Juneau and Skagway
Well the reasonably good weather has continued for us as the journey continues north up the Inland Passage. We have an early start in Juneau. This city/town is the State Capital of Alaska, it is unusual in that it is landlocked. There is no way in except by sea or air, no roads out! In the morning we are off on a tour taking us to the Mendenhall Glacier. This is not far out-of-town and is a major attraction as you can almost walk up to the nose of the glacier, although with it retreating the nose is getting further away. It is an interesting walk through the rainforest to get to one of the viewing platforms.
Along the way there are markers indicating where the nose was in years gone by, the first marker is 1916 and it is a fair way back from where the glacier is now. What is fascinating is how the forest has reclaimed the area vacated by the glacier. At the 1916 point there is a very significant area of rainforest which slowly ‘thins’ out as you move towards the viewing platform.
Leaving the glacier we then head off to the harbour for the second half of the trip out onto the water to search for a few whales and other sea life. The group is led by a photographer who passes on photo taking technique tips. We search around the waterways and eventually find a couple of humpbacks entertaining the crowds in a number of boats with fluke waves and dives. We also sight a ‘gang’ of harbour seals lying on a beach and some Stella sea lions that have taken over a buoy.
Back in Juneau for the afternoon we do our usual wander around the town. As well as eyeing off the usual eateries and souvenir shops it sinks in that there are numerous jewelry shops in these towns. It transpires that many of them are actually owned by the cruise ship companies and that is why they get the never-ending plugs on board the ship. We avoid them.
Next stop along the way is Skagway. We have another long all day stop in this town which was the step off place in the 1890s for the thousands who headed off on the trek to the Yukon during the gold rush period. It was a pretty treacherous trip (500 mile?) up and over the coastal mountain range and then along the Yukon River to Dawson City in Canada. Many of the buildings in the town are preserved structures from the late 1800s and the National Parks service look after them.
We took the easy way up in a small bus and fog to Whites Pass and the Canadian border, it’s about 3,000 ft up the steep route. The road follows in part the old railway which fellow cruislings are doing aboard the train. The train doesn’t stop for pictures, so in some ways the bus is an advantage in that we stop along the way and are able to take in the atmosphere of the place. It also allows us to reflect on the journey the gold seekers endured a hundred and thirtysomething years ago. It was a bit chilly up there too!
We headed back down to the ship and lunch on board, after which it was off on a late afternoon wildlife expedition. It would see us back on board around 8 o’clock for the sail away. The amazing events of that wildlife expedition though must await the next blog.