Alaska Journey Continues to Juneau

Nancy's series of articles about National Park travel in Alaska continues with part 3 of the water route, docking today in Juneau. Nancy had planned this article weeks ago, so it was interesting for me to read earlier this week a news article from the Juneau Empire titled "Glacier melt rate a surprise: Ice in Southeast vanishing twice as fast as expected" (note, you need to log in to read this article -- the username and password of 'juneauempire' worked for me). A small bit from the article
Juneau residents and tourists visit the retreating Mendenhall Glacier daily. Some of the most dramatic ice losses in the Panhandle are underway at lake-terminating glaciers, such as the Mendenhall, fed by the Juneau Icefield, according to the study.

"I just few over the Juneau Icefield three days ago. I was absolutely shocked by how dry and shrunken it looked," said Nick Jans, a Juneau author, on Tuesday.
I don't really mean to make light of this problem, but if you are inspired by Nancy's article below, you may want to plan your trip sooner than later. I hope I can see these glaciers before it's too late.


Glacier Bay National Park : NPS PhotoOur third and final usual port of call in Southeast Alaska is Juneau. It is the Capital of Alaska, yet it's not connected to Alaska proper except via boat or air. Just across the bay is the headquarters for Glacier Bay National Park. As each ship enters Glacier Bay, it must carry a park ranger on board, they point out things to see, spot animals, and tell the story of glacier's calving. Although seeing Glacier Bay by large cruise ship is the standard method to see Glacier Bay National Park, one of the best ways is on a smaller vessel. During much of the year, large ships are restricted from going too far into the bay, because the seals have pups on the ice floes. If wakes bother the seals too much, they leave the safety of the floes and enter the water, seeking more safety. Unfortunately, the pups are not strong enough to get back on the floes and eventually drown

Juneau is also home to Mendenhall Glacier, just a few miles outside of town. You can walk the trail to get really close to the Glacier and usually they will let you hold a piece of it. Another way to experience Mendenhall, is to take a heliocopter ride to the top, get out and have a guided tour around crevices, showing ice blue colors, and other sights, before returning back to sea level. It is a very pricey tour, but worth every single penny. This is also a really good place to see whales up close and personal, via various tours from evening sunset cruises, to kayaking. There are 100's of miles of groomed trails in the area, to experience the wildlife -- brown bear (grizzly), black bear, mountain goat, Sitka white tailed deer, and eagles. Rafting on Mendenhall River can be quite exciting, as is dog sledding on the Juneau Icefield.

Or, simply stroll the streets, taking in beautiful Greek Orthodox churches, the capital building and the Red Dog Saloon. Called the oldest man-made structure in Alaska, the Red Dog has character all of it's own. And no visit would be complete without stepping inside if only to take a picture or two.

Next Friday we take our journey inland, to what I call Alaska proper.