Wednesday we sailed into Juneau harbor. Steve had booked a rental car online before we left home. It turned out that we needed to take a taxi to the rental car place, but that turned out to be a good thing. Allen, the taxi driver told us how to get to the Mendenhall glacier and he told us some about what it’s like living in Juneau.
Juneau is not very big. The population is about 30,000. There is one main road that goes though town, up to the glacier, and then around and back to town. This is the state capitol so there are often politicians in town. There is a college campus. The town is spread out for several miles along the waterfront, which moderates the temperatures somewhat.
Here, and in the other towns we visited, the structures are brightly painted. With the weather often gray and rainy, or gray and snowy, I’m sure the color is good see.
We got off the ship early and drove up to the glacier for a 3-plus mile hike. The Mendenhall glacier feeds into a beautiful, placid lake. There were two raucous waterfalls falling into the lake near the visitor center. In fact, there are waterfalls all over the place. You can see long, skinny ones running off the mountains from pretty far away.
We hiked up a trail that went along fast-flowing streams, through rainforest trees. I was surprised at the diversity of plant life – the ferns were huge. There is a spiky plant called Devils Club that, as it turns out, is prized for its medicinal uses by the native Alaskans. The plant is insanely thorny (being pricked by it is apparently a very bad thing) and the berries are poisonous. The natives use the root and bark – they probably use the leaves too.
I bought some Devil’s Club soap from the Winter Song Soap Company in Sitka the next day. It’s supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties and be good for rosacea and other skin problems. I think I like it!
There were several glacier overlooks and photo ops on our hike. It is hard to take a bad photograph here. I liked this shot because you can see how river-like a glacier is. We didn’t get a chance to walk out onto one. There’s just not time to do it all!
We were cold and damp and a little sore when we got back to the ship so we went to the hydro spa! I had bought a pass on the first day that was good for the entire cruise. Our pass got us into the big fancy whirlpool hydro spa, the lovely sauna and steam rooms, and the room with the six heated recliners that are covered with aqua-blue glass tiles and that sit in front of a picture big window. I knew I would like the hydro spa but I was surprised at how much Steve has enjoyed it. We have visited the spa every day.