Day 5: Monday May 9th, 2005 View Photos for This Day

Another early start for me, and it was especially early, as the clocks were moved back one hour due to a change in time zone. So I got up around 5:50 (which was really 6:50.) We were not set to arrive in Juneau until noon; we were able to enjoy a leisurely morning on the ship.

After a trip to Windjammer (which is officially where I have spent the most time!) for oatmeal and fruit (I was trying to make up for the breakfast extravaganza the morning before,) I headed back to the room to work on the trip report and get Adam up.

He eventually arose, grabbed some breakfast and we went up on deck to watch us arrive into Juneau. We spent about 2 hours on the heli-pad, taking video and pictures, and generally enjoying the beautiful weather. It was clear sunny, and 65 degrees. While the ship was plowing toward the port, the wind was pretty hard on deck, but we slowed down to dock, and the second hour was amazing weather, with no wind. We saw a number of sea planes, helicopters and fishing boats. We also saw a number of birds, including a couple of bald eagles.

We decided not to be part of the rush to get on Juneau when we first docked, and instead ate lunch in, you guessed it, the Windjammer, while the long lines to get off the ship dispersed. We also purchased our Mt. Robert's Tramway tickets on board, because we had a coupon for a dollar off. Our plan work perfectly and we had no one in front of us to get off, and it was only about an hour after we docked, plus we were able to take our time getting ready and eating lunch.

We had prime docking position, and our gangway dropped us off closer than any of the other ships (2 others were in port,) right in the head of the town. It was a bi crowded at the bottom of the gangway, as that's where all of the excursions were picked up. You could also book last minute trips there, and we saw a number of offeres for a 5 dollar bus ride out to the Mendenhall glacier. The idea seemed quite nice, but we weren't sure yet, and decided to wait until after the tram ride to decide. We walked a bit up and down the main tourist drag. Many of the shops reminded me of cannery row in Monterey, very touristy, but nice.

We headed back to the tramway to turn in our tickets. We were able to get right on after waiting just a couple of minutes. The ride was short (thank goodness) and I was able to not look down, a very good thing. At the top, there was a nature center, movie theater and a few hiking trails. We headed straight up the “Alpine Loop,” a short walk that promised great views. We were a little nervous about the weather at the top of the mountain, but the temperature rose even there, and it was at least 70 at the top. We were quite warm as we hiked around. We found a couple of look out decks at the beginning of the trail. We saw a funny looking squirrel with almost no tail. We continued around, but the path got very muddy due to the snow still on the trail. We both went for a while, but when the trail turned to pure snow, I decided to try and make it back down myself (and I didn't fall, which was a miracle.) Adam played around a bit and then met me in the less muddy area. We looped back around, and Adam decided to try the loop from the other side. I waited by the nature center, relaxing and enjoying the views.

He returned after 15 minutes, and proclaimed “Saw a giant porcupine sat in pine sap.” He then clarified “I saw a giant porcupine and then I sat in pine sap.” We went to the restroom so he could clean up. Before heading down the mountain, we took a quick peek at the bald eagle they had in captivity. He had lost an eye, so they kept him in the nature center to look after him. I had not realized they were that big.

We took the tram back down and bought our bus tickets to go out to the glacier. We weren't able to get on the bus that was right there -- it was full, and we had about 30 minutes before the next one came. We walked around further down the street to look around and take some pictures. We also grabbed a couple of sodas. When we came back to the bus stop, there were a ton of people lined up to get on the next bus. When it came, we again were not able to get on -- we were at the end of the line, but we were determined to get on the next one. It was clear this was one of the first days of the season as it was very disorganized. I'd imagine as the summer moves on, it get more streamlined (i.e. people aren't waiting in the middle of the bus depot to get on a non existent bus.) Thankfully we were able to get on the third bus. Dam was gracious enough to give up his seat so an elderly couple (who had been last in line) could get on and have a seat. I shared my bench with the wife, who was 90. She had traveled all over the world and it was neat to listen about her travels. She had been to Alaska 5 time, twice in the '30's, twice in the '90's and then once in 2005.

The trip out to the glacier took about 25 minutes, but we got to see the part of town where the locals live and go to school. The high school was quite modern looking and very big. We turned a corner and the glacier was laid out in front of us, which was very cool. I have to admit that my understanding of what a glacier is was totally wrong. I had imagined a giant iceberg moving through rock, which is not really at all how it works. It's more like how the Colorado river moves and changes the grand canyon, only the river is frozen.

We walked out to the “photo point,” and saw a giant waterfall just to the right of the glacier. There were people out by the waterfall, and Adam wanted to walk out there as well. We saw the path out to the waterfall, and it looked pretty straightforward, so off we went. We took our time getting out there, taking plenty of pictures and video of the glacier, the lake, waterfalls and the small icebergs. Eventually we made it out to the waterfall, which was very loud and impressive. We took loads more pictures and even more on the walk back to the visitors center. At the center we watched a short video about glaciers, where I was able to learn that I was wrong about glaciers.

We had just missed the bus back, so we had about a 25 minute wait until the next one. Adam ran down to the lake to snap a few more shots (until he ran out of space on the card and had to swap it out -- that's over 240 pictures in one day!) We took the bus back to town to do some shopping, including a cinnamon candle for our bathroom on the ship (which was a little smelly due to the chemicals in the toilet system.) We were both very hungry, and it was only about 7:10. Our dinner seating wasn't until 8:30, but I knew we wouldn't make it, so we went to Windjammer instead. I was so exhausted, I didn't want to anything else except go to bed, so I turned in early (around 9,) and Adam took a few shots of the sunset.