How much is it possible to do in one day? If you’re in Juneau, Alaska, which typically caters to tourists arriving daily on huge cruise ships, it’s possible to pack an awful lot of adventure into just one day.
Helicopter trip and sled dog ride
We started our day in Juneau by taking off in a helicopter, flying over glaciers and mountains, then landing on the Norris Glacier. This is an experience I’ll never forget. Seeing Juneau and the surrounding area from above really brings home just how remote and inaccessible it is.
For me, the most fun part of this trip was meeting the mushers and sled dogs. As with most animal-related tourist activities, there is always a question about animal welfare and the conditions they live in. Up on the glacier, each dog has its own personal igloo, is well fed and watered, and gets out on a good run upwards of 3 times a day. Our musher assured us that his animals were very well cared for and happy.
After a run around the Glacier on a sled, we were able to meet and pet the dogs and see the rest of the camp before returning to Juneau late morning.
Yes, it was eye wateringly expensive to do this but felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s unlikely we’ll return to Alaska any time in the near future so I’m glad we got the chance to do this.
A “Deadliest Catch” Lunch
I’m very late to this party, but since visiting Alaska in May I’ve become addicted to the trials and tribulations aboard the crabbing vessels on the TV Show “Deadliest Catch”.
When in Juneau, feasting on King Crab is an absolute must. Tracy’s King Crab Shack is the most famous (and busiest) place to try this delicacy and is definitely worth the wait.
Another place (and yes, we did have King Crab twice in one day – it’s probably the only chance I’ll ever have to order it!) to enjoy this is the Hangar on the Wharf in Merchant’s Wharf Mall. Sitting at the bar in the bright evening light we watched seaplanes coming in and going out. The wooden Merchant’s Wharf Mall building was home to the first Alaska Airlines office before it outgrew the space and became a huge nationwide airline.
Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls
Well worth a trip out by bus or taxi, the extensive visitor’s center at the Mendenhall Glacier offers respite from the inevitable drizzle. If you can put up with being wet and a bit cold, a walk to Nugget Falls is a worthwhile (but busy) short hike.
Stepping off the beaten track onto one of the trails with a lower footfall is what we did and I would recommend that. We took ‘The Trail of Time’, which tracks the retreat of the glacier and joins the ‘Powerline trail’, eventually returning to the car park.
It was on this trail that we had our closest bear encounter of the trip – a giant Mama bear and her two cubs! As we approached a bridge over a small creek we turned a corner, and there she was. We quickly retraced our steps away from where the family were slowly walking along the path and happened to encounter a local (the only other person we had seen on the trail so far). The local man had a Malamute dog called Norris with him, which was reassuring. He put the dog between us and the bears, and together we watched them climb up a hill and saunter away in the other direction. At this point, I wasn’t focused on taking photographs, but as the danger passed I was able to take a quick snap of the baby bears walking away.
Once back at the ranger station, we reported the sighting and were ready to head back into Juneau for a stiff drink.
Duck Farts and Grizzly Bears
After all of the excitement and dinner in the aforementioned Hanger on the Wharf, it was time for a nightcap in the Red Dog Saloon. With sawdust on the floor, an eight-foot stuffed Grizzly Bear behind the bar and a live musician performing; Red Dog Saloon was the perfect place to enjoy a ‘Duck Fart’ to round off our busy day in Juneau (a ‘Duck Fart’ is a layered shot made up of Kahlua, Baileys, and Crown Royal Whiskey).