Saturday 13 August 2022 – We could afford a relatively relaxed start to the day, because Silver Muse wasn’t due to dock in Juneau until 0930. This gave us plenty of time to (a) have a leisurely breakfast and (b) fret about exactly what clothes would be the best choice for our first Adventure of the day, which was to scale the local monster, Mount Roberts. Well, as far as what they call the Tramway Station, but what we’d call the cable car station (just before the number 1 if you click that last link, i.e. about a third of the way to the top; what do you think we are, mad?).
A major consideration would be the weather – would it be cold? would it be wet? The forecast was for showers, and a temperature of about 15°C. We both had fairly heavy duty jackets available, but we could see from the view from the boat
that it wasn’t actually raining so I decided instead to risk just a rain jacket over an extra fleece layer, with a waterproof camera bag tucked into the backpack that Jane personfully volunteered to take with her, along with a couple of small water bottles, a spare camera battery and my wallet, because she’s a
sucker trouper. (Hah – Ed)
The official trail starts outside Juneau, so, to get there, we thought it would be good to walk through the town. The ship was docked about a mile outside town, and we spurned the free shuttle bus in favour of walking into Juneau. I’m glad we did, as although the first part of the walk was along the road, it gave us a view of the ship
and we arrived in the town via a boardwalk, which was quite attractive.
(There’s little doubt about what Juneau’s main industry is…)
You can see the “tramway” departing in the photo above. We stopped by the bottom station to ask about ticket prices. An all-day pass to go up and down the mountain in the cable car would have cost us $45 each, but the lass at the counter told us that as long as we spent $15 apiece in the restaurant at the top we could ride down for free.
We carried on through Juneau which is an attractive place, provided you don’t mind a profusion of jewellery shops.
Many of the cross streets are actually staircases
because the town is built on the side of Mount Roberts (not, counterintuitively, Mount Juneau), giving it the nickname of Alaska’s answer to San Francisco. There are quirky buildings and street art
and we particularly thought it would be worth seeing the State Capitol
which has a statue outside it of William Seward himself.
Just by the Capitol we met a Canadian couple, Cynthia and Steve, whom we’d chatted to whilst awaiting the Seward train, and we fooled around with a statue just in front of the Capitol.
This is Jane, bearback riding,
Just along from the Capitol, there’s a small but perfectly formed Russian Orthodox Church, which is really cute.
(In the competitive nature of these things, there’s a cathedral next door.)
The stream of attractive houses continued
with some lovely colours of paintwork. We call these houses the Basin Street Blues
despite the fact that they’re actually in Basin Road, because we don’t want the truth getting in the way of a good joke. Or even that one.
Passing a couple of other interesting sights,
we eventually reached the start of the Mount Roberts trail. It became apparent that an event was under way which involved people Running Up That Hill. We had a brief chat with a friendly-seeming marshal who told us that his brother lived in Wolverhampton and, presumably to get some sort of revenge on us for this horrible family destiny, told us that the trail was “vigorous” and the cable car station was “about 45 minutes” up it.
The trail was steep
and muddy in places
(there were marks along the way to guide us – the above is a root map)
and with some sections so steep they put in steps.
It runs through forest, which is great if you like forest, but this did mean that the trees rather relentlessly got in the way of anything like a decent view to give us an excuse to stop and photograph it in order to have a bit of a rest. It really was quite hard work for us, and presumably more so for the runners who occasionally overtook us as they headed up the mountain. And then passed us again as they came down again whilst we were still panting up.
I was very glad that I didn’t bother with the heavy jacket. Even with fleece and rain jacket I felt distinctly overdressed, and before too long both Jane and I were in shirtsleeves – once again, very lucky with the weather. We met a chap coming down who told us that he’d seen a bear and her cub just off the trail which made us at once excited and terrified. We never saw the bear, which is at once a shame and a relief. We also passed a couple of girls who told us that the “sidewinder fries” at the top were excellent.
45 minutes? Hah! It was a good 90 minutes of toiling up the hill (and a climb, I might add, of 627 metres which is 2,000 feet) before we finally saw the top station before us.
There was finally a view worth looking at
and we could see our ship, too
but the main priority was to get to the bar and spend that $30,
I can report that the sidewinder fries are indeed excellent and the beer – Alaskan Koelsch – was, too. The walk up represented the most exercise that either of us had done for some weeks, so we felt pretty pleased with ourselves, particularly since we met Cynthia and Steve again; they had ridden the cable car up so I felt we’d chalked one up for the UK. Not that we were smug about it, or anything.
I had our beer-and-fries receipt ready to show for the ride down, but no official showed the slightest interest in checking our bona fides, presumably because there were very few customers riding the cable car, so we could have saved ourselves the $30. On the other hand, that would have meant I didn’t get the beer, and that would have been a shame.
We took the shuttle bus back to the boat, and just about made it to La Terrazza for a swift lunch. This ended Phase I of the day, but we had still more excitement to come in the form of a whale-watching excursion. Since we had a little time to spare, I had a strategic kip by way of prep for this, and Francis brought us hot water and milk (and canapes) so we could make some decent Twinings Earl Grey tea before we headed out to the quayside again.
The excursion was billed as a “Whale Watching and Culinary Experience” with a subtext of a great photo opportunity, which is obvs why I wanted us to opt for it. A coach ride took us to Auke Bay and we boarded a double-decker catamaran which took us out into Stephen’s Passage. I didn’t feel a thing, your honour.
Commentary was provided by a young lass who was a marine biology student and who was clearly on top of and enthusiastic about her subject. The skipper clearly knew roughly where to go and before too long we spotted a whale so everyone rushed to the outside deck to take photos.
This whale was called Sasha, who is sufficiently well-known to be referred to as “The Alaskan Whale”. Apparently you can see the letters A and K in her tail flukes, but I wasn’t able to verify that. I got a couple of snaps of her, above,
and this one, showing the scar across her back from an unfortunate encounter with a ship’s propeller. We saw a couple of others as well, and if/when I get time I’ll update this post with some video.
Overall the trip, although the culinary experience was nearer being just a snack bar, was good; these were the first whales we’ve ever seen, despite having gone on whale watching trips elsewhere.
The journey back to the dock in Auke Bay took us past a decent view of the Meldenhall Glacier
and then we were back at the ship a short while before it left Juneau at 10pm.
And so ended another fairly intense day. We have a couple of tours in the plan for tomorrow – a train ride and a bus tour of Skagway. Since we’re likely to get rained on, being inside looks to be the best option, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out how the weather treated us.