Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska's First City - Thursday, August 10, 2023

Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska's First City - Thursday, August 10, 2023
Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska's First City - Thursday, August 10, 2023

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Alaskan Cruise, Day 4 - Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier - Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Day 4 on the Norwegian Bliss

Port: Juneau
Arrival: 7:00 a.m.
Plan for the day: 
Bob, Louise, Susan, Laura, and Randall: Took a tour to the Mendenhall Glacier and the fish hatchery.
Susan and Darren Medlin: Walked the 5 km Juneau Capital Volksmarch.
Liz and Michael stayed on the ship. 
Kristin and Rich took a tour to see wildlife.

All aboard: 1:00 p.m.

Weather forecast: Cloudy with a high of 57° F.

Today's highlights for the afternoon: Endicott Arm scenic cruising and Dawes Glacier viewing.

This morning, those of us on tours were off the ship about 7:30 a.m. Laura and Louise ended up on a different tour bus from Bob, Randall, and me. We still met up at Mendenhall Glacier.

A beautiful morning for a two-mile roundtrip
hike to Nugget Falls.

At the Glacier, Bob spent time going to the Mendenhall Glacier viewpoint with Laura and his mom. I started hiking to Nugget Falls. 

When Bob, Laura, and Louise were done at the viewpoint, Louise and Laura took the elevator up to the National Park Visitor Center to shop. Bob raced along the trail to catch up with me. I made it to the falls, as did Randall, and Bob caught up just as Randall and I started back. Bob and I made a U-turn and went back to the falls for photos and to share the moment together with 50 of our unknown compatriots.

A memorial to Romeo, Juneau's friendly black wolf.

Nugget Falls is roaring from all the recent rain!

Nugget Falls is 377' in height.

Icebergs in Mendenhall Lake from Mendenhall Glacier.

Our attempt at a selfie. Ha. Ha.

Bob and I walked back to the viewpoint so I could capture photos from there. Along the trail, I found a pretty wildflower in bloom. 

Dwarf Fireweed (Chamerion latifolium).

Mendenhall Glacier is one of Juneau Icefield's 38 major glaciers. It flows from the southern half of the large icefield. Mendenhall Glacier is a Little Ice Age relic from approximately 3,000 years ago and is a retreating glacier. 

Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls fast facts:

  • Length of Mendenhall Glacier: Approximately 13.6 miles.
  • Distance from downtown Juneau: 12 miles.
  • The glacier and surrounding landscape are protected as part of the 5,815-acre Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, a federally designated unit of the Tongass National Forest.
  • The glacier has retreated 1.75 miles since 1929, when Mendenhall Lake was created, and over 2.5 miles since 1500.
  • The Juneau Icefield is the fifth largest in North America.
  • It was originally known as Sintaantaago ("the Glacier Behind the Town") or Aak'wtaaksit (the "Glacier Behind the Little Lake"). The glacier was named Auke (Auk) Glacier by naturalist John Muir for the Tlingit Auk K'waan band in 1879. In 1891, it was renamed in honor of Thomas Corwin Mendenhall. 
  • Thomas Corwin Mendenhall served as Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1889-1894, and on the Alaska Boundary Commission that surveyed the international boundary between Canada and Alaska.
  • Nugget Falls is fed by Nugget Glacier. It is 377' tall.
  • Romeo the Wolf: Romeo was a wolf who lived around the Mendenhall Glacier from 2003-2009. He was killed by out-of-state poachers. The Visitor Center has an exhibit and taxidermy of Romeo's pelt to commemorate him and the town's love for him. Romeo is brought to life in Nick Jan's book, "A Wolf Called Romeo."
  • Why is the ice blue? Glacial ice appears blue because it absorbs all colors of the visible light spectrum except blue, which it transmits. The transmission of this blue wavelength gives glacial ice its blue appearance. Glacial ice may also appear white because some ice is highly fractured with air pockets and indiscriminately scatters the visible light spectrum.

The Mendenhall Glacier comes all the way down to
the water which makes it a tidewater glacier.

Iceberg in Mendenhall Lake.

I zipped up to the Visitor Center to do a quick look at the gift shop. I thought I had 20 minutes before we had to catch the tour bus, but when I looked at my watch I thought I was late. I raced down the stairs to the tour bus stop and the bus wasn't there. One more look at my watch revealed I was ten minutes early. Oops.

Our next stop on the tour was at Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. Our tour bus driver drove past the hatchery. We had to drive a few miles before she could turn around to take us back. 

We had 25 minutes to look at all the exhibits and watch salmon going up the salmon ladder. A large indoor room was dedicated to raising salmon. The exhibits educated us on the life cycle of salmon.

The salmon were making their way up this 
fish ladder.

The next few photos have the life cycle of the salmon from the egg to their release into the ocean and their migration.

The next stop for me was the touch tank. It was pretty small, so I only spent a little bit of time there.

From there, I made my way to the saltwater aquarium. There were lots of interesting fish in there, but I thought the moray eel was pretty cool.

A huge crab!

Scary-looking Moray eel.

Outside exhibits at the fish hatchery included a viewing platform where we could watch salmon returning to the hatchery (and the seals taking their meals from the easy pickings).

The totem pole exhibit was good. It identified the different creatures on the poles.

The wonderful sculpture of the "Gang of Four" bears photo sadly lacked some of the bears. The sun was so bright on my cell phone screen I couldn't see what I had in the viewfinder. As you will see in the photo, I only took a picture of the two cubs. Sigh.

Randall waiting to get back on the bus.

It was time to return to the ship. We made it on time and soon we were heading to the Endicott Arm fjord and the Dawes Glacier.

When we left, there were four more cruise
ships in port at Juneau.
This huge waterfall was on our 
way to Endicott Arm.

We were cruising in Stephens Passage and were supposed to turn into Endicott Arm fjord this afternoon. A tour had left earlier in a smaller ship for those who wanted a closer, more personal experience of the Dawes Glacier. 

As we entered Endicott Arm, fog engulfed the surrounding mountains. The small tour boat radioed that Dawes Glacier was fogged in and they couldn't see anything. They were bringing the tour group back to the ship. We waited quite a while for them to return and reboard the ship. Unfortunately, we did not get to see Endicott Arm fjord or the Dawes Glacier. 

Our ship headed for our next destination, Icy Point Strait. We had dinner and then went to see "The Beatles Experience: Beatlemania" in The Cavern Club at 8:00 p.m. As usual, we had a great time singing along to Beatles hits.

That's all folks. 

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