During the morning of June 9 we sailed past Tracy Arm, a long scenic inlet leading to some famous glaciers. The ship did not enter Tracy Arm but some passengers transferred there to a small boat for a cruise to the face of the glacier. Volendam then continued on to Juneau. We sailed up the Gastineau Channel and docked at Juneau just before 1:00 PM. Approaching our berth we passed the Disney Wonder & the MS Amsterdam, on which we sailed for the World Cruise in 2016. The Amsterdam looked great & say what you will about Disney, they are very creative & do things carefully right down to the details.
Founded during a local gold rush around 1880, Juneau has been the capital of Alaska since 1906. It is named after one of the original gold miners, Joe Juneau. This is the only state capital that borders a foreign country (Canada) & the only one that is unreachable by land. There are no roads leading out of the city, so everything (& everyone) arrives by air or water. While it is a small city by population (a little over 30,000) its area is vast . . . larger than the state of Delaware!
We were docked in prime location, right next to downtown Juneau. We disembarked and walked into the area near the dock, which was lined with what looked like permanent booths for people selling sight-seeing tours. So I guess tourism is big business here. But we had signed up for a ship’s tour that took us to Mendenhall Glacier, not too long a drive from town, & the Mt. Roberts Tramway that went high above the city.
Mendenhall Glacier is just a few miles from town, one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska. It is one of more than 30 glaciers emanating from the 1500 square mile Juneau Ice Field. The glacier is about a mile across & stretches some 13 miles from the ice field to Lake Mendenhall. The lake in front of the glacier was first created in 1929 from the glacier’s water melt & has been expanding ever since. It was an overcast day with fog sitting on top of the glacier, but it was still a pretty dramatic view.
We walked down a short trail to an observation point on a rocky outcrop near the water. The glacier has receded about 1.75 miles in the last 8 decades. At that time the place from which we took these pictures was covered in ice. We saw some kayaks that were much closer to the glacier than we were & there was a protected area near the path for Arctic Terns to nest.
About half a mile to the right of the glacier is Nugget Falls. There is a path to the falls, but with Mary’s recent knee surgery we didn’t think we could make it there and back before our bus left. We saw old pictures in the visitors’ center in which the falls was emerging right on the glacier, which gives a good idea of how far it has receded.
The walk back to the visitor center was quite colorful with Spring flowers.
We rode back to town in the bus, driving along the Gastineau Channel. Our bus driver was a young fellow from Hawaii who is spending the summer in Juneau with his wife, for the money & experience. In the small world department, it turned out that a woman in the seat in front of us lives in the same Hawaiian neighborhood as the driver. We took a short detour across the bridge to Douglas Island & back. There was a large sculpture of a breaching whale near the bridge on the Juneau side. From the bus stop we walked to the lower terminal of the Mt Roberts Tramway, just behind the cruise ship dock. On the trip up the fog wasn’t bad until we got near the top, almost 4,000 feet above the town.
The top of the mountain was pretty fogged in, but we went for a walk in the woods, where trees were covered in some attractive moss. There is a Raptor Center that takes care of injured birds. On display was Lady Baltimore, a Bald Eagle that has lived there since a bullet in a wing in 2006 prevented her from being able to survive in the wild. They had an eagle’s nest on the deck near the upper terminal that was big enough for humans to relax in (not sure if its real or a recreation). We watched a movie about the Tlingit tribe that is native here (they own the tramway) and, of course, there were a couple of gift shops.
Coming down on the tram it was much foggier. So there were no clear pictures until near the bottom.
We had intended to spend some time on a walking tour of Juneau, but we were already pretty tired out. Our last stop (as will surprise no one who has followed this blog) was the Juneau Public Library. It was just across the street from where Volendam was docked. Strangely, it is located apparently on the top floor of a large parking garage. We did not go inside, since it was already closed for the day & also there was some police action going on near the entrance, but it looked modern and pleasant.
We ate dinner that night in the Lido because there was a special salmon bake. It we quite tasty, but it is our understanding that they used to do this on the deck by the pool, which is a lot more fun. There have been new regulations this year restricting cooking on deck that made that impossible. We are hoping that Holland America will find a way to restore the special on deck cooking occasions since we enjoyed them a lot on previous cruises. After dinner we went to bed to rest up for a long day in Skagway.