Juneau

After a difficult day yesterday we allowed ourselves a little sleep-in. I woke sometime after 6:00 and around 6:30 crawled out to find that the Westerdam was creeping up the channel toward Juneau with the early sun coming in our window. Majella was awake soon after but had not slept well because of her concern for her father.

We were in no hurry because our shore excursion was scheduled for 10:30. Majella’s phone had connected sometime overnight and she had a couple of messages that seemed more optimistic than the news we had yesterday. There was little or no signal as we woke so we went up to the Lido and ate breakfast before coming back down to pick up messages as we approached Juneau. The news was better. Vince seemed to have rallied but by then it was past midnight in Australia so we would have to wait until later in the day for further updates.

Around 10:00  we went ashore to find our excursion, which was a bus trip to the Mendenhall Glacier with a ticket for the Mount Roberts tram. We located the position for our group and a little before 10:30 boarded the bus.

Our driver was Mitch who grew up in Minnesota but was now living in Juneau year round, driving buses in the tourist season from May to September and working with adults with disabilities at other times. He had a lively sense of humour and could probably get a side gig in stand-up comedy if he wanted. We were entertained and informed on our trips to and from the Mendenhall.

Mitch dropped us outside the Mendenhall visitor centre with a scheduled departure time 90 minutes later and dire warnings about the risks of missing the bus. He had already given us advice about what to see and the best sequence in which to attempt it.

We set off immediately for Nugget Falls which was about a mile (1.6 km) away at the end of a trail that would take us that much closer to the toe of the glacier which was about twice that far from the visitor centre. It was an easy walk on a well graded path with just occasional ups and downs. The couple of small streams along the way were crossed by bridges and the walk was through low forest in which tree trunks and rocks were covered with green moss. The bottom of Nugget Falls was an impressive torrent on a steep rocky slope but there were more vertical sections higher up. We saw the falls first from the trail and a viewing area but then walked down onto the sandy beach below the fall for a broader view of the falls and the glacier across the lake. The glacier was an impressive sight, covering the mountainside opposite down to the water and there were a couple of small ice chunks floating on the lake. As we saw in time lapse footage later in the visitor centre, it has receded in recent years but is still a large body of ice.

Along the way back to the visitor centre we stopped at a photo point and took our time along the walk. As a result we did not have time to watch the 15 minute movie about the glacier at the visitor centre but we did manage to look at some of the displays before stepping out to catch the bus back to town.

It was past 1:00 pm by the time we were deposited back at the pier and time for lunch. Beyond crab legs, the other item of Alaskan cuisine on Majella’s mind was reindeer sausage, which she had seen advertised somewhere yesterday. We thought it unlikely we would find that near the pier where eateries seemed to feature crab and other seafood so we walked toward the main part of town. Not far along we found a trailer selling wood fired pizza with the second item on its menu being Reinbeer pizza – reindeer sausage, beer and cream sauce with shallots, red onion, and other ingredients. That matched Majella’s target so we settled for that and coffees. The pizza was fresh and tasty and the reindeer sausage was just a little spicy.

Lunched, we walked on through town as far as the Governor’s mansion beyond the rather austere capitol building which was Mitch had jokingly told us had recently ranked as the 50th most attractive capitol in the USA. The Governor’s mansion certainly outshines it. We looked at some shops on the way through town and on the way back Majella stopped to buy some gifts.

It was approaching 4:00 pm by the time we lined up for the tramway up Mount Roberts. When I first read of the Mount Roberts Tramway I imagined a funicular running on rails but it is actually a cable car. Either way it made short work of getting to the top of the mountain or at least to the point where it levels off above Juneau. It goes on up almost as far again and that is walkable though we did not try. We did walk the alpine loop and the spur to Father Brown’s cross at a high point on that part of the mountain, a total of about 2.5 km on top of the walking we had done earlier at the glacier. There are sweeping views over the valley from various points around the mountain though the near shore of the channel is often obscured by the forested slopes. At one point I was able to get a photo of the 4 cruise ships in port today.

As we walked around the loop we had a message from Hannah to say that she was arriving at the hospital where Majella’s father is. Once she reached him we were able to call her and speak with him. He was doing much better today, sitting up and asking for coffee which he was unable to have for medical reasons. He seems to be recovering better and more quickly than expected which was a great relief for Majella.

We rode the cable car back down the mountain and returned to the ship. After drinks in the piano bar we ate dinner at the Lido where the special of the night was baked wild salmon. From there we went on to a musical performance accompanying BBC documentary footage about Alaska. By the time that was done it was time to retire for the night.