Sunday, June 29, 2008

Alaskan Idyll, Days 10-11 Fjord Express to Juneau

We continue to be parked on the waterfront in Skagway. We spent yesterday (Day 10) lazing about the coach, doing minor chores, surfing the net, and just relaxing in the glow of our wonderful view. Kathy commented that we haven’t even turned on the TV. Keith’s rejoinder was who needs TV with this view! Our TV for this stop is the windshield.

Sunday’s excitement was a 60-mile catamaran ride from Skagway to Juneau, which is the capitol of Alaska. The trip down the Taiya Inlet and the Lynn Canal to Haines is breathtaking. And then it gets better! The Lynn Canal is really a deep glacial fjord, with steep forested cliffs towering thousands of feet above the deep blue -gray water. Along the way we spotted a pair of eagles nesting in the trees.
Departing Skagway
Love Nest

A bit further along is the town of Haines, Alaska, nestled at the base of the Chilkat pass. It is Keith’s opinion that Haines is the most picturesque town in Alaska. We stopped briefly in Haines to pick up passengers. There Keith experienced a bit of nostalga when he spotted a Uniflite 28 ft. Mega, just like the one he used to own.
Uniflite Mega 28 foot Flybridge Sedan
Departing Haines

After leaving in Haines, we proceeded south on the Inside Passage toward Juno. Along the way we spotted another eagle, whales, porpoise, and a colony of sea lions. The porpoise were difficult to photograph underwater.
Dual Use Navigation Marker
A Friendly Whale Waves to the WIT Group
Sea Lions Observe WIT Tourists
Puppy Love

South of Haines the water broadened as we left the Lynn Canal and entered the inside passage. To the east are the towering Coastal Range mountains. To the west are the Chilkat Mountains, which form the eastern side of Glacier Bay where we cruised last spring with Holland American. Further south, the Icy Strait branches westward to Glacier Bay and the Gulf of Alaska. We proceeded south, and docked north of Juneau, where we were met by a tour bus.
Chilcat Mountains
Hanging Glacier Seen in the Chilcats

Our first stop in Juneau was lunch at Doc Whathisname’s. Good burger and fish, but a bit pricey. Guess pricey goes with the tourist territory. After lunch was a short walk to the bakery for bread and bagels, then McDonald’s for hot fudge sundaes. Normally $1.00 in the lower 48, on special for $1.50 in Juneau. After a quick stop at the drug store for Aleve (Keith has a backache), we walked back to Marine Square to sit and admire the Amsterdam. A year ago in the spring we visited Juneau on this vessel. We are looking forward to our North Atlantic Cruise next summer on her sister ship, the Maasdam.
A Few of Our WIT Friends Gather In the Lee of the Amsterdam

At 3pm we re-boarded the bus for a photo-op at Mendenhall Glacier.
Mendenhall Glacier
At 5pm we re-boarded our catamaran for the return to Skagway. On the return journey we observed numerous boats fishing for salmon. The season opened at noon today, and the activity was frantic. The boats drag nets perpendicular to the current. Salmon become entangled and are retrieved for sale to process boats.
Fishing Boats Dot the Horizon
Retrieving the Catch

Along the way, our owner-operator pointed out a 4000+ ft. peak in the Chilcats that was rounded by glaciers, which covered its summit during the last ice age. We also cruised close aboard the scenic Eldritch Lighthouse. This island is for sale, with the stipulation that the buyer must promise to maintain the lighthouse. We also passed close by a Carnival Cruise Boat sailing south out of Skagway. Our captain commented that Skagway is a very popular port for the Cruise boats because of the high commissions from the very popular train ride.
Four Thousand Foot Peak Rounded by the Glaciers
Eldritch Lighthouse
Carnival Cruises South out of Skagway

On arrival in Juneau at 8:30 we crashed, hoping to get enough sleep to be prepared for a 300-mile drive to Destruction Bay on Monday. Don't touch that dial!

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