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Published: August 17th 2015
When we considered traveling without a vehicle in the Inside Passage, we envisioned using Juneau as the frequent hub to most other ports, spending a few days at a time in this main city. After our experience with ferry location and taxis in Ketchikan, we anticipated that Juneau could be just as badly situated for independent travelers on foot.
We weren’t disappointed. The ferry terminal, like many in Alaska, is not conveniently located near the town center. It is in Auke (“Ahk”) Bay, two miles from the last city bus stop and over 7 miles from downtown. There is reportedly town camping, which usually translates to tent sites pitched next to each other on a gravel field, with lots of noise and local drive by traffic, about a mile away from the terminal but we never investigated.
We needed to realign our later schedule to focus on each desired port for around 4 days and leave Juneau as the last leg which would end with a flight to Anchorage. We were told by the ferry purser during the overnight passage this could be easily done in Juneau on arrival. She was misinformed. When we entered the terminal, no ferry
schedules were evident, just a lot of promotional brochures, many from earlier years. There was no shortage of information on places to eat fish and chips or take a charter boat ride, but there was no help in finding out when I take a ferry to Sitka in July.
I waited in line at the ticket counter to inquire about the schedules. “They’re all on-line now.” “But there is no wifi here at the terminal”, I responded which I had immediately discovered with great dismay, visions of all night blogging now gone. He replied with what I soon learned was the stock answer about wifi in Alaska to tourists, apparently by people who never have to use public internet, “There is wifi in town at the library”. “We don’t have a car and it’s after hours and the library is miles away”. Shrug. “Can I get a printout for Juneau for July?” He reluctantly agreed this could be done on a limited basis and printed one out. I repeated this wait-in-line-and-beg-for-a-one-page-printout three more times alternating between the 3 blasé terminal agents.
It was a late evening arrival in Juneau followed by a 5am departure to Gustavus, the gateway
to Glacier Bay, which we had reserved in advance. Since we would be leaving so early in the morning, we decided to wait it out in the ferry terminal overnight.
We weren’t the only travelers with those plans. In our little troop of loiterers were two young men backpacking solo, and two older kayakers, each also traveling alone. While hanging out inside the terminal, we became very well acquainted with one gentleman, Bill Harris, from Missouri, 66, who competes in long distance kayak races and was planning a 4 day trek into the right arm of Glacier Bay. While I can’t paddle for more than a few hours in Peconic Bay in Shinnecock, Bill recently finished a 340 mile race solo down the Mississippi in 55 hours http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1201790360/53and also competed in a 1000 mile
tandem race from the Yukon to the Dalton Highway. http://www.therolladailynews.com/article/20140711/SPORTS/1407196
Our fun little party was brought to an end at 10:30pm when the terminal agent informed us he would be closing down in half an hour and not re-opening until 3am. At around 10:50pm, we started rounding up our gear, filling up water bottles and using the facilities for the last time until morning.
When we were all locked
out and the lights turned off, we realized we had our food with us despite the posted warnings about bears all around the building. Notices were also adamant that we weren’t allowed to set up tents but we ignored those as well. In short time, we had a tent city established on the front lawn near the two kayaks and our food stashed as far away from our sleeping quarters as possible and hunkered down for the night.
I set the alarm for 3am and we moved back inside to avoid any admonishments for setting up a tent. We continued to doze on and off on the floor of the terminal until we knew it was possibly a good chance to board, somewhere near 30 minutes before scheduled departure, knowing now not to wait for any announcement. Terry helped Bill load his kayak and we were off to one of our favorite areas of all of Alaska, Glacier Bay and its humpback whales, but first we had to navigate getting to its National Park and setting up camp.
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As a person who once went on a 72 hour camping trip, only to hastily turn it into a 10 hour camping trip, this terrifies me! Bears, pit toilets, and most of all no WiFi. Woah!!!!
Terry & Becky OBrien
The scariest has been no wi-fi!!