Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We went to Juneau today on the Fjordland, a 65-foot, fast-hulled catamaran. Owner operator Glen Jacobson and his first mate Iris were our hosts for the day.

The scenery was spectacular, sharp mountains covered in glaciers rising out of the 2,000' deep Lynn Canal. We saw Dall Porpoise, Humpback Whales, Steller Sea Lion pups and TONS of Bald Eagles.

We also saw numerous fishing boats that were netting salmon. The commercial salmon season in the Lynn Canal this year is for only three days so the fisherman will work 24 hours a day, continuously setting out and retrieving their nets. For those three days a large tender boat cruises the canal delivering ice and picking up fish from the smaller fishing boats. This boat was a father and young son duo. After watching for a few minutes the kid held up a big salmon for us to see!

We passed the Eldred Rock Lighthouse, an old beauty built in 1906 and currently operated by the USCG. Captain Glen told us the story of the passenger ship Clara Nevada, which wrecked off Eldred Rock. 75 lives and 850 pounds of gold were lost when she went down. Many years later a storm with gale force winds dragged the Clara Nevada from her deep watery grave and tossed her up on Eldred Rock with her "skeleton crew" scaring the heck out of the lighthouse keeper!

When we arrived in Juneau we transferred to a bus for the drive into town. Our bus driver told us about Juneau's very first McDonald's. Opened in the 80's, it was the only fast food restaurant within 800 miles and it created a fast food feeding frenzy. Opening day set a franchise record selling 17,000 hamburgers! Sold out by 2:00 pm they had to close for the rest of the week while they waited for resupply. Weeks later, the town of Scagway (90 miles from Juneau) declared a medical emergency. Two fast planes were enlisted for the trip to Juneau. The medical supplies were loaded into the planes and quickly delivered to Scagway where an ambulance waited to drive the medical supplies into town. The delivery included 200 orders of french fries, 150 Big Macs and 50 Quarter Pounders. The medical emergency? The town had a Mac Attack! Loved this true story!

The only way to get to Juneau (Alaska's state capitol) is by boat or plane, there are no roads leading to Juneau. With a population of 31,000 people, the town has six harbors to accommodate all the private boats and planes. We spent a few hours walking in the old section of town; bought goodies for kids and grand kids; checked out all the monster cruise ships that were docked; watched the float planes land; and had lunch at the Red Dog Saloon. For two people who don't drink much, we've spent a lot of time in bars since our arrival in Alaska.

So anyway, the Red Dog is decorated in typical Alaskan fashion. Lots of dead stuffed mammals, dead fish and antlers on the walls. Bras and money stapled to the walls, old guns hung everywhere and graffiti covers every inch of the place. In a display case behind the bar was an old revolver that actually belonged to Wyatt Earp. Be sure to read the inscription, it's a good story.

We've seen more than our share of stuffed brown bears on this trip and I am positive this guy takes the prize for the most ginormous bear I've EVER seen.

After checking out old town our bus took us to see Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is 13 miles long, over 1/2 a mile wide and almost 200 feet deep. This glacier is really cool because you can get REALLY close to it. See the dark blue spot on the face of the glacier at water level? A chunk of ice calved the day before.

While I checked out the visitors center Jim hiked down to a stream looking for bears and found this young black bear fishing for salmon.

On the ride back to Haines Iris served us yummy whole grain rolls and salmon chowder. We saw more whales and sea lions including these guys lolling around on this channel marker.

We are off to Skagway today!

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