Less than 48 hours after I got back from Denali Day 43, I was on a plane headed to meet up with my mom in Juneau! She also works for a school district and has summers off. Since I have moved to Alaska she has come every summer to explore while we are both off from our other jobs. We have been to quite a few places and were super excited to see more of this incredible state. On my way to Anchorage I got to see Denali! She was not visible from the ground, but sat gloriously above the clouds. Another amazing angle on this mountain.
It was exciting to see my Mom! We were using a lot of AirBNB houses and rooms this time around. The first one we stayed was a great room with a bathroom right next to it. The family was super friendly. Their children were so adventurous and fun to be around! The family also had a guinea pig which we got to see and pet. When we landed we got an upgrade on our vehicle! It was the two of us in a minivan! I also was very impressed on how little my mom brought! One carry-on roller bag for all of her clothes, shoes, and toiletries! Pretty darn impressive!
We dropped our bags off at the AirBNB and headed to the Mendenhall Glacier because it was not raining! We had been to Juneau before together but it rained the entire time. It was great seeing the glacier without fighting off rain drops. We then hiked to the falls! It amazes me how much water falls from the mountains. We enjoyed our little hike and photographed the wildflowers but then decided to travel up near Auke Bay to see more of Juneau.
We went over 20 miles up the road and came across a vivid reminder not to drink and drive. It was a crashed car that was on display with the information on the teenagers that were in the car and where they were now. The car was one of the worst wrecked vehicles I have seen. It is amazing anyone survived! After checking out the car we headed on back towards our AirBNB.
Right before we got back to town we saw a black bear on the side of the road! It had some pretty brown hues to it. As quickly as we saw it, it ran off. We got a few photos and then headed on back for some sleep!
We slept in and took our time in the morning. We went downtown to do a little shopping and to check out town but it was pretty crazy with four cruise ships docked. We tried to get out to the ice caves by going on a kayaking tour, but they were all full. My mom had never gone and been in an ice cave so we decided to head to them by foot! There is a 2.5 mile trail you can hike to them. We should have left earlier, it took way longer than I had planned. The first mile of the hike is pretty smooth and easy. After the first mile, the trail turned a little rough. To get to the ice caves there are small streams you will need to cross, rocks with an incline you have to travel up and down, an area where you need to climb or use hands and feet, and the trail isn’t greatly marked. So what I am trying to say is that the caves are incredible and worth going out to, but the hike is pretty strenuous and you should be prepared before you go! We didn’t go far into the caves and weren’t able to spend a whole lot of time at the caves (we left when the last group left to help us find the trail back). The icy blues and formations were absolutely breathtaking. I would love to go back when I had more time!
We were able to travel back behind another group of people. This was helpful in finding the trail and then climbing down one of the more strenuous areas. The trail seemed longer than I remembered coming back. It was a huge relief getting back to the van! A great adventure on day 2 of our 3+ week trip! After the long hike we celebrated with Mexican food and Margaritas. A spectacular way to end our day!
The following day we were off to a wildlife/ocean excursion through Rum Runner Charters. It was a bright, sunny day in Juneau, which made an already epically beautiful city, even more so! While waiting on the dock we saw a whale lunge feeding right in front of us! It was so close I almost didn’t even get it on camera! On the water we saw a few whales, some sea lions, and bald eagles. It was just great being able to see these ocean critters on a sunny day!
The next day we got ready and headed to the airport! It was time to discover Petersburg! I had never been and always wanted to. We landed in the small airport and the Tide’s Inn provided us a shuttle to get to town. The Tide’s Inn staff were polite and helpful throughout our stay. The room was clean and pretty standard. It was quite warm in the room and our room didn’t seem to have air working. Luckily we could crack the window a little for air. On night one in Petersburg we walked around town. They had some great little shops! Food was a little pricey at the little grocery store. We ended up eating at Papa Bear’s Pizza, which was one of the main places recommended to us to eat at. Pizza was delicious!
The next morning we were picked up for a Whale Watching trip! There were three other fellow whale watchers on the boat along with Scott Roberge, our guide and boat captain of Tongass Kayak Adventures. Scott was super nice and knowledgeable about the waters we were in and the wildlife we were seeing! We saw quite a lot of whales! We saw them come up and “poof” air and lots of whale tails!
We also had sea lions approach our boat. Scott was saying that other boats must feed them or give them fish scraps by the way they came up and would peek up into the boat. One sea lion we saw was actually eating, or trying to rip apart a cod. Scott explained that the sea lions can’t chew the fish, that they have to toss and rip the fish into smaller chunks in order to consume it.
Scott had to make a delivery to a lighthouse so we ended up getting to explore and learn about the lighthouse! The family living at the lighthouse was super nice and gave us the full tour. This was one of Alaska’s first light houses and began lighting way for ships in 1902! Unfortunately, the original lighthouse caught fire in the 1930’s. The only building on the small island with the light house that is original is the shed/boat house a little off to the side of the lighthouse.
After we got back to the boat it was almost time to head back. Our last whale we went to see ended up being a little more active, which was entertaining and exciting! The whale was throwing it’s tail in the water making large splashes and causing lots of camera clicks. My mom has a love/hate relationship with whales. She loves seeing them and photographing them but she expresses some hate because of how quickly the whales come up and how unpredictable they are in their location. Whales are definitely a challenging subject. She finally did get some photos of the whale with it’s tail out of the water, but instead of a large tail throw, she got the whale pooping! I have seen lots of animal feces in my travels, but never any from a whale.
On our way back to town we saw some sea lions on the buoy and a fishing boat bringing in their catch. Although it rained most of the day, I loved having the opportunity to see so many whales and be out on the ocean! We quickly realized that most of the places to eat in Petersburg are closed on Sunday. It was vending machine food for dinner!
The next morning we were out on the ocean again to see more of the waters around Petersburg. We took a boat tour through Alaska Passages and had Scott Hursey as our captain. Like our boat captain the day before, this Scott was also very knowledgeable. This tour was one with just my mom and I. The weather was much better on this cruise, with a little sunshine just poking through. It was nice not to need the rain/weather coats for our cameras. We road around on the boat for awhile looking for groups of whales to check out. We watched one group bubble net once and then disperse. Then we watched a super super far away whale breach, which triggered a series of other whales in the area to breach. It almost seemed like a way of communication. One whale semi not as far breached. We rode over to that whale and it stopped as soon as we got in good photo distance. It was still incredible to see! Before heading back we also saw a small group of whales come up together once! It was a long few days on the water!
We came back to town and ate at Inga’s Galley. Food there was delicious! We both had a cheeseburger and some fries. We then went to a liquor store to get a box of wine to bring with us to our next location, which was Gustavus/Glacier Bay National Park. We relaxed in the room and got to sleep in the next morning.
The next morning we slept in and then had our hot breakfast at the Tides Inn. We packed up and made it to the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight. We had a long layover in Juneau. We thought about taking a cab or walking somewhere but we were pretty tired. We relaxed at the airport and had a pizza from their little concessionaire at the Juneau Airport. The pizza was pretty darn good! We got to Gustavus and Jan picked us up at the airport. He made us a delicious fish dinner with rice and veggies. There were quite a few people staying at the Inn and we talked about everyone’s adventures before heading off to bed. We were in for our first day of ocean kayaking the next day!
We had to wake up early for our breakfast! We packed our cameras in our dry sacks and were picked up by our kayak guide for the day. I have kayaked before, but never on an ocean. I was glad we were with a guide to teach us all about the proper gear you need and about how to set up and use the steering apparatus. I was the one steering on the boat and I realized it could be a little challenging! The other couple we with were friendly and also clicked onto ocean kayaking pretty quickly. We also learned about snow, a humpback whale who had been hit by a cruise ship. The whale was one that was well known in the area and it was a devastating loss. As part of the settlement, the park service collected all of her bones, cleaned them, and put them all back together for a display. Here is some further information regarding Snow and the settlement that was reached with Princess Cruise Lines. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2007/01/princess-cruise-lines-pleads-guilty-killing-humpback-whale/)
We made our way around Bartlett Cove. We saw quite a bit of wildlife right off the bat including harbor seals, blue herons, and bald eagles! We ended up seeing more harbor seals and an otter. We kayaked right in a kelp bed. It was neat seeing the huge ribbons of kelp underneath the kayak. Mom even tried eating the kelp! She said it was rather salty. We had lunch right outside the cove on a sandy/rocky beach.
Our guide set up an incredible lunch! I was very impressed with the lunch. She brought plenty of food and there was something for everyone. For desert she even brought some Oreos! I would definitely recommend her if you were wanting a guided Kayak tour of Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay National Park.
We were picked up and brought back to the Inn. Although mom has been pretty sore since our first hike to the glacier in Juneau, she was a trooper and biked out to town for dinner with me that night. We ate tacos at the Sunnyside Market and played a round of cribbage. It was a clear evening, a perfect day for a bike ride. We went across the street to more of the shops before biking back to the Inn. We had bought ice cream at the market and it was the perfect ending to our long, active day!
The next morning we were going with two other ladies staying at the Inn to Glacier Bay National Park on the National Park Tour. I had taken the tour about two weeks earlier and I was interested to see how the wildlife and scenery, specifically glaciers, would change in just a few weeks. Ella dropped up off right at the boat. It was a different boat than I had been on, I guess there was some mechanical or issue with the regular boat. We were in line to enter the boat when we heard a loud sound of metal scraping and a large splash. everything went silent and some one yelled out asking if there was someone in the water. The ramp to get on the boat was not pushed up against the lip edge of the dock and the boat was not tied tightly enough or close enough to the dock. The metal piece that goes from the ramp to the boat had slipped and a lady fell into the ocean! Her boyfriend or husband was hanging from the ramp. It was intense. The lady was out of the water in about a minute, but it all happened so fast. The lady didn’t seem too injured but extremely shaken up, cold, and in shock. She was escorted to a van that belonged to one of the other lodges in Gustavus. There was a large pause in loading after that. We did eventually get on, but what a morning!
The weather was pretty good! It wasn’t raining most of the time. The boat was not as nice as the one I was on a few weeks ago. We saw a few brown bears at a distance, some high up mountain goats, puffins, eagles, sea lions, and lots of whales! At one point we were trying to drop some kayakers off and we ended up surrounded by whales. Since we needed to get the kayakers off, we got to view and see the whales much closer than the boat typically does. On our way back we also got to see an orca who had just taken out a harbor seal! We didn’t see the actual kill, but saw the orca afterwards.
Mom became a Glacier Bay National Park Junior Ranger while aboard the St. Phillip boat! When we got back to the harbor, a ranger was waiting for the boat. It took awhile to get everything with the ramp and boat lined up correctly to allow people to disembark the boat. It was probably the safest ramp they have had! We all got off and I ended up seeing the lady who had fallen at the Glacier Bay National Park Lodge. She seemed fine, but later was icing her leg. We went to the tribal house, a short walk from the Glacier Bay Lodge. The Tribal house and carvings were beautifully crafted. I was truly impressed!
We ate dinner at the lodge. It was pretty good, but not as good as the food at Wild Alaskan Inn. We got back to the lodge and decided to try and fly out of Gustavus a day early. We changed our flight and arranged to see Josh in Anchorage. He was driving down from Fairbanks to bring me my Jeep and some items that were needed for the next leg of our adventure.
We slept in, had breakfast, and packed for our flight. We spent most of the day just relaxing. When it was time to catch the flight we were shuttled to the airport. It had been raining but I hadn’t thought much about it. We checked our bags in and went through security. We heard our plane and then heard it leaving… About fifteen minutes later we heard our plane again, but then again heard it traveling away from us. Our flight was cancelled due to weather. We were devastated. I asked my mom to run over to a little building where they arrange flights to and from Gustavus on smaller planes. We ended up getting on a flight at 1:00 the next day. The weather was not supposed to improve significantly, so we wanted multiple chances to get to Juneau.
We were pretty upset and now had to prepare for another day in Gustavus, which was our original plan anyways… We got some dinner from Sunnyside Market and another pint of ice cream. It was one of those nights. We were glad that Ella and Jan were super accommodating. We went to bed pretty early and again were prepared the next day to leave.
I called the office where we scheduled the small plane and asked their status on flying. They were on a weather delay. I didn’t have much hope we would be out of Gustavus. We got to building for the smaller planes by 12:30, just in case they were going to fly us out. We weighed our gear and bags and were over weight. There was good news though! Three planes were coming in from Juneau to Gustavus! Those three planes would then turn around and head back to Juneau and we were scheduled to be one the first one! Even though none of the earlier flights went out, we were not pushed back because we had reserved the 1pm flight. The arranged those who had the flight already booked first and then would add those who were at the building and airstrip whose flights didn’t go out next.
I was very excited to see a plane land! The pilot called out the roster and my name was called, but mom’s was not. We asked around and were very confused. They loaded me on and promised that my mom would be on the next plane coming in. I was worried leaving her in Gustavus. With weather being unpredictable, I didn’t want her to be stuck there and then me in Juneau. They also packed all of our luggage on the plane I was on, so if my mom did get stuck, she would not have anything with her. I arrived in Juneau with some relief and some continued worry. I tried texting and calling my mom but she didn’t answer. I was hoping that was because she was on the plane heading to Juneau. I grabbed our bags and then went to the ticketing counter. I had to cancel the Gustavus to Juneau flight on Alaska Air and make sure we were still good to fly from Juneau to Anchorage. It took awhile but it all worked out! Right as I was finishing up at the ticketing counter, I got a call from my mom, she landed!
We were reunited and basically ready to head to Anchorage! We were pretty hungry but unfortunately all of the places to eat closed at 2pm and it was currently 3pm. Mom bought some food items from the gift shop and we had an interesting lunch. We were so happy to get on the flight to Anchorage! We were ready for our next chapter on our adventure. We were no longer able to meet up with Josh, he had to fly out late the night before. This first leg of our trip was pretty spectacular between the sunshine in Juneau, whales in Petersburg, and kayaking in Glacier Bay!