Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest
It’s already day 7 of 31 Days of Alaska! I hope you are enjoying my trip as much as I did. Oh wait, that’s not possible!!! Our first excursion was a “Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest,” and it did not disappoint. We were blessed with a gorgeous display of frolicking whales, the most fascinating site I may have ever seen at Mendenhall Glacier Park and a stop into the famous Red Dog Saloon.
Onboard our motor coach, we drove through the capital city of Alaska with a population of 33,000. It is located on the panhandle of southeastern Alaska and draws over 1 million visitors annually. The first gold strike of Alaska was here and since then, over $150 million worth of gold has been mined.
Our excursion found other gems, too. The drive was only a short distance to see the Mendenhall Glacier, and our guide shared lots of interesting little facts on the way there. As we drove through town, she pointed out the capital building of Juneau and shared that “this is the ugliest capital building in the US, but we love it because of that.” I loved that they admit it but haven’t changed it to “be like all the other capitals!”
The Mendenhall Glacier was our next stop and this is where I stood mesmerized at how creative our God is! It is a frozen river formed during the Little Ice Age and is the size of the state of Rhode Island. Across the way, a beautiful waterfall, appropriately named Nugget Falls, cascades down to a plunge pool.
It was truly one of the most powerful sights I’ve ever seen. Torrents of water crashing down one mountain with a frozen river on the other.
We then joined a lively crew and chipper captain aboard a small vessel to look for whales. The narration is as entertaining as the sightseeing! We sailed into the waters of Stephen’s Passage and were soon greeted with whale spray. We felt we’d been given a gift from God when we saw breaching humpback whales and sea lions lounging on islands. Apparently, whale sightings are so prevalent on this tour, that if you don’t see one, they will refund $100 of your ticket price!
As the whales splashed in the cold water off the side of our boat, a mist of rain dampened our faces, but not our spirit. The sun only shines about 65 days out of the year in Alaska so we felt we were experiencing it in its most natural state.
One amazing fact about these magnificent mammals is that they spend the summer months in the nutrient-rich waters of Alaska before heading to Hawaii to mate and give birth. They swim from Alaska to Hawaii and back again! I had to sit down just thinking about that!
Just before heading back up the gangway, we ducked into the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau. The mood could not have been much different to those weary prospectors back in the day. With sawdust on the floor and Brian Gale singing and storytelling onstage, we could have been pioneers from the days on the trail. The waitresses wore can-can dresses, and when our waiter asked for our order, I could have sworn he was a bartender from an episode of Gunsmoke. He shouted to us over the crowd, “so are you hungry or are you here just to get drunk?” We ordered the Alaskan crab cakes.
The Red Dog Saloon was a stop we made on our own without any knowledge of its history. We absolutely loved Brian Gale. He was hilarious. If you are in Juneau, do not miss a stop into this historic landmark! Juneau was a beautiful city even in the clouds.
This excursion was so worth the money spent! Thanks for allowing me to relive this with you! I hope you’ll consider going if it’s not already on your bucket list!