Inside Passage Alaska Tour Part Four: JUNEAU

We docked in Juneau around 7:00m and would be here until 8:30pm.Today’s tour would be of the Mendenhall Glacier and Gardens, which turned out to be one of the most spectacular events of the trip.

About Juneau from Celebrity Today newsletter:
“Nestled deep within the northern reaches of the Inside Passage is Alaska’s first truly Amerian city—Juneau, the capital of Alaska, which was founded during a gold rush in 1880. Today, the former mining town counts among its riches some of Alaska’s most spectacular scenery. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Juneau in the Alask Panhandle, it faces the water from the mainland side of Gastineau Channel. Several magnificant fjords are located along the channel coast, and the majestic mendenhall Glacier is found nearby.

Founded 13 years after the purchase of Alaska, it was Juneau, and more importantly its gold, that captured the imagination of the American public. The majority of the American population doubted the wisdom of the Alaska purchase. Most considered it a vast worthless frozen waste land, but in 1880 two drunken pioneers reluctatly carried home the gold that was to start a long series of gold rushes in this corner of the globe and establish Alaska’s worh in america’s eyes.”

The view from our veranda of the Juneau waterfront were very appealing–lots of colorful buildings, not unlike Ketchikan but much more spread out. Our tour didn’t began until 1:00, so we had a good breakfast on board before venturing into town. We went to the Visitors Center then walked around a bit before booarding our tour bus.

juneau4

juneau3

juneau2

juneau1

About today’s tour: Mendenhall Glacier & Gardens

“Take a fully narrated tour of Alaska’s Glacier Gardens Rainforest and visit the famous Mendenhall Glacier. Hear how local owners [of the Gardens] came to develop the area and the history behind their notorious upside down trees. Then embark on a mile-long journey into the rainforest. Enjoy a brief stop in the greenhouse at the bottom of the mountain before traveling to Mendenhall Glacier, where you’ll walk along the trails….”

Our first stop, at the Glacier Gardens, was amazing. We learned about the owners and how the Gardens came to be, and toured the beautiful garden and greenhouse. The upside-down trees are actually dead trees that have been planted upside down so that their roots are on top. The root balls have been turned into gigantic planters, with various kinds of flowers and foliage on each…totally awesome! The greenhouses another monument to the owners’ creativity, with walls and ceilings totally decorated in flowers and greens. There’s also little snack shop and, of course a gift shop.

Famous "upside down" trees

Famous “upside down” trees

garden1

Inside Greenhouse

The Glacier

The bus driver dropped us off a the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, informing us that he would return to pick us up in exactly 50 minutes—due to scheduling and strict rules about bus parking–they must move within five minutes. He pointed us to a path that leads to viewing areas for both the glacier and a nearby waterfall. We chose to the Photo Point Trail, a paved ½ mile round trip to the glacier viewpoint. (The Nugget Falls Trail was 2-mile round trip on gravel; we decided against this one, given our time constraints.)

The glacier was a spectacular sight to behold! There was a time when you could walk close enough to actually touch it but, unfortunately, it has receded and that is no longer possible. We did get close enough to take some awesome pictures, though. The first thing that struck us was the various shades of blue radiating from the ice. This occurs because the ice is so intense it absorbs the other colors of the spectrum, leaving only blue to show through.

glacier

Mendenhall Glacier–note icebergs that have recently broken off in front of it

"Blue" Ice

“Blue” Ice

The Visitor’s Center was high up on a hill and allowed for a panoramic view of the glacier and its surrounds. There was an interesting sign that said the glacier could be touched from there in 1935—wow that’s a lot of glacial melting.

Visitors Center

Visitors Center

View from Visitors Center

View from Visitors Center

We, and most of the other passengers, were waiting when the bus pulled up. A number of people were not, though. The drive waited almost ten minutes, until he was told by a park ranger that he had to move. So he did, resulting in nine people having to find their way back to the ship on their own (a $50 taxi, if they could get one!). Didn’t hear anything else about them, hopefully they got back to the ship on time….

[NOTE: It is 4 September and we’re back home. I will finish this as time permits–have many more beautiful pictures to share, so please say posted…claudette]

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