On our 8th day of the trip we pulled in to Juneau just after sunrise so that passengers could disembark the journey, and new passengers could be added. In port was the Regent Seven Seas Navigator, the boat we had nearly booked before deciding on an Un-Cruise adventure instead. As the sun came up, we were greeted to a truly beautiful town nestled in the shadow of mountains that seemed to shoot straight up from the water. If you took away the tacky jewelry stores, and maybe some of the seedier bars with locals drunk in the middle of the day, Juneau really is a beautiful city with very warm, welcoming people.
Those of us who were continuing on for the second leg of the trip from Juneau to Ketchikan received complimentary laundry which was excellent since it had been much warmer than we had anticipated when packing and I’d worn the heck out of the two t-shirts I had brought with me.
After breakfast we wished folks happy journeys, and then made our way out to Mendenhall Glacier. We paid $20/each for the round trip ticket, and later found out we could have taken the public bus for about $3 if we were willing to extend the trip by about 20 minutes. Oh well – you live, you learn. On the ride out to Mendenhall, we met a couple from Portland that became our friends for the week. By the end of the trip, the husband was calling me Smiley. I mention this only because in past careers I’ve been told that I don’t smile enough. Yes, I’m serious.
Mendenhall was truly gorgeous, and it’s amazing how close you can get to it without any sort of guide. It’s just part of the local community and is visited by both visitors and residents alike, especially for its miles of walking/hiking trails and paddling. We had considered taking a helicopter onto the glacier, but never got around to booking it and then when push came to shove we decided that we weren’t really all that interested in doing it after all. I think helicoptering in Kauai put us off that particular activity for good. While beautiful, holy scary batman! I had read that there is a waterfall at Mendhenhall that was a short walk from the visitor center so once we arrived we decided to make our way along the trail and wow, what a waterfall Nugget Falls is!
Remember me mentioning that all of my warm weather clothing was being washed? Yeah, it was HOT in Juneau! We decided to cool off with a shaded lunch at Tracy’s Crab Shack for some Bering Sea king crab. As a crazy fan of Deadliest Catch, there was no way that I was leaving Alaska without eating crab IN Alaska. The food at Tracy’s was really good, and the wait was very short. I’m told that when multiple big boats are in port that the lines are pretty haggard and the wait is pretty long. Thankfully it was just two Un-Cruise boats and the Regent Seven Seas ship in port and so nothing was overwhelmed with tourists during our day in town.
After lunch we stopped in at the Alaskan Brewing Company merchandise store to see what we could get in the way of t-shirts and flip flops, and then called a cab to take us out to the actual brewery on the outskirts of town for some real brew. Our cab driver – a really nice lady who used to live in San Francisco but moved to Alaska 14 years ago when she took her kids there on vacation and never left – told us that you could have unlimited samples of everything on their menu, but in reality you get six each which we didn’t know until we were four in. We ended up splitting our last two so that we could try the full range of beers on offer. We drank a lot of the IPA, EPA, Alaskan White, and some of the stout on the boat so I was really interested in their other, less common offerings. My favorite, of course, was the Alaskan Brewing Company Smoked Porter, which I’m told is the most awarded beer in America, followed closely by one of their Pilot Series specials, a raspberry wheat.
After we did our shopping back in town, we wandered around the waterfront waiting for the time that we were allowed to get back on the boat (4:30 p.m.). First we hit up Red Dog Saloon for a beer and the bathroom. The only other patron at that time of day was a young family with a baby that kept crying. I hoped like mad that they weren’t getting on our boat later in the afternoon (they didn’t). I found out that my uncle, aunt, and their two friends spent a lot of time at the Red Dog Saloon when their boat was docked in Juneau and that it was packed and pretty darn jovial. Then again, my uncle has a good time anywhere he goes so I’m sure even if it was empty he would have found it a blast. It is certainly pretty darn cool looking.
We hung out in the extremely hot hospitality suite at the hotel watching Step Up 2, but alas it was time to go before I got to see any really good dance battles. Back on boat, once the requisite safety drill was complete and new passengers got comfortable with their new digs, we sat down to dinner with a few new people and some from the previous week. Unfortunately we learned that a fellow passenger continuing on from the first week fell and broke his face on the gangway (?) and had been taken to the hospital. Captain Danny decided that we were going to stick around port for a couple of hours to find out if he’d be released from the hospital and could join us. As it finally got dark we found out that he’d be in the hospital for a couple more days for observation and would join us when we stopped in Wrangell. With that, it was off to the eastern coves of the Inside Passage.