Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 8: a chance of a lifetime

I'm not kidding here. Day 8 of our trip was spent in Juneau, AK. The weather there was absolutely perfect, actually unseasonably so. We couldn't have asked for more.
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Even all the locals were raving about the sunshine. There wasn't a breath of wind, and the temperature was nice yet cool. We had a very exciting excursion planned for this day. It is the only excursion we booked for the entire trip. I couldn't wait! Where were we going? For a ride on one of these, of course!

Here we are all geared up with snazzy life vests and "glacier boots" that fit over our large hiking shoes. We may look like we are wearing our heavy jackets, but they both have hefty zip out liners that we left on the cruise ship.

We got in a helicopter with a family of 4 (2 parents and 2 girls) and of course the pilot. The helicopter was just big enough for the 7 of us to fit inside. We were all given headsets with a microphone built in so we could communicate with the pilot and he could communicate with us. Turns out, it was used mostly for listening to Enya during the flight.
I'm going to share quite a few pictures here of our trip, so feel free to scroll along if you aren't interested.
This was our view shortly after takeoff. Our cruise ship is the one on the left side of the two. The one on the right is the Disney ship I posted a picture of before. As Egan would say, we were "way up 'der."

Most of Juneau is on the right side of this picture. Amazingly, all the land that the town is built on is the dirt that was brought up from mines. It is literally built on the side of a mountain. It is Alaska's capital with a population of only about 31,000. The craziest thing to me is that the only way into the city is either by boat or airplane. There are no roads in or out!
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(The Norris Glacier... I think?)

This was part of the glacier we eventually landed on, the Taku Glacier. The scale here is SO deceptive. From what I've read, the glacier is almost 5000 feet deep at its deepest point.



All of a sudden, as we rounded a side of the glacier, the pilot went in for a landing by this pool.

Then we got out and got to walk around!

Here we are by our ride.

And the pond.





I was surprised by the ice. On the top it wasn't really "solid" ice. It had holes and was actually kind of sharp. Not at all "fluffy".

Our eyes aren't so much closed as it was REALLY bright out there.

We got to walk around a bit, and crossed this crevice. Isn't the blue down in there beautiful?




Look, it's our feet on a glacier!

And the people attached to those feet! Shortly after this we loaded back up in the helicopter and took off to see a few more glaciers and some of the most incredible mountains I've ever seen up close!
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As the glacier moves, it grinds the rock around it down into silt. That is what creates the discoloration in the ice as well as what made the land here.

Here are some more shots from the air of some crevices in the ice.

I was in such awe as we flew that I can't remember which glacier is which. Our pilot told us all the names... My guess would be that this is the Lemon Glacier. I could be wrong though.
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Here's an ice slide on the side of a mountain.


This is one of my favorite shots.

And this is a little closer version of the same mountain as we rounded the top.

A frozen lake.
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We were told that the scenery changes quite a bit as the season goes on. We were at the very beginning of the "tourist season" there, and before too long, these mountains will have a lot less snow. The pilot said that the tops keep some snow, but most of the rest melts.


This is one of the other helicopters we went out with. We didn't land at the same place, but flew near each other.

I guess this is why there are no roads in or out of Juneau. It is surrounded by this...

Alright, so this is getting excessive with all the pictures. I know, but I was in such awe for the entire flight that I just wanted to remember it all.

... and since when have I ever been light with the photos?

Here we are rounding back into the Juneau area.

After we landed, we turned our gear back in and boarded the bus back into town and saw this.

It's a bald eagle right on the top of the electrical wire.
Juneau was having a street fair that we explored a bit. I'm really not sure what was happening here. We only came in for the end of it. I think it was some Native americans welcoming a boat. (Just a demonstration, of course.)

One of the coolest things we saw while in Juneau was this.

It is the main drag in town.
We also got to visit a really cool local Alaskan brewery and hear all about how they started and where they are today. It was a short van ride away, so most of the cruise folks didn't make it out there. It was fun to see something other than the tourist shops there.
Oh, and we also found the coolest board book for Egan with Native American art. I love the art, and he loves that he can find the moose and other animals in the pictures.
After a long yet exciting day exploring, this was the towel creature waiting for us after dinner. He's a bit menacing if you ask me!

And this just might be the longest post ever, and if you've made it this far (Hi, Mom!), you should win a prize. I bought you all a piece of the glacier, but I'm sorry to tell you that it melted in transit. Darn that global warming.


  1. You're right...I did read the entire post! I think I'll trade my piece of the glacier for some time with a certain little boy!

  2. AWESOME pics! So glad y'all had so much fun on your trip. The Helicopter tour was definitely the chance of a lifetime. Glad you grabbed it. Such fun memories!