Glaciers in Juneau: No Roads Lead to Alaska’s Capital
We were in the sky when I had my first shock and awe moment, flying over a glacier in route from Juneau to Taku Lodge. It was a small, 12-seater seaplane and from the window I could see the pools of blue water on top of the white snow. It relaxed my lower jaw and forced me to push my sunglasses to the top of my head – the color I was seeing couldn’t possibly exist.
You’ll see it in the photos below – that ridiculous blue – so unlike any other shade of my favorite color. Don’t think sky blue or Caribbean blue, this is glacier blue, a category of its own. It symbolizes such a fresh and pure quality – I think that’s what draws me to the color blue in the first place. It is an instigator of deep breaths, for sure, and I looked over at my friends in disbelief.
It certainly didn’t take long to be blown away in Alaska. An hour earlier our ship (Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas) had docked in Juneau, one of only two ways to access the state’s capital. It’s either by boat or by plane – there are no roads into or out of the city – it’s located in a channel and surrounded by mountains. Later in the day we would take in the city and go for a local hike, but first a prearranged excursion to Taku Glacier Lodge to have a look at the wilderness and sample some Alaskan salmon.
Upon landing on the Taku river (which feels about the same as landing on concrete, although the view out the window is much better) and arriving at the lodge, I sat on a swinging bench on the front porch, looking out over the water, the glacier coming down the mountain to my left. I could see the blue tint in the glacier – the frozen block of ice clearly could not be described as being plain white. Readers in the northern part of America should not picture the snow in their backyards – this was different (the ice is frozen so solid that it pushes out all the oxygen. When light enters it creates a prism, producing the blue hue).
Because of the grilling of the salmon, the lodge is known to attract bears – apparently they are routinely spotted at the nearby edge of the woods, curiously smelling the air. We were not so lucky as to have a sighting that day, although I would get my wish the following day in Skagway (see photo on Facebook).
I can now see why the bears come calling: Not only was the salmon delicious (along with the baked beans, herb biscuits, apple compote, and ginger cookies), but could you ask for a better setting? Sitting in a lodge in the Alaskan wilderness beside a glacier, eating grilled salmon that was caught from local waters, looking out the window and seeing the seaplanes land on the river, the lower green vegetation leading up to the snow-capped peaks of the mountains. Throw in an Alaskan Amber and check back on me in a couple hours, please.
While at first I pondered whether the idea of an organized seaplane excursion to a salmon feast alongside a glacier was too touristy of an activity, just writing the first part of this sentence makes me laugh. Really? That scene described above seems “too touristy,” Will?
Yikes. This is what happens when you start getting a little travel under your belt: The jaded perceptions try to sneak into your brain. I think it’s important to catch yourself in those moments and realize how incredibly crazy that notion is. When I was boarding the Rhapsody of the Seas a few days earlier, a couple told me they had waited 35 years to take this trip. And meanwhile I was wondering if such an opportunity was too touristy? Good lord.
Not everything has to be rocket science – sometimes the masses lead you in the proper direction. Take this Feast and Flight journey with confidence. For those on a tighter budget, you can take the Glacier Express Blue Bus to Mendenhall Glacier ($16 round trip). When you tire of the jewelry and novelty shops that are abundant in downtown Juneau, walk up to the top of Franklin Street and take a hike through parts of Tongass National Forest (they have built a nice “boardwalk” through the forest and there are plenty of waterfalls. Ask a local for directions as you must wind your way through a neighborhood to access it… 15-20 minute walk from downtown).