Juneau! When we were here before we rafted down the Mendenhall River but hardly saw the glacier's majesty from our locations down on the river. So this time we wanted to see it closer and this hike through the forest to reach it seemed perfect. Besides, a whale-watching excursion was part of the deal! This was a HAL shore excursion; probably both parts of this tour are available from private agencies in town, but the two together were exactly what we wanted and certainly it was easier to plan, time-wise, when we could move directly from one to the other.
We were surprised to see that we were the only tour clients from the Amsterdam; the rest of the participants were from other ships docked that day in Juneau. Later, at the Visitor Center near the parking lot we saw more from our ship; apparently no one else wanted to hike through the rain to see the glacier up close. We were very pleased to see the area surrounding the glacier as well as the Mendenhall Glacier and River, and it was interesting to see how much the glacier has shifted and changed since our visit several years ago. Our guide knew the area's history well; when we named the year when we were last there he was able to point out where the glacier's edges had been back then.
The whale-watching was spectacular; this is an area where the whale population includes many who return every year and the whales in the bay are well-known and documented by the local research facility. It was interesting to learn that every whale or orca has a unique tail pattern; if not the color pattern, then the notches and markings along the edges of the tail. Thus, individual whales/orcas are known and followed while they are in the area. The Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute maintains photo-catalogs of these whales and orcas
Seeing sea lions resting in the sunshine along the shore was a real plus!
No trip to Juneau would be complete without a trip to the Alaskan Fudge Factory, so before our tour we took the free shuttle bus from our docking pier into town and walked up Franklin St. to the candy store. We sampled some, bought some and managed to get home with all of it. There's no better souvenir of Alaska to take to the folks back home!