Saturday, May 17, 2008

Snow in Juneau (5/13/08)

Once again, the weather was wet and rainy, and we wondered if our helicopter ride and dog sledding trip would happen or not. To kill time while we wait for the weather check, we take the Mt. Roberts tram nearly 2000 feet up to the visitor's center up there. The ascent is spectacular, and it is snowing at the summit. We take some pictures and head back to the base, and learn that our helicopter tour is canceled. Carolina from Celebrity suggests we take the floatplane ride out to the Taku Glacier Lodge. We've never ridden in a floatplane before, and so agree to the change.

The floatplane is a 10-passenger de Havilland Otter, and soon enough we are on our way flying between steep mountain ridges along Gastineau Channel. We make a sharp turn and head up over an edge of the Juneau Ice Field from which Juneau's many glaciers descend. The ice is rough, crumbled, pocked and caravassed. There are spectacular ponds of Windex-blue water, and deep fissures and cracks.

We fly over several glaciers and descend about 35 miles from Juneau into a wide part of the Taku River, across from the Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier. The plane lands smoothly and we taxi to the dock, were we see a very cute wilderness camp with an incredible large stone barbeque off to one side. A man is barbequing salmon steaks, basting them with a combination of brown sugar and white wine. Signs warn us to not feed or otherwise associate with the bears, who apparently are attracted by the scent of roasting salmon. The salmon also attracts the lodge dogs, who tussle over scraps of charred skin scraped off the grill.

Lunch is finally served inside the 1930's lodge, cheerily warmed by a fire in a large stone hearth. There are great baked beans, cole slaw, herbed biscuits, and of course the salmon. Everything is incredibly delicious. If I were a bear I'd come running whenever I smelled the barbeque too.

We take a short walk to a pretty waterfall, accompanied by the dogs who will jump into the water to retrieve tennis balls. There are mosquitos the size of dandelion puffs buzzing around. I'm glad I'm bundled up so I don't get bitten by one of these vampires.

All too soon our pleasant afternoon in the wilderness is over, and we board the floatplane to head back to Juneau. I luck out and get to sit in the front seat next to the pilot, and am treated to an even more incredible view of the mountains and glaciers than I had on the way out.

Back in Juneau we go head up the Mt. Roberts Tram again, and see a short film about the history of the local people the Tlingglit, and then make our way back to the ship. The weather has lightened up and our trip out of town is pretty, passing between high snowy peaks. Everyone talks about what a great day they had in Juneau, and about how tomorrow should be so lovely since we'll be back in the Inside Passage cruising some of the most beautiful scenery in North America.

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