Summers where I live can be unbearable, hot and humid so nothing gets done outside even walking the dog is short.
When I had the chance to go to Alaska I jumped on the chance. The plan was to attend my favorite food conference and then stay a few extra days. After doing a lot of searching on the internet you will find there is plenty to do. For one, Juneau is home to the Mendenhall Glacier, the early summer salmon runs and just the plain natural beauty.
When you think Alaska you think snow capped mountains, cool glacial waters and cool misty days. I got cool and misty our first couple of days. Then the sun came out. It may not be hot but the sun is very intense so it feels much hotter. 73 degrees to me felt like 90 with the sun beating down on you. Summer days are quite long as the sun sets at 10:30 and rises at 4AM. It really never got dark. It was twilight during the night. Once important tip: pack eye shades. Not only are the great for our long flight but they were needed as the drapes were not darkening shades as one would expect.
With all the sun and warmth we really did try to take full advantage of it. Our excursions included whale watching, panning for gold and hiking around the Mendenhall glacier. And lots of walking.
We started with whale watching. This was a post conference excursion through Juneau Tours. What a great day it turned out to be and to be on the water. We spotted our first whale and we were dying to get as close as we could. It was a mama whale Flame. She did give us some tail when she fluked. Everyone was rushing to the one side of the boat to catch a glimpse. We followed her for a while and as we were going to another location, I spotted another whale. This spotting certainly excited the naturalists onboard as it was ID as Bunsen, Flames baby. And a very naughty baby as he was far from his mama. Bad Bunsen. Again everyone rushed to the side of the boat to catch a glimpse. Even the naturalists who were so excited I thought they were going to jump overboard. Apparently spotting a baby whale is very rare. They are only the size of a Volkswagen.
We passed seals doing what they do best laying around on the buoy. Just being on the open water and under the open sky was so relaxing. I did not want it to end.
Active excursions seem to be the norm on this vacation. We had scheduled a canoe trip to the glacier but it was cancelled due to the winds that made being on the lake dangerous. So we opted to take the bus to the glacier and hike to the waterfall and view the glacier from the waterfall. It was crowed as a couple of cruise ships were in port. We took our time hiking the path. You could hear the power of the waterfall long before actually seeing it. And the temperature dropped several degrees as we got closer. It was a little crowed with tourists and their selfie sticks taking 500 pictures on their iPhone to Instagram and send back home. We got caught up in taking our picture in front of the falls, too! The spray was refreshing. We walked back stopping at the viewing spots on the way back to catch the bus.
If you are interested in the mining history you can try your hand a gold panning. A short bus ride to a raging river down stream form the mines you are set up to pan for gold. Each pan has flakes of gold to take home as a souvenir for your efforts. After a few hours of backbreaking panning we came to the conclusion that we aren’t going be able to retire on our findings! Many came to the fields to try their luck for a big strike but most left just as poor as they were when they first arrived. It seems the ones that made their fortunes were the store owners selling equipment. The other part of the trip included a salmon bake. Fresh grilled salmon, lots of sides to fill your belly. And if you are still hungry then there was fresh blueberry cake and s’mores to eat. Once you got your fill of food you could walk a very short distance to another smaller waterfall. It’s nestled in the trees, ferns and rusted mining equipment. Of course there is an old abandoned mine. Remember, Juneau is an old mining town. And if you look hard enough you might find an old miner or two.
Right at the port where all the cruise ships passengers gather is the Mount Roberts tram. It takes you up the top of Mt. Roberts for breathtaking views of Juneau and the sound. There is a short hike around the top and we did that. I spied lots of native wildflowers along the way. The price is good all day so we went up again after our crab leg lunch. I think that made 3 trips to Tracy’s.
The one thing that is abundant is bald eagles. We got quite a show one evening as we were walking along the water. There is an amazing breaching whale sculpture. Four eagles were screeching as they flew over head. This is not the time for your camera to be down to 3% battery power. So I was helpless as I watched them fly overhead only to have the luck of getting pooped on the fly by!!!! There were bear sightings but not by us. That will have to wait until next time and yes there will be a next time. Maybe on a cruise.