It was the northernmost journey's end of our Alaska Inside Passage cruise and the 2nd most remarkable destination of the trip: only behind Canada’s Yukon Territory. It was the serene, surprisingly temperate, and nature-filled Juneau Alaska.
Juneau is a magnificent panorama of natural beauty, lush greenery, imposing mountains, and sparkling diamond-clad waterscapes. You cannot help but be in awe of the strikingly blue-white glaciers and icebergs which inhabit in the region. On the panhandle west of Juneau, you come across the calming Glacier Bay National Park where you can spend your day sailing the bay and admiring whales. That is what my wife and I did, and it proved to be one of the most memorable experiences of our life.
Whale Watching at Glacier Bay
It was our 25th Anniversary. For years, the number one item on my wife’s bucket list was to go whale watching in Alaska. Juneau was the location where her whale watching daydreams were destined to be fulfilled.
“Sorry, but today is not a good day for whale watching, but we will go out anyway. If we do not see whales, your money will be refunded.”
Those were the first words we heard as we boarded the compact ship on this foggy, overcast, and gloomy day. It’s amazing how weather can have a direct impact on one’s countenance. For my wife, the weather conditions combined with the prospect of not seeing whales left her in a severe melancholy state. Gladly, her state would be short-lived.
One hundred feet, maybe? Because of the fog, that was as far as we could see as the boat left the docks. As we made our way into the heart of the bay, things did not get much better. Suddenly, as if in some scene involving a divine revelation, the skies parted, the fog began to dissipate, the gloom dispersed, and blue skies began to emerge...and then, whales! Not just whales; Humpbacks and Orcas (Killer whales). If you could have seen my wife’s face…
You know you are seeing something special when the captain of a whale watching ship gets out his camera and starts taking photos. This, evidently, was a unique spectacle.
Walking Mendenhall Glacier (Not!). Rainforests of Glacier Bay National Park
When the day arrived for our Mendenhall Glacier hike, a few problems presented themselves.
We arrived in Juneau at the end of the tourist season, late September, and were eagerly anticipating walking along glaciers to start our day's adventure. However, the national park rangers only distribute a limited number of glacier passes during each season. At the last minute we discovered that all the passes for the season had been distributed, so we decided to take a hike through the rainforests in the southern part of Glacier Bay National Park.
We pushed, splashed, groped, and meandered through a maze of vegetation that was wet and incredibly dense. We forged our way on uphill and down, across wet spots, and over boulders and logs. Fortunately, the trail had been blazed by numerous people before us and our efforts were not too strenuous. In fact, part of the hiking trail was a boardwalk of sorts. Since the ground of the forest was marshy and wet, the trailblazers built this wonderful boardwalk which allowed us to explore this part of the forest without too much sploshing. Eventually, the rainforest opened to a glassy and scenic Bay.
Alaska’s Inside Passage
Alaska’s Inside Passage is a labyrinth of rugged and untouched islands and landscapes that will hypnotize you as you cruise through the region. This massive and echoing environment was given its shape by powerful glacier movements. In this landscape, you will not find many humans, but you will find fjords which are wildlife filled and serve as a home for bald eagles, bears, porpoises, wolves, sea lions, and the whales.
“Attention passengers! We are about to sail through a super pod of whales!”
As our cruise ship left the massively imposing Tracy Arm, those were the words we heard. In just one more instance of another unpredictable event of this trip, the captain of our cruise ship noticed this impromptu gathering of whales. I have never seen my wife move so fast...and what an impressive sight (not my wife) …the super group of whales.
These regal whales, known for their seasonal movements from one region to another, are generally considered solitary, even their migratory pods tend to be small, under a dozen. Now, imagine a serious of these small pods, together with individual whales, congregating into one watery passageway.
More of Juneau Alaska
While the architecture, buildings, and cityscape of Juneau are inconsequential, Juneau’s natural setting is not. It is surrounded by the beautiful stately peaks of Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts making it a picturesque setting for wilderness adventures and nature-oriented quests. Although we only spent 2 days there, we left satisfied.
Whale watching in Juneau Alaska and the Inside Passage was an adventure that we could relive more than once. Certainly, there is much to be appreciated in the architectural designs of man, but nothing compares with the Creation and nature. If you appreciate natural settings, your life will not be complete without a journey to Juneau and Alaska's Inside Passage.