Alaska Cruise, Day 4 – Juneau

Juneau was really the first stop on our tour that felt like a real Alaskan city to me. This was probably helped along by the fact that we had a snarky local student tour guide driving our bus.

“You guys paid a bunch of money to see some ice. You know that, right?”

Well, it’s ice in the form of a glacier. We went up to Mendenhall Glacier, which, as usual for Alaska, was awesomely beautiful. Once again everytime I took three steps there was another jaw dropping nature picture to take.

Our naturalist gave us a bear talk on the ship. (Naturalist! Not naturist, so not that kind of bare. She was talking about the 1000 pound bears with huge claws and teeth.) According to the bear census, I think, there’s about one bear for every square mile in Alaska, so people tend to run into them on the way to the grocery store. And they are very dangerous, though, oddly, not as dangerous as moose.

Anyway, some of the nature trails around the glacier were actually closed because of bear activity. (Though the guides there told us actually that was old news and there weren’t likely any bears in the area.) The bears tend to show up there because they have a stream that the salmon run through…

Seems salmon are bears number one treat, so anywhere you have fish, you have to especially be on the lookout. (Juneau was the first place we encountered the bear-proof trash bins, too. They even have to have a special handle on the lid that you have to press to open them.)

Bear-resistant trash can in Juneau, Alaska
Bear-resistant trash can in Juneau, Alaska

After we left the glacier, our tour guide answered a bunch of questions about Alaska in his enjoyably sarcastic manner. Someone asked something about the primary industries and he pointed out that jewelry was one of them. Much like the Caribbean, there are “discount” jewelry at most stops in Alaska.

“I went into the supermarket the other day, to get milk for my Lucky Charms. I came out with a ring.”

Yes, jewelry everywhere, it seems.

After that we went to the Gold Creek Salmon Bake. I was looking forward to getting some genuine grilled salmon. I started out with a savory and delicious cup of chowder, which I kind of wanted to get more of, but it appears you only got it on your way in, as they didn’t man that station after everyone had their food. The salmon was great, but I wasn’t big on the glaze they painted on it as they handed it to you. It was very, very sugary and a little gritty. Almost turned my first piece into candied salmon. Natasha didn’t mind it so much, but I really wished I’d gotten my fish without it. The rest of the food was similarly meh-ish. They had ribs, chicken, beans, all the normal barbecue type stuff at your typical buffet quality. The atmosphere was nice, kind of rustic, with picnic tables, and even a couple of fires for toasting marshmallows. I suspect some of it was lost on me because I don’t really like eating outdoors, but it was okay.

The bake also came with a folk singer who pretty much sang every song in the John Denver repetoire. He also sang Daddy Sang Bass and did all the bass and tenor parts, which he really shouldn’t have. The folks at the bake really enjoyed his rendition of Big Rock Candy Mountain though. Personally, after listening to the horrible music on the Carnival ship the first few days, I was hoping for something a little more contemporary, so I didn’t really have the ears for it that day.

The really wonderful part of the salmon bake we almost missed. We were thinking of getting on the busses back to the ship when someone mentioned that you could go panning for gold behind the bake buildings. At first, I kind of groaned. Having seen a swarm of no-see-ums over the swampy water up front, I had no desire to go anywhere near the water. But we decided to take the walk to the back and were rewarded with yet more of the natural beauty of Alaska, including, yes, another waterfall.

They had dressed up the area with a fake mine. (Well, I think it was never really a mine. Who knows?) We skipped the gold panning. (The pans were in some more standing water with no-see-ums around.) But we had tons of fun taking pictures back there.

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