• Day4

    Juneau, Alaska

    May 18, 2015 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 66 °F

    We woke up at 6am (changed the clocks again last night) to a surprise of a mountainous landscape drifting by. We grabbed breakfast in the Lido and watched the scenery pass by as the ship made its way into Juneau. There were reports of whale sightings but we weren't lucky enough to see them. The morning was lazy. We hung around til 10am and watched a presentation "Alaska Fire and Ice" that delved into the geology of how Alaska was formed. It also talked about the glaciers and what to expect when we visit them. After this, we played Bingo again. Our group swept all four games: Dennis, Diane, Richie and Myron. Myron won $375! People were not happy with our group but what can we say...our group of 16 people probably made up half of the attendees. We had a quick lunch at the Lido before the ship arrived in Juneau at 1pm.

    We walked around for a little while before meeting up with our tour guide Sam from Above & Beyond Alaska. I had found this tour company online and while it got great reviews, we were both nervous because the tour description for the Mendenhall Glacier Trek was intense. We are not regular hikers though we are both active, but I was afraid we wouldn't be fit enough to complete the journey. Sam took us on a quick drive north to the head of the West Glacier Trail. The hike up to the glacier was about two hours, and Sam said we were in the 90th percentile as far as time to get there! We took a few breaks to look at the various geographical features that the glacier had produced. The landscape was amazing. We hiked through a rainforest but Juneau had been unseasonably warm lately and not rainy, so we luckily didn't have to hike through much mud or wet slippery rocks. We arrived at the glacier and geared up with crampons, harnesses, helmets and wind jackets. For the next 3 hours, we hiked around the glacier. Sam pointed out various features: crevasses (deep valleys), tarns (glacial pools with deep blue water), moulins (holes in which water rushes in and can be incredibly deep) and caves. We saw an arch that was all that was left of an ice cave from the past 6 years. The glacier constantly moves and evolves, and we later found out that it had caved in later that day. We did go in to a smaller ice cave that was recently discovered. Myron could barely fit inside and we had to crawl on our hands and knees to get in. We filled our water bottles from a rushing "waterfall" inside. It was super cold! Overall, hiking on the glacier was a really cool experience. We felt very safe with Sam and he was constantly going ahead and scouting new locations before we followed, so he could be sure he was taking us on a safe route. Also, Myron's crampon broke while on the ice and Sam had a repair kit available to fix it. Awesome, because that could have ruined our whole experience!

    It took another 2 hours to hike back to the trail's head through the rainforest. We drove back to the port area and Sam dropped us off at the Hangar. I initially wanted to get king crab legs but for $60 for 2 legs, I didn't think it was worth it. We had smoked salmon spread, crab cakes, clams and local beer before making our way back to the ship.

    We met up with the rest of the group who had gone gold panning, up the tram or on a river float trip. We made a quick stop in the casino to play a few slots before heading to bed, asleep before we hit the pillow.

    Above & Beyond Alaska: Would highly recommend. Included everything you would need (they provide a backpack filled with waterproof jacket, pants helmet, harness, crampons, ice axe and snacks), knowledgable guide. It didn't hurt that we ended up on a private tour as no one else had signed up for the group tour with us. The weather was 70 and sunny in Juneau so we thought that we were overdressed but it ended up being perfect. We wore technical wicking tee-shirts, ankle-high hiking boots with hiking socks and I wore fleece-lined running tights while Myron wore zip-off hiking pants. We also brought gloves, ear coverings and sunglasses.
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