Monday, June 28, 2010

Bon Voyage! Day 3 - Juneau, Alaska

You thought I had a lot of pics up til now? HA!

The ship didn't dock at Juneau until noon, so we didn't have to get up super early which was nice. We ate breakfast on the Lido, not wanting to waste time in the formal dining room. Already we were being treated to magnificent views on all sides. It's really impossible to describe the sheer scope of how big the mountains and landscape is in Alaska. Truly you feel like a tiny blip in the scheme of things by comparison. The colors were amazing, deep blues, lush green, and stark barren grey rocks. Another GORGEOUS day, sunny, bright, and mid-70's.

Hmm... let's zoom that.

So beautiful.

An old fishing shack. It looks lonely, you can see where there used to be a dock around it that has long ago washed away.

There were tons of recessed waterfalls like this, if you didn't pay attention you'd be past them, and then because the sides around them jutted out so far you would never even know they were there. What's funny is this and other stuff look so *small* in the pics but really those trees on the right are probably at least 40-50 feet tall.

Approaching Juneau, a great view of the Mt. Robson tram:

We headed to disembark, and go meet our excursion bus. Our first stop was the Mendenhall Glacier. It's about 12 miles long, and is a retreating glacier. It's also completely cool to look at.

Just arriving. As we walked down towards the glacier, from behind me piped the voice of a little boy telling his dad, "Ok daddy, watch for polar bears. It's hard to see them 'cause they're camouflaged." LOL

It's amazing what landscape sculpting glaciers do as they move.

The rocks were fun to climb, though you had to be careful where the face had been worn smooth by the passage of ice.

To the right of the glacier is Nugget Falls, zoom time!

Yes, dummy me wore a sweater, because everyone knows Alaska is COLD, right? I was roasting all day.

There is, of course a perfectly good paved flat path that winds down from the Visitor Center to nearer to the glacier. We of course did not take it. We instead climbed along the jagged, crazy rocks that were to the left of it that led to the same end point. Yes, we are nuts.

In the lake at the base of the glacier, huge pieces were floating. Everyone always talks about how "blue" the glaciers are, but really most are either covered in silt and dark/dirty, or are so dense you really can't see that amazing blue. It's really when there are deep crevices that you get a glimpse of it, or in this case when pieces break off:

This is what we traversed along the side of the path. Paths are for wimps.

Just beautiful, and HUGE

Closer view of Nugget Falls.

It's amazing all the gouges and lines caused by the ice flow:

Glacier ice looks like a puzzle of ice pieces that are interlocked.

I also learned that because of all the silt the glacier picks up/gets compacted with, there's no way to actually completely filter it out. Any attempts will constantly clog any filter used. So if someone is trying to sell you "genuine pure glacier water" it's fake.

Time to head to the Visitor's Center! They had binoculars set up so you could view the mountains/glacier. Someone said they saw mountain goats but they looked like tiny white dots to me! They also had various indigenous wildlife exhibits/pelts, that Megan LOVED:

Mountain Goat.. say AAHHHHHHH

Adam was rattling the hooves around.

Brown Bear

They also had a gift shop, and everything was (of course) outrageously priced. Megan (to Lem): "Oh my gosh these finger puppets are $8.50?! How on earth am I going to get you to buy them for me??!!" We passed..

We piled back into the bus, and headed over to the Salmon Hatchery. When I pictured a Hatchery in my head, I figured they just hatched a bunch of fish and released them into the wild. What they actually do is hatch the salmon, then make sure they imprint on the water at the Hatchery, then release them so they can travel out thousands of miles to sea. They always return to the Hatchery to spawn, and of the billions of fish they release they get millions of pounds back that they can then sell to cannery companies.

Because of all the fish in and around it, there are TONS of bald eagles that hang around the place. We saw easily 7 or 8 wheeling around and diving for fish not too far down the way by the big shipping containers. So cool.

The fish ladder at the Hatchery. It's over 500 ft long and the fish can take a few hours up to a few days to navigate it's entire length.

They have outdoor tanks where the little fry start growing, and conduits that eventually allow them to congregate into a different tank when bigger:

Ok these things are actually FREAKY BIG. Like, 3-4 feet long. I had no idea, and being that close was like.. EWWWWW.

The obligatory painted wood cut-out picture prop, with the kids humoring us:

Inside the Hatchery they had a store that sold salmon prepared 50 zillion different ways, an AMAZING huge tube aquarium you could walk around that had (again) FREAKY huge fish like a moray eel that was about 6 feet long and as wide around as my thigh (that's big, people), ginormous starfish with waaay too many arms to be anything but some sort of mutant alien thing that was waiting to actually suck our brains out, and a touch tank, with thankfully rather normal-looking starfish and crabs:

OMG Bald Eagles up close and personal! Of course.. they're stuffed..

Megan admires the brown bears rather large claws

That fish is actually about four feet behind them. It was huge. And dead. And stuffed.

We then bused our way back to the docks, and wisely took the kids back up to the ship and dropped them off in the pool/teen area respectively and headed back to shore to walk around the town without them, because we knew it would bore them to tears. Big thanks to Great-Aunt Diane for coming to the rescue when Meg scraped her knee at the pool and needed a band-aid.

Building deco in downtown Juneau:

Nice view walking down the sidewalk:

I bet people that live here for years get inured to the gorgeous landscape and don't even notice it. How sad.

Our guide throughout the tour continually stressed that black bears like to wander around town, and be careful etc. All the trashcans were bear-proof -- you had to actually lift a latch under the lid to get it to unlock so you could lift the lid:

We didn't see any bears in town, though.

There were a bunch of dwellings high up all over the hills around town. There are no roads or paths to get to them, only a multitude of stairways:

Can you imagine going up several hundred stairs with your Costco load? Yeesh.

Walking around in the sun had made us thirsty and wanting to sit down, so we headed over to the Red Dog Saloon, that has real saloon doors that open both ways:

We sat down at our table.. and then.. looked up. What the..??

Ok this place is AWESOME. It has an amazing ambiance.. it really feels old time/western. There are collections of dollar bills signed and stuck all around the back of the bar. There was a gun from Wyatt Earp that had been checked at the door and never claimed way back when. A collection of ship life preservers high up on one wall, and more. We both ordered a Duck Fart each and tossed it back. It was actually kinda creamy sweet and better than I expected, though it had a kick. I decided to try an Alaska Amber beer, and Lem ordered an Alaska Summer beer. His tasted more bitter than mine to me, and mine tasted like.. um. beer. Did I mention I'm not a beer drinker?

The menu. Look at the Liquor section.. love it!

They had a really great guitar guy playing, guess he's holding out for that really big tip..

We headed back to the ship, and back to our room and discovered our nightly adorable towel animal:

Awwwwwwww. The eyes were printed out on paper and cut out. We're not sure why he kept making Lem and my's bed with Megan's blanket??

The mountains around Juneau

As we were getting ready to pull out of Juneau, a couple bald eagles flew over to get to their nest in a tree on the other side of the ship:

An opportunistic crow takes advantage of the distraction the eagles presented:


Since this was a port day we all fended for ourselves for dinner so we ate at the Lido deck. Early to bed so we could get up early to see Glacier Bay. Thus ends Day 3!


  1. Why do I find the towel critters almost as exciting as a glacier??? Gads! What a fabulous trip! Love your Blog, girlie!

  2. LOL I know, right?! It was always a treat to go back after dinner and see what he did. They had a book you could buy that would teach you how to fold 45 different towel animals.