Day 11: Flying high over Juneau


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North America » United States » Alaska » Juneau
June 18th 2015
Published: June 25th 2017
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Geo: 58.3677, -134.58

The.mist, the cloud and the rain all hung low over the harbour this morning for our return to Juneau but we knew not to let this dampen our spirits as we responded to the 5.45 am alarm call. It was helicopter morning and we scrambled to shower and layer-up for our glacier walk.

We arrived at the meeting point after the gallop up the steep incline of the ramp with just two minutes to spare to hear them making announcements that the helicopter ride was cancelled. That was a little disappointing for about two minutes until Mac worked out it was the "other" helicopter tour that was cancelled...the dog sledding adventure. We were still on!

We were given our preflight cards that ask for your weight estimates - now that was embarrassing and other than our clothing fit and the amount of room left in the shower cylinder we didn't have an accurate number, but given our lives depended on the "balance" in the helicopter, decided that this was not the time to "fudge" the weight estimates. The numbers were BIG!

The company provides you with "boots" so you can walk on the glacier. These are overshoes for your existing shoes and it does take a little getting used to. You sort of "clomp clomp" in the boots.

The four helicopters were loaded with four passengers each and they had massive windows and gave perfect sweeping views as we took off and soared above the clouds. We were headed for the top of The Mendenhall Glacier. The flight did not disappoint. Juneau and the harbour were beautiful but the glacier was magnificent. The surface was like an ocean frozen in time with ripples and waves, trenches and peaks, crevasses and pools. All wedged in the gouged rock lines that make up the cradled U-shaped valley of this massive river of ice. And it was a mix of white, brown and blue. And so blue!

The rain today had made the surface of the glacier a bit "slick" and there was some slipping and sliding but with Mac's mountain goat surefootedness and a walking stick I made great progress. And the leaky Merrills were "no problem" because of the glacier walking boots!

The surface of the glacier was amazing. There were pot holes and splits, rocks, pebbles, ice and fine silts. It was flat, it was hilly, there were peaks and troughs, flowing streams and pools. And the water in the holes in the ice was so blue. So very blue.

Again, don't ask to look at the photos. I think I have 70 shots of blue puddles, 50 shots of rocks of various sizes and another 30 shots of rocks balanced on little mounds of raised ice all rounded out with about 20 shots of dust on ice. Compelling viewing for us....not so great for anyone else.

But the best photos, and the ones you can ask about, are of Mac doing push ups on the surface of the glacier so he could drink from the running stream of fresh glacial water that was about 3 centimetres deep. The. guide had demonstrated how to do this and true to form, out of the 16 in the touring group he was the "only one" with enough hair and strength to be able to complete a push up to drink from the fountain of youth. His antics were captured on everyone else's camera....a star again!

The ride back was equally exhilarating but this time our focus was on the harbour and shoreline lakes as we circled over Juneau for a last look. We were all smiles back on land with Mac immediately declaring "I'd do that again." Thinking his reluctance for small-craft flying AND big-craft cruising may be a thing of the past. It must be the glacier water!

We rounded out the trip on shore with a visit to the Heritage Coffee Shop (best coffee in Juneau), had a wander down jewellery alley (without making a purchase) and changed our mind about riding the Mt Robson Tramway chair (the mountain was blanketed in cloud and all views were non existent.). We were back to the ship for peak hour at lunch for a light snack and we had hatched "a plan" for the cruise down the fjord of Tracy's Arm and our last glacier viewing at South Sawyer.

There was no way that we were going to miss out on a railing spot this afternoon. I staked out a spot in the Observation Lounge and relaxed and read my book and once the icebergs started to dot the arm of the fjord - and the crowds began to arrive on the Lounge - I sent a message to the stateroom and Mac arrived with the warm clothes. Oompa-loompeered and as waterproofed as we could be, we took up our possies front and centre on the railing of the bow.

Seriously, we really should not have worried. This was a two hour marathon crawl up Tracy's Arm in gale force wind, in an ever present low-hanging cloud cover in driving rain and in freezing conditions. The crowds of Hubbard were nowhere in sight and the deck was host to a mere handful of intrepid explorers - the sensible ones were inside in the warmth!
Tracy's Arm is a spectacular fjord with sheer cliffs that rise and plummet some 7 000 feet. The mist and clouds hung low today and we were in the cloud as we sailed forward and could only imagine the peaks. The tree line was visible, the sheer cliffs and thundering waterfalls were visible, but shrouded in the constant mist of the clouds we could only imagine the summit of these walls.

It was like travelling through a set for a George Lucas "Jurassic Park" movie

We got so close. But the conditions were appalling and when the Captain announced that this was as far as we could go, we were in line with the North arm and could see the last island before the south arm just ahead. So after enduring the freezing combination of sleet and rain and ice that was as close as we got and because of the mist, could not make out the glacier ahead. In honesty, the #fail was part of the adventure..

We were as cold as the icebergs after this adventure and our trousers were soaking wet. Had to resort to using the hair dryer to save the passports and to dry out the jeans and @Michael's socks were a saviour. I even wore them to dinner disguised under a long black skirt!

So many favourites in the dining room I know but Le Bistro did deliver tonight. There is so much here on the menu to tempt but we were much wiser about the bubbles of the Champagne this time and stuck to our regular order of spirits and cocktails - much safer! Mac combined a four mushroom soup with sailfish but it was my "Fruits de mere" which was the show stopper. Lobster, scallops and prawns served on a bed of puff pastry in a creamy sauce. The plate was "clean" when I was done with just the prawn tails and a couple of little ends from the beans. I am voting it number one.

And remember, this was the restaurant of the fondue...but we resisted and tried something new and after we had finished up the brûlée and the profiteroles Mac said we could order the fondue as well. But we did exercise restraint and settled on coffee instead.

We were visited at dinner by the ship's executive for a chat. The manager of the ship's restaurants and the manager of the casino. Thought we were going to be asked to do some "survey" over dinner but they were just on their normal meet and greet rounds. We had lots of laughs and actually enjoyed their company. And our waiter tonight was a male - his name on his badge was Jenifer Augustine and he said "Call me Jeff." His "real" name was Jenifer Lopez, but to save questions he uses Augustine on his name badge! I wonder if he is serious?

The show tonight was the Burt Bacarach tribute "The Look of Love." This was a clever compilation of songs that told a story of a rocky love story that through various twists and turns ended up at the altar with a wedding scene finale. The audience was swaying and singing along under their breath and as usual the combination of talented singers and dancers accompanied by the live stage band, creative sets and costumes all ensured another entertaining production.

We headed "home" straight after the show after another long day and in anticipation of a second early start in a row. To be doubly sure, we have set two alarms for tomorrow morning!

PS Feeling very sad. Sparkie, our cockatiel died at home this morning. She had a long life with lots of MacNamara adventures. (19.06)

Thursday
Temperature: 9C
Pedometer: 7 431
Bear Sightings = 0

Total Bear Sightings = 12

Things @AuntyGail and @Paul forgot to tell us about cruising:

1. You are a long way from home if you are sad.

2. There are days when you miss your family.

3. Always keep your passports in a plastic bag to keep them dry.

4. Sad face emoticons convey a lot of meaning (@Anthony).


Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


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21st June 2015

I'm thoroughly loving living all your adventures with you....what wonderful memories. Stay safe, keep having fun. xx
22nd June 2015

Feeling so sad with you for Sparkie......a very special little bird that lived a life full of love & special attention from her 'family'.......sending huge hugs & kisses.....xoxoxoxoxoA question??......is it possible for one person
to eat too much crab Jan?????????

Tot: 0.096s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 9; qc: 23; dbt: 0.0136s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.2mb