Day 4: Tuesday, May 19, 2009: Juneau, Alaska

Morning found us in Juneau, the state's capital city. This is not the bustling metropolis you might expect. It is larger than the other towns we visited, but still small for a capital city. It is home to about 31,000 people. That day's high was a little warmer than Ketchikan at 64 degrees. It's still a good idea to have a light jacket, but we ended up actually getting hot while we were out and about. We took the "Juneau & Mendenhall Glacier" shore excursion, where our tour guide / bus driver Danny took us on a little tour of Juneau before heading out to the Mendenhall Glacier.


On our way to the gangway, we passed this lovely fountain in the ship's atrium.

 

Our ship. It really doesn't look like the water is deep enough for it in this picture.

 

Our first stop was the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. These bins contain thousands of fingerling salmon, ready to be released. These hatcheries are always located at the mouth of the salmon's home river so they can become familiar with its scent so they can find it again.

 

During the spawning season, this salmon ladder is filled with water. The salmon jump up each level. It takes about two days to reach the top. There, they collect the eggs and sperm they need to make babies. This hatchery rears pink and chum salmon.

 

Inside the Visitor Center, a brown bear poses for a photo. OK, fine, he didn't have a choice.


The Visitor Center contains numerous salt water tanks. This little hermit crab was in one of them.

 

They showcased local wildlife.

 

Like this weirdo halibut here. They are very strange fish. They start their lives normally, but as they age, their eyes move over to the one side and they eventually live life on their sides.

 

One tough looking character.

 

Anemones.


A decorator crab. These guys are neat. They literally decorate themselves with various objects that are around them in order to camoflage themselves.

 

Another decorator crab, complete with a random assortment of disguises.

 

A sea cucumber. Looks prickly.

 

Another halibut. Actually, if you put this picture next to the last one, you'd have the full panoramic view.

 

A shrimp.


This guy dropped in to say hi.

 

This crab and this fish were pushing each other back and forth. It was the opposite of a tug-o-war. Maybe a push-o-war? Either way, very funny to watch.

 

Another creative decorator crab.

 

Star fish come in many shapes and sizes.

 

A few more fish in the big tank. There is one large one behind them, if you can make him out.


Kind of a pretty fish. The crab looks fed up.

 

A scallop next to another halibut. Gives me jibblies.

 

"Frankly, scallop, I don't give a clam."

 

A set of stuffed bald eagles. The one on the right is what they look like when they are young. As they mature, both sexes get the white head and tail feathers.

 

A sea cucumber and a shrimp in the touch tank. Travis said it felt like nothing. He said he could see his finger pushing into its side, but never felt anything. I wasn't interested in participating.


Star fish in the touch tank. I guess this is what they do to them when they've been bad.

 

Leaving the hatchery and on our way to the Mendenhall Glacier.

 

A look into the very clear waters of Steep Creek.

 

Beware. Oh, you just beware.

 

Ooh, an iceberg. We must be near a glacier.


It was very beautiful there.

 

A peek at the glacier.

 

More scenery.

 

And there she is. The mighty (not so mighty as once before) Mendenhall Glacier.

 

Numerous icebergs as seen from the pavillion.


A beaver dam.

 

I rather like this picture.

 

The glacier terminates into Mendenhall Lake.

 

Travis assures us that the water is indeed cold.

 

Oh, look, a little waterfall! Those white dots are the nesting arctic terns.


We pose for a photo op.

 

Mt. McGinnis on the left and Mt. Stroller White on the right.

 

As the glaciers ooze along, they often carve up the rocks.

 

Hey, there's that waterfall again. We should go there.

 

A little closer to the glacier.


More carved up rocks.

 

A glacial pool.

 

The sandy terrain as we made our way to that stinking waterfall.

 

Another lovely picture.

 

The Mendenhall Glacier again.


Helicopters. For $500 a person, you too can step foot on the glacier.

 

Ooh, pretty.

 

A little closer still.

 

Chunks of ice.

 

Travis holding what is likely very old ice.


One last shot of the glacier.

 

Some 30 minutes later, we finally reached that little waterfall, known as Nugget Falls, only to discover it is actually quite large.

 

We also discovered that we needed to cover the same ground back to the bus in less than 20 minutes. So, unfortunately, we had no time for the Visitor Center.

 

Back in Juneau now. There's our ship.

 

The legendary Red Dog Saloon.


They still had the old western style swinging doors.

 

A jade Buddha. There is a large jade mine outside of Juneau.

 

Jade orcas. This store, simply called "Jade" was located in several of the towns. You can visit them online at www.jademine.com.

 

A view of the city streets of Juneau. That is a cruise ship on the left.

 

More of the shopping district.


More Juneau action.

 

The Norwegian Pearl coming into port.

 

Another view of the Pearl as we departed. The days are long enough that the ships can come in shifts.

 

Easily one of my favorite pictures ever. Don't you just wish you were here? The glass says "Ah! So this is what they mean by sealegs."

 

Mountains peeking around mountains.


Chilling on the sunny balcony.

 

Travis doing the same.

 

The water on the inside passage is very smooth. The only disturbance seemed to be us.

 

Lovely scenery.

 

Leaving civilization behind once more.


The ship created these "fizzies" as I called them.

 

I highly recommend a balcony room if (when) you go. The scenery is always changing.

 

Caught enjoying the view.

 

Caught enjoying some refreshments.

 

Snowy mountains.


Our neighbors thought these were whales, but I'm pretty sure this was just a group of birds.

 

We got these keychains as souvenirs for some friends.

 

 

 

Our ship was nearing the Tracy Arm Fjord, so we all emptied out onto the decks to get a good look at some of nature's finest.

 

 


 

 

A cute little place to park your boat.

 

An iceberg. We know what this means. We're getting near a calving glacier.

 

Tracy Arm Fjord is about 30 miles long and quite narrow. It was carved by glaciers. Here, we passed another cruise ship on their way out.

 

A bird covered iceberg.


These lines through the trees are all flowing waterfalls, created by melting snow and ice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This iceberg had a hole in it.


I see you in there, waterfall.

 

 

 

This place is magnificent, isn't it?

 

 

 

Oppotunistic wildlife. We learned later from other passengers that one of the icebergs we passed had a harbor seal chillin' on it.


 

 

One gnarled up chunk of ice.

 

 

 

I have no idea how these shapes are formed. Each one is different, that's for sure.

 

Every time I thought we had reached the end, we would round a bend and more beauty would come in to sight.


We glided in very slowly, as the pilot must be very careful. Here you can see that ship we passed isn't so far away after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


At times, the rock wall seemed very close.

 

A neat little dome.

 

The water is actually flowing just below that patch of ice there.

 

Very nice.

 

 


 

 

How cute! An ice dragon!

 

 

 

 

 

The view from the rear of the ship.


Water flowing beneath the ice again. Somehow, it was holding on.

 

 

 

I liked this valley. Very pretty.

 

 

 

Another wild bald eagle sighting.


Same picture, zoomed in.

 

Another shot from the back of the ship.

 

If you ever need to feel small, this is the place.

 

Another battered chunk of ice.

 

Looking forward.


Christmas trees!

 

This waterfall had a rainbow in it. See it?

 

I took another picture a little closer.

 

The reason we carefully navigated the Tracy Arm Fjord, Sawyer Glacier.

 

 


It spills directly into the sea.

 

During the winter, this ice sheet extends, the retracts during the summer.

 

This was another deceptively large (but small looking) waterfall.

 

Later in the summer, you can get even closer.

 

The pilot pulled our ship right up to the edge of the ice.


Wait, what is that on the ice sheet?

 

Harbor seals!

 

This one came out to see us off as we were leaving.

 

As we turned to go, the water we kicked up was this emerald green.

 
 

Wow, that was beautiful. I just kept thinking throughout this entire vacation that it can't get better than what we just saw. But then every time, it did. Each corner we turned here revealed more beauty and majesty. As we turned to leave Sawyer Glacier behind, Travis and I sought out dinner and a little rest.