier;
“It was now nearly dark and quite so ere we found a harbor, not far from the fine Auk Glacier which descends into the narrow channel that separates Douglas Island from the Mainland. I wanted to examine the Auk Glacier in the morning, but tried to be satisfied with a general view and sketch as we sailed around its wide, fan-shaped front. It was the most beautiful of all the coast glaciers that were in the first stages of decadence.”
This is incredibly fascinating as the Mendenhall is no longer considered a coastal glacier as it has retreated several miles since Muir’s sailing 138 years ago.
To sit and drink your coffee with this visual in mind is incredible, and mind blowing. Take yourself back in time to when wooden ships with big sailes explored and charted the coast. Where the Tlingit dominated the region, and dotted the inland islands with longhouses, totems, and canoes. A glacier that once kissed the ocean, and sometimes created too much ice to pass through the channel.
Do yourself a favor and bring two cups of coffee.
Hiking boots or Xtra Tuffs
#2 Sunshine Cove
Head north on Egan to mile marker 33 with good music and your cup of coffee either in a thermos or a to-go cup with a sticker. The drive can take 30-40 minutes depending on where you’re coming from. There is a small beach marker on the left side of the road that marks the short trail down to the beach.
Sunshine Cove is usually always sheltered from the wind so even on chilly January days you can still go out there with a beach blanket, magazine, down jacket, and get some face time in with the sun. The black sand definitely helps keep things warm! About 200 feet from the road you can watch the north wind crash waves on Benjamin Island while you sit cozied up in your coziest sweater. In the spring and summer you can expect to see humpback whales spouting off in the distance.
This is one of two locations I would consider doing a shore scuba dive from as it is protected from strong currents on the east side, or shore side of Benjamin Island. I have yet to dive in Alaska but I always come here to dream. Supposedly you can expect to see basket stars, sea whips, nudibranchs, and possibly seals and sea lions.
Warm winter boots or Xtra Tuffs with wool socks
Craddling your coffee with love, the Maxwell Sweater works perfectly because if you weren’t already wearing it to start the woodstove this morning, the you’ll definitely want to put in on for your Sunday drive! It has pockets, goes great with jeans or leggings, and has just the right amount of daydream cozy. And since with location is more of a beach combers getaway, a cozy, laid back sweater is all you need.
#3 Sandy Beach
Is the weather too shitty for Auke Rec or Sunshine Cove? No problem! Grab your coffee, house slippers, and the M&M Sweater and head into the storm!
Drive over to Douglas Island and take a left out of the round-about. Continue south through and keep an eye out for any wind-damaged damsels in destress. I once watched a bumper be ripped off a car by the Taku winds! Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good storm. Head down Douglas Hwy, which turns into 3rd Street through downtown Douglas. The road forks, the right is St. Anne’s which will lead to the trail system that walks through the old Treadwell Mine ruins. Take a left down Savikko Road and follow it until it dead ends at Sandy Beach. Make sure to park along the road so you can enjoy the view while you sit comfortably inside your glass bubble of a car.
Never mind that the old pump house is one of the most photographed sites in Southeast Alaska. Instead, take yourself back 130 years to when all those pilings had docks extending from the tree line out several hundred feet towards deeper water. The mining history of Douglas Island is unique to the point where Douglas once rivaled the city of Juneau until a devastating fire in the late 70’s striped any chance they had.
My favorite part about these massive storms is the treasures that unveil here. With strong enough winds, tides, and waves, the elements can alter the sandy shore and sometimes expose old artifacts that have been buried below the surface for decades. Some of these items I’ve come across included hand painted China, gear switches and industrial sized machinery parts from the old mines, and glass floats! I’ve always kept my eye open for gold as the Treadwell pumped out over 3 million troy ounces of gold in its hayday, 1881-1922.
So turn the radio off and let the wind and sideways rain whisper the locations to all the lost treasures, for when the storm blows over you never know what has been uncovered.
House slippers, or your favorite drive-to-nowhere shoes
The M&M sweater is the perfect storm watcher must-have. Let your car heat up ahead of time while you brew yourself a cup of joe. This sweater fits long and relaxed on the body so you can get away with wearing your pajama bottoms or no pants at all since the only outside time you’ll have is running to and from your house to the car!
What’s your favorite winter coffee spot? What what sweater do you throw on for the occasion?
DeArmond, R. N. The Founding of Juneau. College Place, WA: Color, 1980. Print.
Muir, John. Travels in Alaska. Bosten, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1915. Print.
Houdek, Jennifer. "Treadwell Gold Mines, 1881-1917." Alaska Treadwell Gold Mines. University of Alaska Anchorage, 2000. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.