Juneau – capitol of Alaska – Wednesday, July 20, 2016

We knocked out 3 miles before breakfast, and wandered up to Deck 12 for breakfast. We didn’t dock until almost 9AM.

Four ships in port today. Total populaton of Juneau – just over 30,000. Clean and very pretty city. The city was founded back in the 1880’s. It’s been the capitol city of Alaska since 1923. Alaska became a state in 1959. There was talk of moving the capitol to one of the larger cities, either Anchorage or Fairbanks, but cost was the deciding factor and declined. There is essentially one major road through town, and both ends are marked with “End of the Road” signs. If you want to get anywhere, you take water taxis or boats, sea planes, or helicopters.

Today was special – our helicopter excursion to Mendenhall Glacier. We had attended our glacier lecture yesterday, so we were experts, right? Of 20 total excursions today, two of them were helicopter based. JUN-C and JUN-D. We learned shortly after arriving at our Galaxy Lounge meeting place just before 9:30, that JUN-C had been cancelled due to flight conditions. But, JUN-D was still ON – yeah!

The bus took us the 20 minutes or so out to the Juneau International Airport. A mix of facts and humor made for an entertaining ride. The difference between low and high tide is some 20-24 feet! Amazing. We saw numerous Bald Eagles along the way. The salmon were easy pickings for the bald eagles during low tide. We had to have sighted at least 50 bald eagles while traversing both directions from the airport. We even saw them at the docks!

When we got to the helicopter tour offices at the airport, we listened to a short safety video about the tour, obtained our cleated boots for use up on the glacier, life vests were handed out, and I got another jacket to go over the one I was already wearing.

A total of 4 helicopters were in rotation – as a group. They would each fit 5 people, meaning that each tour would accomodate up to 20 customers. 15 minute flight up – 30 minute tour on the glacier itself – and 15 minutes back down to the airport. Plus the 1 hour or so of ferrying by bus to / from the ship to the airport and the safety videos, etc.

Barry, Alison and I were on JUN-D. Marion took another Mendenhall Glacier tour. We simply LOVED the helicopter trip. The sights and the commentary were wonderful. All four helicopters landed on the glacier and discharged their passengers – and picked up the earlier passengers to take back to the airport. There were approximately 6 guides up on the glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier is some 12 miles long, 300 feet deep and traverses down the mountain at between 6” an 12” daily. The glacier falls about at its end – dropping into the Mendenhall Lake. There are fissures, and streams – streams throughout the thickness – making it like swiss cheese. There are lots of gorgeous blue colorations; the product of select materials, oxygen availability, etc., etc. We drank from a glacial stream by lying on the ice, and essentially doing a push up to get our drink. It was cold and very windy up on the glacier. The guides are up there between 10-12 hours per day! brrrr. They have a hut they can use for protection, but apparently there isn’t too much opportunity to take advantage of it.

One of the guides asked if we could do her a favor, as she led us to the awaiting helicopter for the trip back. Would we wish Carly, back in the office, a happy 23rd birthday. We did one better. We got back to the airport, had an accomplice help identify Carly, and we sang happy birthday to her. She was very happy.

The pictures were numerous and look good on the small screen. I can’t wait to see what they look like on a larger screen.

Even MORE Bald Eagles – and salmon – for us to see on the way back to the ship. We got back around noon, but Marion wasn’t expected until after 2;30. Barry, Alison and I went up to Deck 12 for lunch, then we all basicallly took our own pathway forward. I blogged and read, Barry wandered the ship, read, and listened to music. Alison hung out, too. Eventually, Alison and Marion hooked up for walking around and shopping in Juneau. They didn’t get back until about 6:30, at which point we looked for an alternative to an 8:30 dinner in the Main Dining Room. We found Traces up on Deck 12 – more of an International Cuisine Tapas restaurant, which hit the spot.

We all opted for a quiet evening after that……

12,319+ Steps – Fitbit on the fritz a bit, in terms of charging.

Scott and Alison on Mendenhall Glacier
Scott and Alison on Mendenhall Glacier


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