Juneau has been the capital city of Alaska since 1900, when it was a US territory. Although at that time it was a thriving Gold Rush city, the population of the state now centers around Anchorage, 575 miles ( 925 kilometers) away. No roads lead to Juneau, as it is accessible only by boat or airplane and can boast of some of the rainiest weather in the US, raining 250 days and averaging over 62 inches annually. Actually it is tied for fourth place among the rainiest cities, behind Mobile, Pensacola, New Orleans, and West Palm Beach (in my own Broward County in Florida), but we have rain only 145 days a year.
As our ship pulled into a dreary Juneau harbor on the fifth day of our cruise, the city was living up to its reputation as rainiest Capital in the US.
SPOILER ALERT: Finny and furry creatures, but no bird sightings to report on this leg of our Alaskan cruise.
Rains had set in and did not let up, so it was a bad day for photography. We took a whale-watching cruise, then visited Mendenhall Glacier. I spent the morning protecting my camera from the rain and spray as we raced in a catamaran from one whale sighting to another.
We were entertained by the frolics of a group of Steller's Sea Lions as they took turns climbing and diving on a bell buoy.
Despite the rain, our brief visit to Mendenhall Glacier was enjoyable. The glacier is only 12 miles from Juneau. Over thirteen miles (21.9 km) long, the ice is up to 1,968 feet (600 meters) thick and stands from 10 to 70 feet (3-20 meters) high at its face, moving into the sea at 223-305 feet (68-93 meters) per year.The glacier has receded almost 2 miles during the past 55 years, creating Mendenhall Lake in front of it. It replenishes itself as warm, moist air is drawn up to the glacier's point of origination, where it falls as snow to feed its ice field, but the glacier's progress does not overcome the melting effects of the warming climate.
Our granddaughters enjoyed themselves despite the constant rain.
The rain continued into day #6 of our Alaskan cruise, when we took the White Pass Scenic Railway out of Skagway. We boarded at our ship's dock at sea level and climbed over 2800 feet to the summit of White Pass and beyond, 64 miles one-way, then returned via the same one-track route.
The ride was indeed scenic...
...passing over trestles high above the mountain streams...
...and negotiating two tunnels.
The views were breathtaking. Vegetation changed from coastal mixed woodlands to dense forests, and...
...as we crossed above the timberline, to treeline taiga, meadows and sub-alpine tundra.
Mountain Goats browsed on distant rocky outcroppings, difficult to distinguish from the snow patches.
The skies cleared, and on our way down we could see our ship, looking like a white dot moored in the Skagway harbor.
Next, on to see Hubbard Glacier and then to Seward, our port of debarkation.
Just as I was posting this, there was a news report that the train had derailed at the White Pass Summit on July 23. Two locomotives and four passenger cars left the tracks, and nine people were injured, none seriously.
Linking to Skywatch Friday and Saturday's Critters
Visit these links to view the entire series of blogs on this Alaska trip:
Cruising to Ketchikan, Alaska
Cruising to Alaska's Icy Strait and Hoonah
Visiting Juneau and Skagway
Hubbard Glacier and Seward, Alaska
Denali National Park
Riding the rails from Denali to Anchorage