Skagway to Juneau, AK
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Overcast, high 50s
Today marked the beginning of our trek down the southeast part of Alaska. Isolated by coastal mountains, you cannot drive to any of the principal towns in this area. They are only accessible by plane or boat. Since even our tiny camper is too big to load on a plane, we chose to ride the ferries operated by the Alaska Marine Highway. We’d purchased our tickets while in Valdez.
The first of the five segments would be aboard the Matanuska, a 408 foot long vessel built in 1959. The voyage to Juneau would be about 90 miles and would take a little more than eight hours. They asked that we be in line by about 6:30 am and we were boarded by 8:30. While boarding we ran into motorcyclists we’d camped next to in Tok so we spent some time talking with them. The ferry was pretty nice, featuring two large lounges, one with reclining seats, a large bar/lounge and a cafeteria. These ferries also feature optional sleeping rooms with private showers as well as public showers. There was also a partially covered, heated aft deck called a solarium and an uncovered aft deck portion where people were allowed to set up small tents where they can sleep. Tents are fastened to the steel deck using duct tape. We got a decent, cooked-to-order breakfast of eggs and fixings in the cafeteria. Unfortunately, we discovered that the reclining lounges weren’t very comfortable.
There was a stop in Haines to pick up more passengers and it was then that it dawned on us that we should have visited Haines via ferry. When making our reservations we were thinking that we had to make a choice between the two towns to visit. It simply never dawned on us that we could have started out a couple of days earlier and Haines could have been our first stop. Duh?
The voyage was a smooth, easy ride through protected waters. We were surrounded by beautiful mountains and waterfalls along much of our route among islands and we arrived at the Juneau ferry dock about 5:30 pm.
The ferry dock is quite a distance from the city and the campground we’d chosen was mostly along the way to town. We registered, set up camp at Spruce Meadow Campground and headed into the city. It was early evening by that time and, after doing a quick survey of the city layout we looked for a place for dinner. We settled on The Hangar located along the waterfront on an old wharf overlooking Gastineau Channel. The bar/restaurant was busy and, obviously, quite popular. Sandy was delighted to find that they offered a gluten free pasta dish. She ordered it and was very happy with it.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Overcast, high 50s
We had only one full day in Juneau so we had to make the most of it. We started with Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is surrounded by a national park complete with visitor center, board walks are constructed from which to view the glacier. They also border the glacier’s river up which salmon spawn. The river issues from the very pretty blue-colored lake at the end of the glacier.
The Shrine of St Theresa is situated on a small island behind a woods along the road to the city. There is a stone causeway that leads to the rain forested island. The chapel is a beautiful stone structure with stations of the cross.
Eagle Beach Recreation Area is a beautiful small river delta with beaches that extend way out into the water. It is a popular hangout for many species of birds.
Juneau is actually a pretty small city with a population of just over 32,000. It is pasted on a slender strip of land between the mountains and the sea. With level space at such a premium, many residential areas perch precariously on steep hillsides.
Bill decided to tour the Alaskan Museum while Sandy shopped some of the downtown stores. Bill had a great time at the museum. Sandy didn’t do too well with her shopping.
Afterwards we rode the Mount Roberts Tramway for an overlook of the city. Then we drove across the bridge to tour the Douglas Island residential area. The island, too, is pretty steep and doesn’t actually support that many residences. Those that are there tend to be upscale. We drove to the highest neighborhood for a really nice view of the city.
It was getting really late for dinner. Instead, Sandy made a salad for herself while Bill just snacked. In addition to his ailing knee, Bill was also feeling pretty bad with cold. Ugh!