Alaska: Port of Call Juneau


It was raining when we arrived in Juneau. After breakfast, the fog began to rise revealing the mountains. I could see a red cable car ascending toward the mountain towering above from the ship's panoramic window. As soon as we got off the ship, I realized that the cable car station called Mount Roberts Tramway was just a few steps from the pier. It was considered one of steepest (the most vertical) tramways in the world.

Juneau is a popular tourist destination. I found so many stalls at the pier offering different types of tours including the most popular tour to the Mendenhall Glacier. Of course, we pre-booked this tour from the cruise ship.

We hopped onto the bus to travel twelve miles north along one of Juneau’s two major roads with the bay side on one side of the road and the fog-covered mountains on the other side. Our destination was the base of the Mendenhall Glacier. Our driver would point to an eagle on top of the streetlight, and a few more in the open fields along the way, but of course they’re hard to capture especially from the moving bus.

It was overcast and misty all morning but the rain let up when we arrived at the Tongass National Forest. Our driver recommended that we do the hike up (2 miles roundtrip) to the Nugget Falls to get to the glacier in a fairly close-up and personal way. However, the threatening clouds made everybody rush to do their own thing before the rain. I immediately started taking photos from the tour bus dropped-off area while my sisters headed to the Visitor/Discovery Center.

I thought I was left behind so that after taking photos, I took the Nugget Falls Trail (the longer route, according to the sign) towards the waterfalls, passing through lush and old trees and various wild berry plants, creeks and mossy rocks that I was tempted to stop and take photos. The hike ended at a pebbly and sandy beach area and to the foot of the Nugget Falls, up-close to the glacier.

I did not find my sisters when I arrived in Nugget Falls, I thought they took the other path down to the lake’s edge. I found out that they were also taking pictures along the way. It was incredible to get that close to the glacier.

Information from the Visitor Center:  Mendenhall is a glacier in retreat. Mendenhall Lake is a modern day lake created by a large amount of moraine pushed down while the glacier has been retreating rather quickly (1.7 miles) since 1958.  With global warming, it is expected to retreat further.

The edge of the glacier looks very dirty although the ice itself has a lovely blue tinge. The dirt is made up of earth and rocks carved out from the mountainsides by the moving glacier
Calving happens when a chunk of ice breaks off the face of a glacier. This chunk of ice now floats in the lake.

It was fascinating to see a glacier surrounded by rainforest. We were also warned to watch out for bears.  By the way, eating is now allowed at the National Forest. I did not see any bear but saw a  porcupine up on the tree.

Earlier that day, we went for a city tour and scenic drive to Douglas Island. We stopped at a scenic overlook which offered a panoramic view of Mount Roberts, the town of Juneau, the harbor and the cruise ships.

The rest of the group took time taking selfies with our cruise ship in the background. Since I was not really into taking pictures of the ship, I started heading back up to the bus when a bald eagle flew just above me. It was kinda cool because I always thought of eagles as endangered species. To my pleasant surprise, they were plentiful in Juneau.

The edge of the glacier looks very dirty although the ice itself has a lovely blue tinge. The dirt is made up of earth and rocks carved out from the mountainsides by the moving glacier


All photos by the author



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