"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Alaskan Dream Cruise: Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier

Our visit to Juneau began with a rollicking ride on Tressa's bus to the Mendenhall Glacier. Tressa is a driver for a local tour bus company, and she had us laughing the whole way as she related hilarious and colorful local stories. Here's one of the jokes she told as as she urged us to be back at the bus on time:

What's the difference between a tourist and a hitch-hiker? 
Five minutes.

Of course we were never late for anything on the tour. No hitch-hiking for us. We did find it kind of strange to be told when to do everything for 8 days, but not unpleasant. Maybe a little more tiring than our usual autonomous lives. I can't say we ever really felt rushed, just well-scheduled.

Visitor's Center

So we had a few hours to explore around the glacier, the visitor's center and Nugget Falls, all part of the Tongass National Forest.  First we took the Steep Creek Trail, as there were supposedly black bears in that area often. We didn't see any bears, but it was a nice walk. Nice blue lupins too.

There were several places to view the glacier, which melts and calves into the Mendenhall Lake. 

Some large icebergs were floating very slowly in the lake. Nice blue color.

Nugget Falls comes from a hanging valley and also flows into Mendenhall Lake. Can you see the tiny people at the foot of the falls?

After the glacier we loaded up on Tressa's funny bus again and she took us into town for lunch on our own. (Box lunches from the ship were an option but we opted for a restaurant in Juneau for some more local color.)  We ended up at The Hangar for lunch, with this big view of the harbor and the BIG cruise ships. The little orange boat is how the passengers get from ship to shore if the ship has to anchor away from the dock.  We also got to watch the sea planes come and go.

A walk around the downtown area led us past the cruise ships and the vendors that sell the shore excursions to the cruise passengers. (We really appreciated that all our shore excursions were included in the cost of our cruise.)

With our complimentary tickets in hand, we took the Mt. Roberts Tramway up the mountain that overlooks Juneau and it's harbor.

The tram let us off at a visitor's center where we found the Alpine Trail for a hike around a beautiful mountain meadow full of wildflowers.

The trail also led to some spectacular viewpoints overlooking Gastinueau Channel, Douglas Island and the snow covered mountains of the larger islands nearby.

We ended our visit with some "alone time" in downtown Juneau. Rick went to the library to check his email and I window-shopped and found a little coffee house to linger in. 

Overall I wouldn't say Juneau was our favorite stop, but the view from the top of Mt. Roberts was truly breathtaking. Seems like a full day, but it wasn't over yet...

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