Cruise through Alaska, June 2001

Juneau, Alaska would bring us face to face with the capitol city of Alaska. We had one excursion planned for this trip: A helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier where we would then exit and walk around on the glacier for an hour and a half or so. We had been on a helicopter ride once before while visiting Sedona, Arizona. It was a choppy, gut wrenching roller coaster ride that made us ancy about another trip. But the chance to actually walk on a glacier? We were in.

-Juneau, Alaska: Day Two Part I-
"The Helicopter Ride"

The first thing I wanted to do when I got off the boat was use the phone. I just had to call in and see what was going on in the office. We docked about 9:00 AM, making it around noon at home, and I just needed to satisfy myself that they could survive without me. But enough about me.

Here it is, The Radiance of the Seas docked in Juneau. Ours was the inaugural season of the Radiance in Alaska. The boat was really nice. There was even a top floor bar and dance floor modeled after the Seattle Space Needle.

The helicopter was surprisingly spacious as compared to our last ride. We found out later that our helicopters were jet powered, one of the reasons that the ride was so smooth. This is Alicia jazzed up and ready for the ride. We were both pretty excited.

 

Yes, I actually waited for the helicopter to come into the frame for this picture. Yes, it screws up a nice waterfall. But there's another picture later sans copter. Now, go hug a tree.

Different excursions take off from the docks at different times. You have to be patient and realize that your excursion will be called in due time. Again, there are about 1,500 other people in various sates of readiness for the 20 or so excursion options and times you have. We preferred early excursions so we could tour the area afterwards. This worked out pretty well, and we got to see my main objective for Juneau, the state capitol building.

A view of Juneau from the air. That road is the longest road in Juneau and consists only of two dead ends. When asked, a local may say he's going "up the road," or that he's just been "down the road." This would be that road. Hey, leave 'em alone. At least they've got good a view.

There's also a really nice place sort of off the beaten path where they sell halibut tacos made from local halibut. We had to go and get one, you know, just for the halibut. (Like you didn't see THAT one coming.)

Our first view of Mendenhall Glacier. The two halves, one that's dirty and one that's clean are a good example of the glacier actually being two separate ones that meet up about a mile or so before the mouth. The dirt happens naturally as the glacier pulverizes rock along the sides at the rate of one foot per day. I have no idea what this group was doing. I just thought the little tent was pretty cool. The people also give you an idea of how high we were and how massive the glacier is.

We had asked a crew member where he would eat, and he advised us of some pretty cool things. I forget the name of the place, but it's off to the left as you enter town, (there is a fork in the road) past the gondolas, in a gray bunch of buildings. We enjoyed three offerings from the Alaskan Brewing Company (ABC), saving the darkest for last. We liked it so much, and were so buzzed that a $4 glass purchase seemed appropriate. The glass hasn't seen beer since we brought it home.

Once on the glacier, it's pictures away. After you get over the excitement of actually walking on a glacier, you start snapping away. Everything is cool, and, looking at the pictures now, I still feel the same way. The guides there will show and tell you some things about glaciers that you never knew. If you're interested enough to go in the first place, you'll be interested in listening.

Basically, you come away with a healthy respect for nature's beauty and power and the hour and a half you could swear was only fifteen minutes.

Glaciers are a massive, living, breathing, system that change every day. Not just that they move, but that they make their own drainage systems, create their own paths, and pulverize whatever is in their way. Above is just such a subsystem.

I forget what this thing is called, but is is basically a huge drainage hole created by melting ice flowing through the walls of the glacier and draining into the mouth. Yep, here is where it all starts, friends, and it is awesome..

The tour should provide you with your very own glacier boots that are designed to keep you from busting ass all over their glacier. You still sign a waiver that says you know you're going into a glacier and it's a dangerous place where man really shouldn't be. In the picture above, we are modeling the latest in glacial fashion.

The other thing he told us is that the souvenirs tend to get a bit less expensive at the other ports. Seems that everyone is in a rush to get there goodies on their first chance, and don't want to wait for fear they may never see the same sweatshirt again. Indeed, he was correct as I am sure we saw the very same sweatshirt in every port. By the end of the trip, I happily paid less for a hat bearing only the letters 'AK.' I have never been much into sweatshirts anyway.

If you can't tell, I'm pretty nuts about my girl. Every chance I could, I'd click a picture of her on a glacier. Here. I thought it was cute that she appeared to be looking at her shoes. She says she was making sure she didn't fall through what looked like twenty feet of water.

This picture is also a good idea of the massive area on which we roamed around. It really was a fun excursion.

We also made it our mission to mail my grandmother a card from every port. The card didn't have to be especially nice, as long as it showed something we'd done and where we were. This one was of the glacier and had 'Juneau' across the bottom. I made sure to mail them from the post office in each city so she would be able to take part in our trip. We had been willing to pay for her trip along with us, but there really was too much walking for her. Granted, she runs around like a crazy woman, but only for a few hours before the effects of being 87 simply kick in and insist that she rest.

On to Part II
>>Day 2
Juneau, Alaska<<