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Old 06-11-2013, 09:32 PM   #16
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So happy you started! Been looking forward to this!
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Old 06-13-2013, 09:48 PM   #17
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Thanks for stopping in, everyone. Here's another update; they should follow fairly regularly from now on:


Hanging out in Juneau: May 17th and 18th

We woke up early Friday morning to a rainy Juneau morning, and news that there was snowfall in Anchorage. A very late start to summer here in Alaska. I walked around and explored the dock and downtown area in the early morning. None of the shops were open, but I was able to figure out where things were in town:


The view out our hotel room - it's not raining hard, just enough to give us an intro to Alaska weather to come:




A look up the walkway by the dock. The big cruise ships dock farther up:





The boat we would be leaving on come Saturday afternoon was not in port, as it was coming up from Ketchikan. However, the boat we would be on for Leg #3 of our trip was at the dock - The Wilderness Explorer. Doesn't the snow on the mountains in the background make it look cold? (It was pretty cold )





Ravens were all around. They weren't shy, and they certainly weren't underfed. This is one of the smaller ones:





Walking up the boardwalk, I came across this very large mural of early passage makers to Alaska - you've probably seen it if you've been to Juneau. I imagine this is what our cruise mates will look like, although the average age will be higher:





I cut through an alley and found the famous Tracy's King Crab Shack; Yep, that's what it is. Unfortunately, rain kept us from sampling the fare at Tracy's, but we did hear the crab was delicious.





I found the also famous / tourist trap / Red Dog Saloon. I'm not opposed to sampling tourist trap fare, but 6AM was just a little early for a beer.





A look up one of the main shopping drags in Juneau. While there certainly are a lot of tourist shops, the main part of town isn't without some charm. Notice the Ravens are still after me:





Another important landmark identified: The Alaskan Brewing Company Depot. We didn't make it to the actual Brewery, but we did sample much of their product during our month in Alaska. And, we found they had the best souvenir T-Shirt selection as well (we go for the high quality goods )





By this time, it was getting close to 6:30AM. Having survived my solo tour of Juneau, I headed back and found Lou up and ready to find some breakfast. We opted for the Sandpiper Cafe - good recommendations in Trip Advisor, and just a short walk from the hotel. This turned out to be an excellent find. Good food and friendly staff. Lou had the corned beef hash - he said it wasn't quite as flavorful as it is at our favorite greasy diner, but we figure the Sandpiper probably changes out their cooking oil more than once a year ...










I chose a basic 2-eggs over medium breakfast - even that was much more than I could eat:





After breakfast, we walked through town some more. Lou decided he needed a haircut, so he found a barber shop. I took care of picking up the rental car which we would have for the day. It was easy - since the Avis counter is right in the Goldbelt Hotel. From there we headed out to Walmart to pick up some supplies - cold medicine just in case, Advil because we are old and we knew we would have sore muscles, some spare reading glasses (I didn't want to get stuck for a week if I happened to lose my glasses), and Lou wanted some binoculars.


Coming up Next: Touring Mendenhall Glacier ... in the rain
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Old 06-13-2013, 10:21 PM   #18
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Nice early morning glimpse of Juneau. I only saw the town in the densest fog I've ever encountered (and I lived in Maine!), so didn't get a nice view of the harbor or the main street. Looks like a fun place to browse a bit. That is one plump raven! Not plump enough to qualify as a "round" bird, but chunky for a raven. It does look so cold there! It's been quite cool here, right now 52, so probably cooler at your place in Maine.
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Old 06-13-2013, 11:15 PM   #19
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Continuing -- Mendenhall Glacier

Didn't want to leave you with the thought that our day in Juneau was spent totally doing prep for vacation. After our trip to Wal-Mart, we drove on to Mendenhall Glacier. It is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Juneau. It was strange to see a fairly large residential area so close to a glacier (no drive-by pics, as I was the driver).


It was raining when we arrived, and there were very few people there. We were impressed with our first views of the Glacier. Some people tend to downplay Mendenhall, since it is not as large as the ones you see while cruising, but we thought it was amazing to see the ice where you could actually walk close. It's also a great example of how the land near the glacier is coming back to it's natural form, and there are quite a few posters along the trail that explain the process.










There is a nice little lake near the entrance to parking lot that looks perfectly "normal," not like it's so close to a glacier:




There is also a fancy Visitor's Center at the entrance to the Glacier Trails. We thought we'd save that for the end, since the rain had let up enough and we set out on the one mile trail to Nugget Falls.





One of several small lakes you see from the trail on the hike to Nugget Falls. Note that the trail is a very easy one - it is either paved, gravel, or wooden boardwalk, and there's no need to ford a stream (as there is if you hike some of the other trails).





Uh Oh ... bears on the Trail!!! We didn't see any bears, but we did hear that a small black bear had been hanging out near the trail.





This is not a bear, but it kind of looks like one:





We did see a cute little bird:





A view looking back from the glacier, showing how the ice breaks off and floats downstream. It is eerie to see the ice floating in the lake, when there is no snow or ice on shore:





Another view of ice in front of the glacier:





You can see it's not crowded at all. We passed a few people on the trail, but ended up having the area by the falls to ourselves for a half an hour. I'm sure this is because of the weather, and because it was so early in the season.






































We walked back out to the entrance without encountering a bear. We did see a mountain goat high upon the mountain above the falls, but it was just a tiny spec. The Ranger said she'd seen several newborn kids running around, but we didn't spot any.

It started raining as we walked back on the trail. We decided to skip the Visitor's Center and go get dry. We also felt very content from our peaceful Nature Walk, and didn't want to get bombarded with information right then.

I'd highly recommend a visit to Mendenhall Glacier if you have the opportunity. Even though it was a grey and dreary day, and the photos don't do it justice, it is an impressive place to see.

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Old 06-13-2013, 11:18 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by lauriep View Post
Nice early morning glimpse of Juneau. I only saw the town in the densest fog I've ever encountered (and I lived in Maine!), so didn't get a nice view of the harbor or the main street. Looks like a fun place to browse a bit. That is one plump raven! Not plump enough to qualify as a "round" bird, but chunky for a raven. It does look so cold there! It's been quite cool here, right now 52, so probably cooler at your place in Maine.
You're too fast for me, Laurie You sneaked in before I added Mendenhall. The internet here at our hotel in Anchorage is slow, so I didn't want to try for too long of a post. I'm trying to get through the early part of the trip so I can get to the more exciting stuff. Some more almost-round birds coming up later in the trip.

Oh my - 52 degrees! I've been telling Lou that Maine is colder than Alaska.

We leave the hotel in Anchorage at 4AM tomorrow to start the long (but much anticipated) journey back to Maine.

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Old 06-13-2013, 11:26 PM   #21
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Beautiful! I really thought for a moment that the fallen branch/tree trunk was a bear! How amazing to be on the trail nearly alone.
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Old 06-14-2013, 12:42 AM   #22
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It all looks so peaceful! Have a safe journey back to Maine!
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Old 06-14-2013, 02:06 AM   #23
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Beautiful photos from Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier. Like Laurie, when we were in Juneau, the weather was awful (torrential rain much of the day), so we didn't see the town itself, as we just wanted to get back to the boat. It looks lovely.
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Old 06-14-2013, 09:30 AM   #24
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Great pictures from Juneau! I remember those ravens, they were HUGE!! Love the shots from Mendenhall! Still kicking myself that we didn't have time to get there! More please!
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Old 06-14-2013, 11:41 AM   #25
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I'm already loving your TR as Alaska is a place both Luke and I want to visit sometime. Juneau is lovely and Mendenhall Glacier is spectacular! so much for the photos!
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Old 06-14-2013, 03:11 PM   #26
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Your pictures are amazing. Love the color blue in the one glacier!! Us too one day want to make it to Alaska. Can't wait to hear more!
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Old 06-14-2013, 07:28 PM   #27
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Spring seems to be slow in coming everywhere this year. I have to say my travel dreams lately wander to the Caribbean and not anywhere colder The town does look like it has its charms. I love the tree that looks like a bear. Great walk to the glacier.
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Old 06-15-2013, 12:47 PM   #28
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It all looks so peaceful! Have a safe journey back to Maine!
Thanks - we were lucky to be there at the start of the cruising season. The town was quiet, and there were so few people at Mendenhall Glacier. I've seen some recent posts on Cruise Critic where people talk about how crowded the trails are.

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Beautiful photos from Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier. Like Laurie, when we were in Juneau, the weather was awful (torrential rain much of the day), so we didn't see the town itself, as we just wanted to get back to the boat. It looks lovely.
I know what you mean about getting back to the ship. The most rain we had during the whole trip was in Juneau - you can't see much in those conditions.

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Great pictures from Juneau! I remember those ravens, they were HUGE!! Love the shots from Mendenhall! Still kicking myself that we didn't have time to get there! More please!
You can't do it all, but from reading your Alaska TR, I know you guys saw a good overview of Alaska.

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I'm already loving your TR as Alaska is a place both Luke and I want to visit sometime. Juneau is lovely and Mendenhall Glacier is spectacular! so much for the photos!
Thanks, Cam - you and Luke will definitely have to get to Alaska. You'll enjoy it.

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Your pictures are amazing. Love the color blue in the one glacier!! Us too one day want to make it to Alaska. Can't wait to hear more!
Thanks, Deb. I think you'll find the photos get a little more interesting as the trip goes on. Definitely put Alaska on your list!

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Spring seems to be slow in coming everywhere this year. I have to say my travel dreams lately wander to the Caribbean and not anywhere colder The town does look like it has its charms. I love the tree that looks like a bear. Great walk to the glacier.
I hear you, Roberta. Cold is not for everyone.

We finally reached home this morning, and happy to report all is well. And, it's warm
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Old 06-15-2013, 01:49 PM   #29
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Finishing up Juneau (for now - we'll be back in 2 weeks):


After our tour of Mendenhall, we returned to the hotel and dried off. After a rest, we walked into town. Lou spotted something he wanted, so he made our first purchase of the trip (we didn't do much shopping, other than t-shirts and a few trinkets).



We did have some confusion, as the sales person said, "Oh, I'm so happy Lou will have a good home." We looked at her with a blank stare, then we finally realized the bear's name was "Lou." We shared the joke with her, that Lou had picked out "Lou" without even realizing he had a name ...


We stopped by the Alaskan Hotel - the oldest operating Hotel in Alaska, built in 1913. We sampled Alaskan beer and had a pleasant chat with the bartender. This is a great place to get a drink, and doesn't get the same amount of tourist traffic as does the Red Dog Saloon.




After that, we wandered through town some more. But, it was raining again, and we went back to the hotel where we probably took a nap before dinner. We ate dinner at "Zen," the chinese restaurant in the Goldbelt. It was pretty good - Lou had lamb, and I had Halibut, both prepared with an Asian flair. I wanted to try Tracy's King Crab Shack, but it was too wet for us to venture out.



Saturday Morning:

I was up early for my whale watching tour with Harv & Marv. They picked me up at the hotel, after having picked up the rest of their passengers from the Carnival Miracle, which was also in town. We made the 20+ minute drive out past Mendenhall to Auke Bay. It really started to rain as we arrived, but the tour was on.

I booked Harv & Marv because of the great reviews and their small 6-passenger boats. Well - today they combined two groups into their new 12 passenger boat OK, this turned out to be a Good Thing, because the bigger boat is much more comfortable in bad weather and rocky seas, so this wasn't a problem. It was raining when we got on the boat and when we got off, so I didn't even snap a photo.

As we headed out to find some whales, it was fairly rough, even though the waves were only 2-3 ft. This shot may give you the flavor of the trip - I did not tilt it for artistic effect:





We had Captain Shaun as our leader - he has 15 years of experience and is very knowledgeable about the whales in Juneau. He actually goes to Hawaii in the winter where the same whales go to escape the icy Alaska waters. He told us a lot about whales and how to spot them:




Captain Shaun was on the radio with other captains to see where whales had been spotted - with no luck. We headed out quite far, and in the distance we finally saw this ...




One other small boat joined us, and we watch two humpbacks along the shoreline for awhile. I ventured out to the front to get some photos in the rain:










Soon, other boats began to arrive and we set out to find some more whales. We did find one, but it was lazy and never even showed its fluke. Oh well - this whale watching tour was underwhelming, but at least we did see something! I began to have concerns about spending a month in Alaska ...


Once we arrived back at the dock, we waited to load up, and saw some Bald Eagles in a tree, and along the pier.



Again - that's not an artistic backdrop in the photo - the rain was really coming down.

Part of the Harv & Marv tour includes a 30 minute stop at Mendenhall Glacier. We got off the van, walked over to the first covered area and took some photos - by then it was pouring, so we all elected to head back to town.


I did get some photos of the helicopters buzzing the Glacier:





And, a very happy, smiling, and wet Ranger:



I was dropped off back at the hotel. I found Lou at the Convention Center next to the hotel, where he had delivered our bags to the waiting room for our cruise. We had planned to tour more of Juneau, but it was just too wet. We did slip back to the Sandpiper Cafe for lunch, since it was the closest restuarant. Again - food was great. Lou had an elk burger:




We waited until 4:30PM in the hospitality room, meeting some of our fellow passengers, and using this time to finish up internet chores, since we would be without service for most of the coming week.

The Expedition Leader from the Wilderness Discoverer arrived and led us all across the street to the boat. There, we lined up to get on the boat and have our photos taken. No Mickey or Donald, just us - the purpose of the photo was so the crew could prepare a cheat sheet for all of us to use. They printed the photos of each couple/group out and had our names by the photos. Turned out to be helpful throughout the cruise, since most of us skipped nametags.










Once on board, we were shown to our rooms, had the safety muster drill, and then were turned loose to explore the ship and get refreshments. We motored off before 6PM.





















Yes - that is sunshine you see peaking through the clouds. The forecast showed rain for Saturday - Monday, but it stopped just as we left.


Dinner was served at 7PM. There was always a choice of fish, meat, or vegetarian. We picked the salmon and it was good. No food photos yet ... didn't want to alert the fellow passengers to my food photo ways so early on.


We continued sailing (technically, motoring) through the evening. The rain never came back, and we had some pleasant views:



















It was early to bed for us and most everyone else. I'll recap the itinerary and give a little more info on the ship in the next post.

Last edited by shazza; 06-15-2013 at 01:54 PM..
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Old 06-15-2013, 03:41 PM   #30
Cam22
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So sorry about the rain and so few whales on your tour! Of course, the rain would clear out just as you left Juneau, but it allowed you to get some very neat sunset photos.
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