Thursday, May 31, 2007

Juneau, part deux

So then we have the tour we'd actually signed up for in Juneau.

Brief aside to 'splain the tours.  We booked our shore excursions in advance sorta by accident.  We booked them back in April.  This was because my dad's birthday is in April and I thought I'd get him a shore excursion for his birthday.  That was when we learned that you can (and should) book them in advance.  So, I bought my dad the kayaking in Sitka for his birthday.  My folks decided, in return to buy me the Juneau the shore excursion for my birthday. 

For this shore excursion, we went back across the street to the docks to pick up a float plane.

I'd never been on a float plane before, either. 

So, we board this thing (10 seats, all by the windows!) and head out ... to the same ice fields.  (That's ok, you can't really get tired of looking at this stuff.  Many, many glacier photographs from above.)  This time, y'know, what with being in a float plane and all, we landed in a river fairly near the foot of a glacier.

(Now, I say "fairly near."  In what is surely an optical illusion, you can be, like, two miles away from a glacier and it looks like it's just a hundred yards away from you.  It's only when they tell you how many miles wide the damn thing is that you realize it's gotta be much farther away then you think it is in order to fit in your field of vision.)  We're actually at the foot of the "Hole in the Wall" glacier.  It's something like 1800 feet high.  (Well, I can't remember the number, but they said it was taller than any city skyline.)  And it's glorious.  Not pure, smooth, white snow and ice, but big pointy white and blue bits.  (Glaciers appear blue because they are packed so tight they absorb all other colors of light, reflecting back only the blue.)  Awesome glacier.  I had my mom take a picture of me "in front of" it. 

Our destination is a place called Taku Glacier Lodge.  (We're also near the Taku Glacier and on the Taku river.)  We're here for dinner -- they do a (really fresh) salmon bake for all the guests. 

We have time to walk the grounds a bit before dinner and I'm just about to head on over to the little shop when someone mentions there's a bear.

Now, I took some pictures of bears on the cruise.  (No, silly, the bears weren't on the cruise.)  We were cruising around Glacier Bay and we saw bears on that island way over there and I cranked up the optical zoom on camera and aimed at the brown dot and, sure enough, when I zoomed in enough on the result, there was a furry, bear-shaped quadruped at the center of my picture.

This was a momma bear and her cub standing near a tree maybe forty feet away.  Two employees of the lodge were standing in front of us, armed with sticks should the bears get too close (at which point, we were told, they'd bonk the bears on the nose) and we all gathered in a line in the general vicinity of stick-guys and snapped bear photos like there's no tomorrow. 

After the bears scampered (well, the cub scampered; the momma lumbered) off, we went inside the lodge (strict rules about no food outdoors) and sat down to our salmon feast.  We looked out the picture window to the area where they'd grilled our food -- and saw the bear climbing into the grill to slurp up the drippings.  The cub didn't know where she'd gone and cried for a her a bit -- we just stayed out of its way -- eventually it found its mother and she then introduced him to the joys of salmon-flavored grill drippings.

After supper, we went for a short hike in the forest out to a nearby waterfall.  (Remember that bug spray I said I shouldn't have brought?  I should have brought it.)  The Lodge dude who was our guide brought two dogs with him and kept throwing a stick for the dogs to fetch.  He even threw it up into the waterfall, and they jumped after it, found it on the rocks, and eagerly brought it back.

We got back and I had a little time to sit by the fire and relax.  I spoke with a woman who was off a Celebrity Cruise ship with 2000 passengers.  Made me feel great that I was on a ship with only 92, although both of us were really pleased to have a moment away from the crowds and just sit quietly, in a wooden lodge, with glaciers outside, and a roaring fire inside.

The float plane picked us up and we all went back to Juneau.  The nice woman went back to her Celebrity ship, and we walked down the main shopping street in Juneau.  We stopped for ice cream cones for dessert -- just because -- and came back to the hotel.

(And the icing on this particular cake is the free wireless internet at our Juneau hotel.) 

When we were riding the dogsleds -- well, more precisely, when I was standing up "driving" the rear sled with my mom in the seat -- I was commenting on how amazing the scenery was.  Mom said she has to keep reminding herself that we (meaning: the United States) own this stuff.  I understand what she means -- but, standing out there, riding a dogsled across a glacier, surrounded by snow-covered mountains -- I had to disagree.  Nobody can own this.  We might be its temporary caretakers, but nobody can own anything this vast and timeless.

1 comment:

lanurseprn said...

I can picture this as I read it. You write very descriptively.