Alaska 2012:
Day 6 - Juneau


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Alaska 2012: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Seattle] [Day 3 - Victoria] [Day 4 - Vancouver ] [Day 5 - Inside Passage] [Day 6 - Juneau] [Day 7 - Skagway] [Day 8 - Glacier Bay] [Day 9 - Ketchikan] [Day 10 - Inside Passage] [Day 11 - Seattle] [Day 12 - Empire Builder] [Day 13 - Empire Builder]

Monday, August 6, 2012: It was official -- we were in Alaskan waters now.
On our cruise's published agenda for the day was "Cruise Tracy Arm," so we bundled up and prepared for a chilly morning on deck seeing the wonders of Tracy Arm, a fjord near Juneau.
We got some breakfast from the omelette station, and Debbie got her normal bowl of delicious cruise ship muesli.
After about a half hour, we headed up to the Crow's Nest with Bob to watch the scenery in warmth.
Another half hour later, we were back on deck and joined by Jill. It was chilly but worth it, because pictures are so much sharper when taken outside.
We started to spot the occasional iceberg, so we could tell that there was a glacier around somewhere.
Hey! That's the entrance to Tracy Arm! Let's go there!
There was an optional $215/person excursion offered by Holland America that involved cruising Tracy Arm from a much smaller ship. That boat pulled up alongside ours to gather passengers who would be deposited in Juneau later in the day. We opted not to go on that tour, figuring the big ship experience would be adequate.
As that boat headed toward Tracy Arm and we did not, it dawned on us that we weren't going there. Nothing in the cruise or shore excursion descriptions indicated that it was an optional activity, and it was one of the handful of cruise highlights specifically mentioned in the brochures. It's safe to say Debbie was a little angry about the deception and the lost opportunity.
That's fine. We'll just look at those mountains from a distance.
We passed the entance to Taku Inlet, just before approaching the narrow channel leading to Juneau.
We went back to our cabin to prepare for our afternoon visit to Juneau and were joined by Doug and Stewart.
Out on deck, it was a little wet, but we watched our approach to Juneau.
We were one of four cruise ships in town this day, but we were one of the lucky three that didn't have to tender.
Here's the view looking toward Juneau. Our excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier would take us another ten miles or so northwest of here.
The town of Douglas is across the channel from Juneau.
It featured a couple of bald eagles perched over the water.
Here comes a Celebrity ship to join us and the two Princess ships already in port. The last to arrive, they were the ones who had to use tenders to get to shore.
Today's activity was a river float trip, so we gathered all eight of us and headed down at 1:30 sharp to start our adventure. This was officially Debbie's 50th state and Tom's 49th, but we didn't stop to reflect on that.
We boarded a coach and drove through town. We ended up not having time to visit the town, so this was the extent of our tour.
Debbie was especially disappointed to not have time to visit this Alpaca International store, but when she researched the company after the trip, she found that they have a location in Cusco, Peru, where we'd be in November. How convenient!
The beige building in the distance is the Juneau capitol building. It's not much to look at, but it's really the capitol.
The drive outside of town was quite pretty. Our bus driver, Jessica, kept us amused with stories of Juneau, where "the men are men and the women are too."
On our way to Mendenhall Lake, we passed foggy Juneau neighborhoods.
We crossed over the Mendenhall River, where we'd be rafting shortly.
This sign for the Tongass National Forest Campground reminded us that we were headed into national park grounds.
We arrived at the lake and stood in line to visit the restrooms (well, port-a-potties). It was the first time we'd had American cell phone reception in days, and we all took advantage of it.
Then, it was time to suit up. We didn't realize that waterproof clothing would be provided for us, so we had worn rain pants and waterproof shoes.
We placed our shoes into bins and put on boots provided by the tour company. Then we donned very flattering orange overalls.
Doug and Stewart struck their very best "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK" pose.
Becky was thrilled with her outerwear.
When we were all ready to go, we met our guide, Brandon, at the water's edge.
Brandon took a photo of us in front of Mendenhall Glacier ...
... and we were off.
Our first stop was to get a close up view of this iceberg.
We weren't kidding. Close up. Brandon tapped the edges of the iceberg with his oar so we could see how much larger it was under the surface of the water than above it.
Next, he told us about Mendenhall Glacier and how far back it has retreated over the years.
Here it is in all its glory.
Then we headed to the edge of Mendenhall Lake where it turns into Mendenhall River and began to float downstream.
We passed many houses along the river, including this one whose owners thought it was a good idea to put a fake bird on the edge of the river to mess with the tourists.
This gorgeous home reflected the glacier and mountains in its glass front. The husky looking out the window on the left is also fake.
Another beautiful home.
Much of the river had a mist over it, which was very cool to see.
We stopped and chatted with another group for a minute or two -- something about doing some fishing. Fortunately, we didn't.
Up ahead were the largest rapids of the trip.
We approached the bridge, ...
... and then the fun began.
Jill was in the front row with two other people, and they got their share of splashes.
Stewart squished Susan trying to avoid getting splashed.
When it was time to be photographed, we all raised our hands to wave, ...
... and photographed we were.
We hit the heaviest of the waves, ...
... and the photographer on shore got it.
Jill's knowledge of river running allowed her to correctly predict ...
... when her part of the boat was going to take a water hit.
Meanwhile, things were pretty dry in the back row of the boat, where Debbie, Bob, Becky, and Tom were seated.
There was an incident involving another boat deliberately trying to bump us. They were successful and hilarious.
We passed a stretch of river where the banks had been reinforced to prevent erosion by dumping old cars. The cars are nearly completely hidden by vegetation, but a few are a little more visible than others.
Is that really a statue of a little boy peeing into the river? Mais oui!
There are many flowers on the river's edge, including wildflowers like these, ...
... and cultivated flowers like these.
These abandoned fish carcasses reminded us that there are birds of prey around. Look carefully -- there is a partially eaten fish, and a completely stripped fish skeleton with head intact. Yay for nature!
Here's an example of recent erosion, along with what's left of a tree that was pulled into the river as a result.
This home featured a large American flag and smaller Badgers and Green Bay Packers flags.
Brandon taught us how to make an eagle call. It's a pretty tricky technique, so we photographed the very careful arrangement of the hands. He also told us a story about Bruce the Moose and Tim the Bear.
This photo shows how the waters converge where the mountain creek's clear water mixes with the river's silty glacier water.
Up ahead, Brandon spotted a bald eagle in a tree. He said that it was one of two that had been named Perch and Greg, but he wasn't sure which one it was.
He pulled the boat around once we were downstream from the eagle so we could get a better view.
Here he is looking all majestic.
This river bank featured wildflowers on top ...
... and swallow nests in the side.
Toward the end of our trip, blue sky and sun were starting to poke through.
At the take out point, we returned our life preservers, overalls, and boots, bought pictures of our adventures, ...
... and snacked on hot cider, reindeer sausage, cheese, veggies, crackers, and salmon cheese spread.
At the bus parking lot, there was a beautiful view of the glacier showing the distance we had traveled.
We passed a McDonald's on the way back to town. If only we had time to try a McKinley Mac, which is a Big Mac made with two Quarter Pounder patties. We didn't have enough time in Ketchikan either, unfortunately.
This is SEARHC (South East Alaska Regional Health Center) where Debbie's company's software is in use. The lab was already closed by this time so stopping in to say Hi wasn't an option.
On this stretch of road, Jill recognized the Indiana state flag, which made us realize that all fifty state flags were represented.
Juneau's City Hall is proudly identified.
More shopping we didn't get to. A Russian store would have been fun to try.
Before long, we were back at the ship. We raced to change into our dinner clothes, ate dinner together, then set off again.
We left Becky and Jill behind, and the rest of us took the shuttle to the Mount Roberts Tramway.
Our tram announcer was kind enough to pose for a photo.
Here's the view from the tram looking to the southeast, where one of the Princess ships and our ship were moored.
Here's the view looking to the northwest, with downtown Juneau and the other Princess ship visible.
This is the top tram station with plenty of room to look out once you arrive ...
... which is exactly what we did. Here are Debbie's men: her brother, father, and husband from left to right.
Here's the view looking to the left, ...
... straight down, ...
... and to the right.
Here's what the trams look like.
After spending time at the overlook, we walked around the trails a bit. Here's a bunchberry plant, ...
... and here is some pretty western columbine.
Here's an interesting little carving in the side of a tree by the Nature Center.
And here's the Nature Center itself. It was also part gift shop, so we purchased some cans of Dr. Pepper for Jill, and a Farkle game, Alaska socks, and knot tying book for us. We also purchased a couple more pairs of adorable long johns for Claire in the main gift shop at significantly lower prices than we paid on the BC Ferry several days earlier.
The shopkeeper gave us cups of hot cider too.
Susan took this rare opportunity to measure her wingspan, doing better than an owl but not quite as wide as a Canadian goose.
Since it was getting dark and the park was closing up soon, the return tram ride was significantly more full. We saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree on the way down.
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Our nightly towel animal greeted us as we called it a night.

Day 7 >


Alaska 2012: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Seattle] [Day 3 - Victoria] [Day 4 - Vancouver ] [Day 5 - Inside Passage] [Day 6 - Juneau] [Day 7 - Skagway] [Day 8 - Glacier Bay] [Day 9 - Ketchikan] [Day 10 - Inside Passage] [Day 11 - Seattle] [Day 12 - Empire Builder] [Day 13 - Empire Builder]

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