Monday, September 03, 2007


Alaska Trip, Day 5, Juneau

(Day 05 Photos), Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is only accessible by airplane or boat. The highways in town all end in dead ends, visible at this link - yet there are tons of cars around Juneau. Well, we used our boat to get there! This was another full day excursion, and ES and I planned to join my bro and JK on a Bike and Brew which was happening later in the day. This ended up being the only excursion day that went as originally planned!

The town (West Juneau - not really where most of the populous is) had a bunch of gift shops of course - we checked out a couple, but really, they had the same stuff that Ketchikan had. JK got some turtles (a type of candy) from a candy shop which were wonderful, but overpriced. Something like $8 for two handfulls. That ended up being his lunch. We walked out of the main touristy area and kinda got a feel for how it might be to be there in the winter. DM mentioned that the kayaking instructor from the day before was saying it was really easy to study in Juneau during the winter. Can't really go outside much, and it's dark a lot. There were many lost and found signs around, and I photographed one that was particularly strange. Could have been some joke, or maybe a scam.

Dan spied a hill (er, mountain) and wanted to just, "climb right up it." But we eventually decided that'd take all day and maybe then some. Got lunch on the boat (free) and met up for our bike and brew. We rode in 15 passenger vans with bike trailers to a gravel parking lot and got our bikes. On the way, we got a very quick view of the Mendenhall Glacier, pretty much the main sightseeing attraction in Juneau. I wasn't quite sure what this bike trip entailed, luckily we got much better views later.

ES got a crappy bike - the brakes didn't work, and yet they tried to talk her into taking the bike anyway. Nuh uh, brakes are important, so she got a bike that was a bit better. I snapped a few shots in the parking lot while our folks were all gearing up with helmets. I tried to figure out how I was going to carry both the big and small cameras, but got them all hitched on my shoulder and or belt and we were under way. Almost immediately I found out that my bike did not shift into 3rd gear. I was stuck with 2nd gear, and half way up in the back gears, so I wasn't really getting much speed on this trip under pedal power. So basically, this tour had junk gear - either it has been overused, or just under maintained. The frames were pretty neat though - much lighter than the beast I ride at home.

I tracked the ride with the GPS as we went. Prolly 14 miles in total. We stopped at one chapel/church that had a big view of the glacier out the window. The bike ride mostly went around the lake to the south of the glacier. There were many houses in the area along with pretty dense trees. The floor of the forested areas were all a lush green moss. One hill we saw to the West of the glacier was all brown rock/gravel on the south, but it was that lush moss on the North which showed up as an odd shade of green.

We all stopped at various points along the route to regroup - some folks were pretty fast, but it's just as nice taking in the scenery. We arrived finally at the lake shore, and there were some small waves in the water. This was on the Western side ofo the lake, and offered some neat views of the glacier. Everyone was snapping pictures, then a gal from our group ran out into the lake for pictures. That's glacial runoff, so it's cold, maybe 48 degrees F the guide guessed. And also there was a lot of extremely fine sediment suspended in the water - a cup of the water in a glass wouldn't settle for perhaps multiple days. She survived though, so JK went out and got some funny pictures - not sure why he had his helmet on still.

We were eating some small (skimpy if you ask me) snacks and some tasty hot apple cider, and at the last minute decided I'd get out in the lake and have some pictures taken. The guides were still in a rush, but whatever. Took my shoes and socks off and had DM take the pictures. The bottom of the lake fell off very slowly, so I walked out maybe 10 feet into the lake. It was quite cold, but bearable for a short time. We took some fun pictures and I got out. But once I got out I could feel my feet tingling from the cold. I doubted I'd last too long out there in that cold water. I could feel the warm blood pulsing as it went thru my feet for the next 10 minutes or so. Tried washing the gravel off my feet, but we were in a hurry, so I just put socks and shoes back on and we got underway to our next biking destination.

Up to this point, we were all on roads and sidewalks by roads. But on the next leg we got to do maybe a mile or so on an "off-road" trail. Very well maintained though. It was just fun to be among the forest. This trail started South of the lake, and made its way up along the Eastern edge of the lake. We finished up at a parking lot and headed on foot up to a second, Eastern vantage point on the glacier. This was packed with people. There were many tour buses, RVs, cars. And we only had 15 minutes to check this place out. Not sure why this trip was in such a hurry.

On our way back to the vans, DM spotted a brown bear in some high bushes. But instead of informing me that a bear was headed towards me, he waved his hand motioning towards the lake with his camera. So I thought, "huh? He wants a picture of me by the lake? OK," and I headed towards the lake, and, towards the bear also. I jumped back when I saw the bear and got a couple pictures, but Dan's picture was much clearer. Ends up it was a cub the size of a large dog, and probably heavier than a large dog. The cub ran off into the forest pretty quickly.

Next the van took us to the Alaskan Brewing Company. I thought this portion of the trip went a tad long - I'd have rather had more time on the bikes or at the visitor's center. The brewery had 6+1 beers of all different types light to dark. I tried them all, then tried the amber a few times after that. There were empty beer cans and bottles from all over the world on the walls. We noticed that there were no beers from Nebraska, but they did have Quilmes (aptly pron. "kill-mes") which we drank in Argentina. Side note, but at some point I ate some trail mix which was generated by Snak Club, Inc., located only a few blocks from where I work. Small world, which is neat.

We got the van back to the boat and decided to do a late dinner. We were to leave port right around sunset, so we got into the hot tubs on the back of the ship to watch the sun go down as we made way overnight for Skagway.

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