Monday, January 5, 2015

The Coral Princess Northbound Cruise and Land Tour Day 4

The Coral Princess Northbound Cruise and Land Tour
Juneau, AK

The weather in Juneau would pretty much set the pace for the rest of our time in Alaska; a rainy morning with maybe a hint of sun in the afternoon to surprise us. It was alright with me though, we were after all, for the most part, in a rain forest, and the rain stopped when it mattered most. 

Before hopping onto my bus for the first excursion of my trip, I took a short walk down to the dock hoping to catch a glimpse of my first in-the-wild American Bald Eagle. I had been given a tip before leaving from a family friend who said in order to find the eagles, just look up into the tree line for little white dots. Sure enough, just down the dock, I spotted 2 little white heads amidst the sitka spruce. Taking out my new/used trusty and favorite lens, a Nikon 300mm f/4 (older model) prime lens, I shot away. 

My excursion of choice, the Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching Photo Safari booked via Princess Cruises online excursion catalog, offered tips for the novice photographer and provided a slightly different journey.

With varying types of cameras, the group piled onto the bus as the driver took us traveling down "The Road', as the locals call it, because as you might've guessed, it's their only major road to get around Alaska's capital city. And if you're still scratching your head wondering why there is only one major roadway in the state capital of Alaska, that's because Juneau is an isolated community; the only way to access it would be via plane or boat, but I digress...

After arriving near Mendenhall Glacier the driver pulled into a parking lot, our intrepid guide (whose name I unfortunately cannot recall) grabbed a can of mace (for possible bear encounters, of course) and herded us out of the bus and onto a hiking trail. While on the trail, she explained through a hoarse and fading voice, about the local fauna and flora of the forest created by Mendenhall Glacier as it receded over time. Passing "Ice Limit" signs carved into rocks by park rangers, who marked where the mouth of the glacier once ended, our small group eventually arrived at our first viewing platform for Mendenhall and Nugget Falls. Eventually, after every photographer was satisfied with what they captured, we moved on for closer viewings near the crowded visitors center. Unfortunately, due to recent flooding, a closer venture to Nugget Falls was out of the question.

Just to give you an idea of how large some of these fungi are. 

Leaving Mendenhall Glacier behind, we were driven to Auke Bay for the second part of the photo safari with a whale watch. Before boarding the boat our wee group said goodbye to our first guide and welcomed our second guide, Cam. While out in Auke Bay we spotted a wild trailer being towed across the inlet, a couple of glaciers, a few humpback whales and an island covered in steller sea lions.

The ever illusive wild trailer, getting help back to shore.

Guide extraordinaire, Cam, explaining the difference between Humpback Whales and Orcas.

Once back to the ship, I spotted and captured a few more bald eagles with a few clicks of my shutter, walked the touristy section of town, had a snack and a few brews to musical accompaniment at the Red Dog Saloon and got to watch a sea plane take off.

By the time I finished walking around I only a had about an hour left to take the tram up Mount Roberts before the ship disembarked, so I quickly purchased a ticket and made the ascent. Once at the top, I wandered through the shops and part of a hiking trail, and I should mention, that if you should so chose, you can hike to the top of Mount Roberts from the base and, I believe, take the tram down for free.

One of the highlight attractions on Mount Roberts, at least for me, was getting to see Lady Baltimore, a captive American Bald Eagle. Lady Baltimore was found after having been shot twice, once through her beak and once through her wing, on neighboring Douglas Island. She can no longer fly properly and lacks accurate depth perception due to blindness in her right eye, which is mostly likely due to having been shot in the beak. Cared for by the Juneau Raptor Center, Lady Baltimore was out in her enclosure where visitors are reminded to act calmly around her and not use a flash when taking photos. 

After taking it all in it was time to ride the gondola down, hop on the ship and give my very tired feet some rest. 

And here's a quick video highlight of my day in Juneau, Alaska.

Unfortunately, I can't figure out to make this bigger and to display it in the full 1080p on command, so make sure to enlarge and select 1080p!

Next up will be the historic gold rush Alaskan borough of Skagway, Alaska. 

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