Sunday, August 11, 2013

Exploring in Alaska

Last week of July was spent exploring and crossing #42 of my list in Juneau, Alaska.
I'll be honest, I had WAY more fun than I anticipated and I learned a lot. I don't want to do several posts, so you just get one giant recap.  Below are my highlights:
incase you ever wondered where Juneau is on a map

Random facts I learned about Juneau. Alaska
1. It's landlocked thus the water keeps it mild- in the winter it never gets below 20 degrees.
2. Since its extremely south, it isn't that whole 6 months of light 6 months of dark, however its still much different from we're all used to. While there it was 16 hours of daylight (4:30am-9:30pm) and in the winter they get about 2 hours of daylight (although not pitch dark, more dusky when sun goes down)
3. Population of Juneau is about 30,000... the state of Alaska, 700,000.
4. Surface area of Alaska is larger than the distance from west coast to east coast
5. There are NO moose in Juneau. There was one spotted a few years ago, and it was the first sighting in over 100 years.
6. You won't find brown bears (grizzlies) in the city- there is an island called Admiralty Island that has 1600 grizzlies and only 500 people- I would NOT want to live there. Grizzlies will harm and eat humans, whereas black bears stick to salmon and berries.
7. We bought Alaska from Russian for just over $7 million back in 1860s
8. Kids (at least in Juneau) are in school from 7:30am - 6:30pm... after school activities are built into curriculum to make kids want to stay in AK after graduation.

Whale Watching
Mom and I had a whale watching tour scheduled first thing on day 1. I went whale watching this past October in San Diego, it was windy, rainy, and I got really sick. We only saw 1 whale, and a plethora of dolphins... kind of a bust. The waters in Juneau were extremely calm and there were a TON of whales out to view.  

  • Juneau Alaska is apparently the only place in the world where humpback whales bubble feed. In short, a bunch of whales get together, blow some bubbles to catch the krill they eat, bubbles float to top, whales all come up and eat them. It was a sight to see and we were lucky enough to witness 8 of them doing this. Below is a video of them just passing through RIGHT next to my boat.  Our guides said they've never been that close in all their years, so I guess there is no need for me to ever go whale watching again!

Alaskan Brewery (for all my beer lovers) 
  • Only brewery in Juneau, opened in 1986. It's one of the top 10 companies in US to work for.
  • Every employee has the opportunity if they choose to try and create a beer- they get 1-2 months off their work duties and that is what they focus on. 2 of the current beers they sell were made by employees and not the brewmaster. If yours gets selected, you get to name it and design the logo.
  • One of, if not, the greenest brewery in US. They patented a technology to take all the excess grain, filter it, and reuse it again for energy to continue brewing- nothing is wasted. Several other breweries have purchased this process to install as well. They also figured out how to re-use the CO2 emitted- don't remember that process, but their in works of patenting this as well. 

  • Below is the small tasting room- throughout the building the walls are lined with unique beers that are no longer in production, and of course some that you can still purchase in the store. 

Mendenhall Glacier
Photo: Absolutely GORGEOUS day for hiking and photos. With any luck we will spot some black bears! #alaska #nature #glaciers

  • Glacier is behind us (obviously) The red and yellow lights from the sun are reflected off the ice, however the blue is absorbed, so when you're staring at the glacier it looks blue, however it is infact clear. Found out on the last day there are certain mountains behind the glacier you can hike up and actually walk on the glacier... next time. 
  • Next to the glacier is Nugget Falls- the glacier is receding about 150 ft per year, so 4 years ago these falls were not here. 

  • The lowest rainbow I have ever seen- simply gorgeous. 
  • My attempt at testing out a panoramic app on phone to show falls and glacier  by merging two photos together that weren't necessarily lined up to do a panoramic. App is called Panorama. (and water is from the glacier, so it is FREEZING) 

Mt Roberts
  • We took a tram up 1800 feet to Mt. Roberts- restaurant, nature center, gift shop at the 'base' and from there were trails you could climb to top
  • Still some snow that hasn't yet melted (they had some snowfall in May) 
  • TONS of other hikers out there- was envious of the men who were shirtless, it got so hot out and jeans were a bad choice 
  • Mom and I in front of Father Brown's cross, overlooking the Gastineau Channel 

Glacier Gardens
  • Gorgeous gardens at the base of a rainforest- took 4 years from the time of purchase, till the time it was opened to public 

  • Inside the gift shop

  • On the last day of the owner using an  excavator, something got jammed up causing it to jam.  Owner was so mad he used the excavator to pick up a tree and threw it--- it landed upside down and he has the imagination to see how it would make beautiful holders for hanging plants- thus idea was born. 

  • Mom and I under one of the upside down trees

  • Gorgeous waterfall, rocks, flowers--- truly sensory overload and photos just don't do it justice

Black Bear sighting

I always thought it would be cool to take an Alaskan cruise (and I'm sure it would be), however I learned that you only dock in a city for 8 hours then leave. I like how everything for my  mom was laid back and how we were truly able to explore lots of different aspects of Juneau. If I ever find myself back there, the only left to do would be to hike the other mountains and of course go dog sledding on the top of some of the said mountains. I'm so glad we chose Juneau as our Alaska trip and maybe some day I'll travel to another city within the Frontier state. 


  1. Looks like you had a ton of fun in Juneau! When we were there on our cruise we also explored the Mendenhall glacier site. That rainbow is gorgeous!

  2. This makes me want to go to Alaska and explore! it all looks so beautiful, although not sure you could drag me to Admiral Island, that is a lot of bears. The upside down trees are gorgeous.

  3. what an amazing experience! beautiful pictures!

  4. What an amazing trip! I've heard such great things about going to Alaska and the pictures are always so beautiful.