A Day Trip to Juneau

Juneau 2While in Haines, one of our neighbors mentioned that they saw lots of whales on the ferry to Juneau. We were pretty happy with our whale watching this summer, but we never have enough of the whales, and thought it would be fun to take a day trip to Juneau.

Juneau 11An added bonus was that Juneau has drugstores and we could take care of filling Angel’s prescription. In fact, a lot of people in Haines take the regular ferry to Juneau to buy supplies especially since there are both a Costco and a Walmart there.

Juneau 3We were able to get a pet sitter for Angel and made our reservations for the day with the best weather forecast. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated. And, after having had great luck the rest of the summer, we were off on a ferry on a completely cloudy, kind of dreary windy day. And the sea was quite choppy, in fact the day before they had to turn back once already underway and cancelled the trip, something that has happened only about twenty times over a several year period.

Juneau 1Juneau 8The good news was that the boat we were scheduled to go out on, the Fjordland, is a catamaran that sails pretty smoothly over rough waters. And when we set off the waters were quite still because we were at the mountainous end of the protected Lynn Canal.

Juneau 6Juneau 5Shortly after departing, we stopped to look at stellar sea lions on the rocks. There were several groups, all males.  This is the end of the mating season when they don’t eat.  Amazingly, these big fellows are usually much bigger than this!

Juneau 10Juneau 9There were beautiful glaciers all around us.

Juneau 7Juneau 14Juneau 13Then we reached the more open waters of the Inside Passage and some pretty intense chop. The captain spotted some flukes far off, but was not able to find the whales, they apparently dove and swam away. These were humpback whales that can travel a great distance relatively quickly.

Juneau 12Juneau 16The Fjordland is a mostly enclosed boat with large picture windows in the comfortable and warm passenger cabin. Its only open deck area is in the back, the most protected area. Hector spent time there taking photographs, but when we started going over some big swells he alternated between being inside and outside (I was inside).

Juneau 15Juneau 18The water was coming over the boat’s windshield as we crossed the swells. Then the boat went over a particularly large swell, and the water went all the way over the top of the passenger compartment and poured out in the back. Two young women that were back there got completely drenched, much to their amusement. But that water must have been cooooold. Hector was inside at the time.

Juneau 19Juneau 22We reached Juneau and hopped on our tour bus to go into town. Juneau is the only capital city in the United States not reachable by road. The town is built on the side of a hill, and pretty picturesque. Our bus driver was surprised that it was somewhat “clear” since it rains there on most days. And, true to form as we reached downtown it started to sprinkle.Juneau 23Juneau 25

Downtown has lots of shops and restaurants, and we had just enough time for lunch – my usual fish and chips, go to a few shops, and pick up Angel’s refill at the pharmacy. The pharmacy was a one-man operation with a very sweet pharmacist.Juneau 24Juneau 21

Juneau 20There is a tramway to the top of Mount Roberts, but just like on our previous brief visit on a cruise the top of the cable was enshrouded in clouds, so there was no view from the top.  So we skipped it once again.

Juneau 26We boarded our bus once again for a tour to the Mendenhall Glacier, included in the ferry package. Mendenhall Glacier is one of 40 large and 100 small glaciers fed by the Juneau Icefields.

Juneau 27It stopped raining, and we were hoping to combine a couple of short hikes during our time there. But we only got a little ways to a photography viewpoint. We got a pretty good view of the glacier and Nugget Falls. The rest of the trail, which continues to the waterfall was closed due to flooding. Darn.

Juneau 28Juneau 29Juneau 30Juneau 31A second trail we planned to hike was also partially closed due to bear activity. But we did get a close look at some sockeye salmon swimming upriver in the first part of that trail. It is so fascinating to see how they struggle against the current, especially since they should be exhausted after having traveled so far. These are some fierce fish.

On our way out of town, we were hoping to see bear alongside the road, but no bear. This was not a great wildlife day.

We set off again on the Fjordland, with hopes of seeing whales on the way back. The captain had spotted whales offshore about 30 minutes prior to our departure but was not able to find them.

We passed the picturesque Eldred Rock Lighthouse, built in 1905, one of three commissioned by the U.S. Lighthouse Service to aid navigation to the Klondike gold fields via the Chilkoot Pass.

Juneau 42Juneau 41Juneau 51

Juneau 40Juneau 48Juneau 47We still saw no whales, and the choppy seas made it difficult to spot them. We did find some harbor seals on the rocks. We always enjoy the harbor seals and find them just adorable.

Juneau 39Juneau 37Juneau 17As we neared Haines, the captain spotted another whale, and some of the passengers got a brief glimpse.

Juneau 38Juneau 56Then another rainbow appeared and we saw splashes of Dall’s porpoise. The porpoise are so fast it is difficult to get a close look at them, unless they decide to swim by the bow of your boat, which they sometimes do.

Juneau 58We have been so fortunate with our boat tours all summer, we just cannot complain about this day. It was a beautiful ride and we enjoyed our brief time in Juneau. Now back to Haines and enjoying its more natural side.

~ Brenda

14 thoughts on “A Day Trip to Juneau

  1. You certainly have had wonderful luck with the weather so I guess you knew it wouldn’t last:) Glad you enjoyed your trip to Juneau despite the clouds and drizzle. You still managed to get great photos:)

    • Yes, we have, and we have always been expecting the rain, it is with us at last (still). Hector did a nice job with the photos under not so great conditions.

  2. I spent part of the summer in Alaska and also drove the Alcan. I’ve really enjoyed your blog and photos. Great writing and photography both – a top notch combination.

  3. Nice overview of Juneau. We also took the ferry to Haines years ago and loved the area. We visited the Totem Pole Museum in Juneau which was terrific. Even on rainy days you manage to capture the spirit of the areas you visit! Thanks!

  4. Oh my word – I love the glaciers + towns but I’m such a sucker for the marine wildlife you get to see in Alaska. I’m a ridiculous animal lover. Love the captures of the sea lions + that cheeky harbor seal with its tongue out. (Sorry for the comment spam, too – finally have decent internet connection and am catching up on my blog reads.)

    • If you are such an animal lover, you must return to Alaska. We love the seal with his tongue out too. Don’t worry, we love comments.

  5. Hello Island Girl.

    I just came off an Island Princess Cruise and saw much of the same wildlife as you on a lesser excursion…but YOU were fortunate to get some close up photos of the Sea lions! Your other shots are fantastic as well. I am sharing my photos on Facebook and am wondering if you would be ok if I used one or some of your sea lion shots in my little collection. Of course I would give you the appropriate photo credit. Thx for considering.
    Dave App

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