Did Ju-Neau That?

Trip Start May 09, 2008
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Trip End May 27, 2008


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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Thursday, May 15, 2008

was the punch line of a joke our morning guide, Ron told us on our way back from the Dog Sled Summer Camp. He was a funny, older man who seemed to love his job. I could see why, Juneau, a pretty, colorful city and the capital of Alaska is settled at the base of a mountain, conveniently called Mount Juneau. There is also an island; Douglas, across from Juneau. It is only accessible by aircraft or boat and has more vehicles than people! Did Jun neau that? haha

Our morning started at 4:05am. That's when the light started coming through between the opening of the curtains I had purposely left open so as not to miss anything. (scenery, wildlife, etc) I went to the balcony to see snow capped mountains took a couple pictures then went back to bed. Up for good about 6am and got to see the ship docking in Juneau and of course took more pictures and video before going to breakfast. Weather was a drizzling rain when we disembarked for our morning excursion after 10am. That's when Ron met us and our group at the dock to take us to the Dog Sled Musher's Summer Camp located in the mountains. Ron warned us that the bus ride would be a bit bumpy. Well, it was ridiculously bumpy and swervey (Is that even a word?) with twists and turns up the gravel/dirt road called Sheep Creek Road deep in the mountain. He also said that very few people want or will drive it! I can see why! Despite the ride, the scenery was pretty in area with snow covered mountains and deep valleys. We also passed an old mine called Sheep Creek.

I didn't know what to think when we approached our destination of a muddy area with about 200 royal blue dog houses with the same number of dogs! Upon arrival, we were taken to a wooden building where each of us had to sign a waiver; I suppose in case a dog attacked us or we fell out of the sled! A man then gave us an introduction about the camp, dogs and the iditarod race. The dogs here are not the true Huskies and Malamutes seen on television or in the movies. Most were smaller at under 50 lbs and were interbred! We were then split into  3 groups of 6 and met our personal musher, Abbie West and her boyfriend while every dog was barking. Abbie has raced in the Yukon Quest. We could barely hear Abbie as she talked about the dogs and introduced us to the 13 that would be leading our sled. They had names of Gemini, Pulsar, Captain Kirk, Scottie, Polaris, Telesto, Comet, Quarky, Vega, Leo and others, with one only a year old.

We hopped into the wheeled sled, which is used in the summer since the real sleds are used in the snow. After the initial jolt around the corner, the sled ride was actually smoother than the bus ride. We were going a little faster than 10mph which for races, 10mph is the normal pace. We were about halfway through the 1.5 mile track, making a left turn, when all of a sudden, 2 dogs started barking and fighting with each other! We had to stop so Abbie's boyfriend could separate and calm them down.

Back at the camp, Abbie took us to 2 tents; the 1st one had picture displays of Iditarod sled dogs, including Balto and Toko. They were actually part of an original team that delivered the Diphtheria serum to the people of Nome. It was not a race then. There was also an original sled on display. The next tent had 2 beautiful, black "retired" dogs, a line-up of boots, a coat with Polar bear fur, gloves made from beaver and a present day sled. We sipped on hot chocolate while Abbie explained everything and answered questions. We visited with 2 puppies in a pen before boarding the bus and going back to the ship for lunch.  I learned much about the races, dedication of Abbie and her dogs that day.

2:35pm: Our afternoon excursion was a "Photo Safari by Land & Sea" that included taking a shuttle bus to Tongass National Forest, Mendenhall Glacier and Auke Harbor to see wildlife and tips on photography. Liz was our guide and we also had a bus driver that took us on a shuttle bus 1st to the forest. When we were about to depart, it started to hail! Tongass Forest is a tropical rain forest which means it could rain everyday! We were provided with ponchos and yellow towels to cover our cameras and a walking stick if we chose. The walking sticks could also be used as a tripod if needed, I should have taken one. After a couple of minutes, the hail stopped and it turned to a steady rain. So, off we went into the forest for our guided walk. Liz instructed us on "Bear Rules" like if we were faced with one on the trail, don't scream or run, just back up! If it gets aggressive, back up quickly faster! Well, we were not faced with one, darn it anyways!

Liz gave us tip on taking close up pictures like raindrops on the trees, waterfalls and and moss. Yes, one tree had 15 different types of moss growing on it! Markers throughout the forest showed where Mendenhall Glacier used to be at different years. It was very interesting to see how far the glacier has moved since 1920! The end of the hike led us to a view of Mendenhall Glacier which is about 105 stories high and 1 mile at its widest point! Such an amazing sight it was from the viewing platform where we stood for a few minutes marveling at it. The scenery was WoW with a lake in front and the mountains behind it.

Then we were transported to Auke Harbor and boarded a boat to view wildlife. There were more snow covered mountains surrounding the harbor as we cruised past Shelter Island which has no electricity and people have to be ferried over which takes 15 minutes.  I got excited when Liz and the driver got a notice that humpback whales were spotted just a few minutes ago. Soon enough, a small black area appeared above the water, making noise and blowing water out with its blow hole! I wasn't sure if any pictures would turn out, so I also did a video. Even the people in our group stayed quiet long enough to hear the whale blowing the water out. It was a Humpback whale! We were close enough to get decent shots but still need a big optical zoom. Then one humpback jumped out of the water and showed off his tail! We were all in AWE, including Liz. She was really excited for us, as she yelled "what a great shot that was!" For 2 hours we watched about 6 whales and also got to see a buoy with an eagle sitting majestically on its top and sea lions basking on the bottom! They must be used to the boats and people being close because they paid no attention to us. I did get some good pictures of the eagle and sea lions, compliments of Liz. She let me out on the deck 1st so no one could block me. She saw that I was not a pushy person and how I kind of stood back.  The weather had cleared up by this time and the sun was glistening down so pretty on the water. Liz was a great guide and gave us tips for photography and viewing the whales which made it was my favorite tour.

Back at the ship, we had missed our 6pm dinner seating, so we ate at the Bordeaux room which is really for anytime dining. It was Italian night and Lourdes had told us not to miss it but Bernie and I were actually a little disappointed with the choices. I ended up with an appetizer of shrimp, mussel and calamari, vegetable minestrone soup, an entree of fettuccine alfredo and a dessert of spumoni ice cream with raspberry sauce and chocolate shavings. It was pretty good. We sat and listened to a couple from New Zealand who told the story of how were detained by security because the husband had the same name as a suspect on the "list". What an experience he went through!

For the nightlife, we went to the lounge where a country & western "hoe down" was taking place. The male host yelling "You're Dead, DED dead!" got to be very monotonous! There wasn't much music and/or dancing, mostly a shoot em up thing. We had like one drink and left.

Quote for the day: Bang, Yer DED, dead!
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