August 23, 2008

You guessed it...Day Four.

Juneau!

When we woke up this morning we were surrounded by mountains, and it was much colder. As mom and I were deciding what to do (since we woke up at about 7:30 and were going to meet everyone for breakfast at 8:30 or 9, we didn't order room service this morning.) So we walked up to the Lido deck and just had coffee, and watched the incredible scenery go by. It really was amazing. We saw a glacier just *there* on the side of a mountain, and we saw a few little ice bergs in the water.

We all met for breakfast, and I had my first breakfast buffet on the Lido deck. Can i just say that nothing brings people together like the word "buffet". I swear everyone on board was at the buffet! I had a create-your-own-omelette's, (with spinach, tomato, mushroom and bacon) a side of bacon and a mini waffle with some GREAT berry compote on it. I didn't eat everything, but I could have!

This is Juneau from our veranda.

Since our excursion from the boat left before anyone else had an excursion, after breakfast mom and I headed back to our room to get ready for Whale watching and the Mendenhall Glacier hike. We were off the boat by 10:45 and on our way soon thereafter. Our guide informed us that we were going to get to go Whale Watching first, and then to the Glacier, and then if we wanted he would drop us off downtown. We took the 20 or so minute drive to the Auk
e Bay (auke is a native word, meaning bay or lake, so technically the name of the bay is Bay Bay) and boarded our catamaran.

WOW. This is truly one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life. We headed out into open sea (OK, not really, we could always see land) and within about 12 minutes were seeing the spray from the humpback whales. We must have seen 6-8 humpbacks in the first 30 minutes, and it just got better from there. We saw one breech (jump totally out of the water-and dang it, i didn't get it on camera. I do think in the video I shot for it you can actually hear me going "damnit! i missed it"), we saw them bubble net feed, we saw them do their signature dive where they show you their tales. We saw them all around the boat, in groups of 2-3 (which is very rare, since humpback's are solitary animals. It was amazing. I was so excited, since I've loved humpback whales since I was a small child.

One thing I was very impressed about is how much our guide knew. She was a font of knowledge, and I seriously think the only questions she didn't know
the answers to were ones where no one knows. She was great! She was just as enthusiastic as the rest of the boat, and I am sure this is not the first time she had ever seen whales. You could tell she loved her job, and I appreciate that in a person.

I could spend a lot of time detailing everything we saw, but I'm working on editing my videos and putting them on youtube, so you too can see it instead. I'll just list what we saw and move on to the rest of our trip in Juneau.

We also saw Stellar Sea Lions, porpoises, eagles, ravens, Orcas and a sea otter. We passed by Admiral Island, where there are more bears than people, and learned that a woman had been mauled the day before (for doing exactly what you're NOT supposed to do when you encounter a bear.) Mom and I would have been happy if this is all our excursion had included, but we still got to go to the Mendenhall Glacier!

We docked and re boarded our bus, with our friendly bus driver Bob, and he starts telling us about bears in Alaska. I think people must really not understand that bears are wild animals, because he had story after story of people who had not paid attention to the rules, had not done what they were supposed to, and in the end, been mauled or killed by bears. He warned us " DO NOT take any food with you when you get off the bus. The gift shop doesn't even sell bottled water. The glacier is in a national park, and being such, has wildlife. This includes bears." He then proceeded to warn us, quite seriously, of what you should and should not do if you encounter a bear.

We got off at a stream about 1000 feet from
where the optimal viewing of the glacier is, and followed a nature trail to see the sockeye salmon jump. I'm going to copy what my mother says about the stream: "These fish are huge, and brilliantly red! There was a half eaten one off on the shore; a quiet reminder that bears are very close by in the neighborhood." we were very lucky that we got to see the salmon run, and I was really amazed at how big they were in the little stream.

Then we headed off to see the glacier. By this point in the day, it had started to rain a little, but that didn't stop us. We followed the trail, and all of a sudden, you could see the glacier. it was huge, and blue. the water in front of it was dotted with ice bergs, and we saw a few people in kayaks (another excursion choice) headed toward it. Awesome is about the best word I can think to describe it. At the shore line I found
a piece of ice about the size of a baseball and picked it up to show mom. It was absolutely crystal clear, which just amazed me. No dirt, no grime, who knows what part of the glacier it came from or when it fell off and melted down to this size.

We finally decided we were wet enough to go inside, so we visited the gift shop and headed back to the bus...where our bus driver told us of the 2 bears he had just seen in the parking lot! They had come out of the woods, and just lumbered across the parking lot. A group of cyclists all jumped off their bikes to get pictures, and all the bus drivers had to stop them from getting too close. Um, guys, these are BEARS. Not teddy bears, not Pooh-Bear, real life
brown bears that will chase and eat you just because they can. STAY AWAY from them


We got dropped off in downtown, and headed to The Twisted Fish, a place mom had a recommendation on. We had a great meal, though by this time, I think any meal wold have been great, as we were starving, and did a little souvenir shopping. We then headed back to the boat, and relaxed the rest of the night.

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