Friday, June 18, 2010

Juneau and beyond

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Wed, June 16th. We arrived in Juneau in the afternoon; on our drive into town we saw bald eagles in the trees. The inlet between Juneau and Douglas Island is beautiful, but the dock right downtown is where all the BIG cruise ships dock. Sometimes up to 5 at a time. They let all their passengers out onto a boardwalk that is a tourist’s mecca. The shops run the full range from cheap kitsch to high end jewelry with all sorts of food and everything in between. We did see a couple cool places, one with alpaca and hand knit stuff, on with Russian stuff: icons and nesting dolls. They had sets of the last few Presidents and Michael Jackson through the years (folks, this shit is too weird for me to make up). Jim and Robin went to the Alaskan Brewing Company for a tour and samples, then we all walked around a while and ended up at a pizza place for dinner.

Thurs morning we had a quick breakfast, packed up, and went on a nature walk. They took us over to Douglas Island, to what I think they said is a city park. We got to walk around in the rainforest and out to the shore with a guide who told us all about the plants and animals. We saw more eagles and lots of ravens. The ravens are a really important part of the native folk lore here. Our guide said they have 29 distinct calls that they use to communicate with each other. We went past the Mendenhall Glacier where the ice is so compressed that the lack of oxygen makes it blue, very cool. On the drive back we saw a house that is sided in old LP’s, “Alaskan vinyl siding”, and a fence made from ski’s that got left behind at the local resort.

Back in town, Jim and Robin went to try the crab bisque. The lady who makes it placed 3rd in a national contest that will be televised on the Food Network. I decided to follow the Jerry Hill travel guidelines, and wash some clothes. I took the city bus to a “laundry mat” and got to see the locals part of town. The laundry had all the usual things, plus coin operated showers and towel rental. It makes sense with the harbor and the backpackers. While I was there I met 3 cute youngins, washing clothes, taking showers and hanging out in their skivvies. The 2 young women were friends from school, one from Denmark and the other from the UK. The young man they had just met the day before, he had hitchhiked from Montreal, and had decided to travel with them for a while. As I was leaving they had set up their propane burner and were cooking up a meal. The girls had been traveling almost a month, what a great adventure. I got back to town and had time for a massage before we had to leave. Boy Howdy, did that feel good.

They put us on a bus and took us back over to Douglas Island to see a local production at Perseverance Theatre. It reminded me a lot of MadLab, about that size with basic set and lighting, etc. A local man wrote a piece that tells a few stories from his clan’s folklore. There were pictures of natives on a screen and some of it was in his Native language with translation. It was interesting to learn more about the native culture. Then back to Juneau and on the boat. The Cruise West people just fall all over themselves to make you feel welcome. I have a cabin to myself which is nice. Jim and Robin are right next door. We had a good dinner and figured out our excursions for tomorrow. I’m going to go on a glacier walkabout, Jim and Robin are going to dogsled on a glacier.

Friday: We woke to another nice day. A little overcast at first but not too cold and the clouds started to burn off and we got some real sunshine. I got to go on the glacier walkabout on Mead glacier. It is all part of the same ice mass as the Mendenhall. They get 200 or more feet of snow every year at the higher elevations which creates the ice flow. The helicopter went over the top of the mountain to the ice field, WOW. They set down and 4 of the cutest little college kids came out of a geodesic tent where they spend the day, waiting to guide tours. We were lucky to be the first tour of the day so there were just the 6 of us on the ice and it was quiet. By the time we headed back they had all 4 helicopters going shuttling people back and forth. The ice was incredible, the crevasses open up into big mulans and they go a long way down. Our guide threw a big rock into one so we could hear how long it took to reach the bottom. A wonderful experience.

Too bad for Jim and Robin, their tour was planned for higher on the glacier where the snow had not yet melted, so they could run the dog sleds. The cloud cover was too dense up that high so they didn't get to go. We were all signed up to do a jet boat trip into the Eagle preserve but the jet boats are also used for search and rescue and they had an emergency today, so that got cancelled too. Jim and Robin decided to take a raft float down the river instead, thru the same area and I came to town. Haines is very small, not near as commercial as Skagway, with a larger salmon fishing community that is here year round. The big cruise ships only come here about once a week. I visited the Hammer Museum, sounds corny but really fascinating. Turns out the library is the local wi fi spot so here I am.

Sat and Sun we will be on the ship in Glacier Bay Nat’l Park, with excursions in the small inflatable boats. But we won’t be back on land so no internet access until Juneau again on Monday.

PS as you can tell, I'm still having problems getting the pictures to post in any sort of order. Jim and I have not had any time together with internet access to work on this so.....................I'm doing the best I can on my own.