Learn about Juneau,Alaska by reading Have You Ever Walked on a Glacier?
by Sandy Zimmerman, Travel Writer. It features a mini, but thorough
tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your
trip including getting there, objective information on places to
stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've
provided a summary of the contact information for your easy
Have You Ever Walked
on a Glacier? - Juneau and Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
by Sandy Zimmerman, Travel Writer and WTA Member
Helicopter and dog sled ride on glacier
across Juneau’s wild back country as the helicopter dipped and turned above the
stark ice glaciers. It seems as though we were flying so low that the helicopter
could almost touch the mountaintops. Only 5 minutes from Juneau’s airport, North
America’s fifth largest ice field blankets 1,500 square miles of land
inaccessible by other means of transportation.
Glacier is one many “rivers of ice” in southeast Alaska formed during the Little
Ice Age around 3,000 years ago. Helicopters are perfect for flight seeing tours
with 180-degree views from their rounded glass windows. They have the capability
to fly backwards, sideways, rotate 360 degrees, hover motionless in the air, and
pinpoint their movements.
Historic downtown Juneau
40-minute ride takes passengers over 4 glaciers- Taku, Dead Branch, Hole in the
Wall, and Norris Glaciers. Each glacier is different. Taku Glacier, the largest
glacier on Juneau’s ice field, has been moving forward, bulldozing trees and
creating a wall of debris since 1890. The Dead Branch Glacier floats in its own
melt water, ice falls cascade around the Hole in the Wall Glacier, while the
Norris Glacier is retreating. Glacial ice is blue instead of white. Composed of
a crystalline structure, which absorbs or reflects light when light strikes the
ice surface, all colors of the spectrum are absorbed except blue, which is
reflected back. Finally the helicopter lands on either the Taku or Norris
Glacier and we are in another world! With each step our boots sink into 1-2 feet
of snow. During the tour’s 15-20 minute ice field trek, we explore this remote
area’s glacial streams, rolling ogive (waves on ice), and unique formations. The
professional guide explains how glaciers are formed and affected by global
Since we wanted
more thrills, we met the mushers at the camp for an exciting dog sled ride. The
dogs wait by small igloo-style huts as each musher decides which teams will be
hooked up. Handlers say the sled dogs prefer cold, snowy days because the snow
pads their feet while they run. Chilly winds keep dogs from getting too hot in
their heavy coats. Just as the early people of the Arctic regions of Alaska,
Canada, and Greenland used wooden sleds for transportation, we sit in an
authentic dog sled being whisked across the mountain trails. The musher
skillfully maneuvers the sled across the ice and snow with the help of a trained
dog team. We learn common voice commands- "gee" for right, "haw" for left, and
"whoa" to stop- and even experience the musher’s job firsthand by standing on
the runners of a dog sled to drive the sled. The musher gives instructions about
controlling the sled and dogs. Their 6-8 yapping Alaskan huskies obediently stop
when we step on the brake. Dog teams (4-20 dogs) can pull a sled for hundreds of
miles as evidenced in Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (1,049 miles from
Anchorage to Nome). Depending upon their breed, each team's running speed varies
from 8-25 MPH.
Glacier Bay National Park- glacier and chips
Glacier Bay is
the largest National Park in southeast Alaska, the world’s largest protected
marine sanctuary and a world heritage site. At Glacier Bay and Gustavus, gateway
to Glacier Bay’s National Park, we can enjoy a sea lion’s view of glaciers in a
kayak, or from the comfort of a boat. Glacier Bay is an Ice Age time capsule, a
microcosm of the Ice Age, which began 4,000 years ago, advancing and receding
throughout the years. These glaciers have transformed Glacier Bay. Each
glacier’s face- incredible mammoth size walls of ice- is constantly changing as
chunks of ice fall into the bay creating rivers of ice! The glaciers look still,
yet are slowly moving, flowing downhill. From the top of the 15,320’ Mt.
Fairweather, enormous amounts of ice plunge 1,000’ per mile down Margerie
Glacier slicing 200-foot icebergs the size of 25 story buildings into the bay.
The park includes 12 tidewater glaciers, some more volatile than others. John
Hopkins Glacier sends such enormous volumes of ice that it is seldom possible to
approach its ice cliffs closer than 2 miles. Huge icebergs may last a week or
more, and provide perches for bald eagles, cormorants, and gulls. It is exciting
to experience these active glaciers with walls that dwarf the size of cruise
ships! The entire 65-mile-long bay is exposed as the meltdown continues. At 3
million acres, it’s larger than the state of Connecticut. Glacier Bay is an
experience we will never forget. These soft adventures are truly the wild side
thrills of visiting the glaciers, we took a leisurely self-guided tour around
Juneau’s historical buildings of the 1800’s within their downtown’s 7-block
radius. There are 60 buildings from 1904, and 143 built before 1914. Free maps
are available at most hotels, in tourist magazines, and at the Juneau Convention
and Visitor’s Bureau. Juneau, Alaska, even the name sounds exciting! Imagine
bears actually wander into the city at times. We see eagles and other wildlife.
A vacation in Alaska is different from the other states.
Pan for gold tour
Adventure is so
close to you in Alaska. The Alaska Adventure Tours provide “real” Alaskan
experiences! I feel this company knows Juneau and introduces us to a part of
their world. They have some of the best tours I have taken. This is the original
outdoor salmon bake, pleasing visitors for over 30 years. Their historic gold
mining and panning adventure guarantees that you will find gold! We learn the
history of Juneau’s gold discovery, pan for gold near the site of the original
gold strike 1880. Alaska Adventure Tours gives us a sea lion’s view of the
glacier while kayaking, or we can try the Mendenhall Glacier float trip. The
Cold Creek salmon bake whisks you away to an old western setting. This is the
original outdoor salmon bake, pleasing visitors for over 30 years. It is an “all
you can eat” buffet of grilled Alaskan salmon, BBQ. chicken and ribs with
entertainment. During this 1-? hour tour, we visit the remnants of the Wagner
mine, try our luck panning for gold, and walk along Salmon Creek to see Salmon
everything from glaciers to a rainforest. Glacier Gardens rainforest adventure
has 50 acres of eerie, beautiful, and unique vistas. Upturned trees act as
baskets for hanging gardens. Guided golf cart tours provide views of Thunder
Mountain, the Mendenhall Valley, Chilkat Mountains, Gastineau Channel, and
Roberts Tramway takes you 1,800 feet above Juneau’s mountains for breathtaking
views of the waterfront and city.
Places to Eat
Chan's Thai Kitchen: Their small dining room is a local’s hangout.
Chan’s does not have a liquor license.
Di Sopra Restaurant: They serve an eclectic creative cuisine with a
little taste of Italy, and the Fiddlehead Restaurant offers Alaskan
cuisine. Their in-house carved Angus beef is aged for 60 days. Di
Sopra is adorned with beautiful murals and a wonderful view of the
Inn at the Waterfront: Is a small European-style hotel, specializes
in steak and seafood.
Jovany's Restaurant: Offers eclectic Italian, Greek and Mexican
Thane Ore Restaurant: The entrance appears as though we are going
into a mine, but it is really the restaurant. Colorful, old western
atmosphere, a museum, and good food make this a fun spot. Lunch-
sandwiches & burgers. Dinner- all you can eat sockeye salmon,
halibut, BBQ ribs, baked beans, cornbread, salad bar and soft
drinks. 20th season.
Places to Stay
Established in 1913, the Alaskan Hotel is Juneau’s oldest
continuously operating hotel. Walk through the swinging doors into
the famous Red Dog Saloon. There are displays of Wyatt Earp's gun, a
walrus oosik, trophy wildlife mounts, historical posters,
photographs, currency signed by miners, and other memorabilia.
part of the downtown historic district, Alaska’s Capital Bed and
Breakfast Inn offers turn of the century elegance, contemporary
comfort, and a convenient location. Built in 1906 by gold rush
pioneer John Olds, this restored home still has that “grand” look as
it did then. Capital is the winner of Arrington's Bed & Breakfast
Journal's 2003 Book of Lists Award "Best In Alaska" and the Historic
Preservation Committee’s 2002 Award of Excellence for the
restoration of the Inn. One of the events when you stay at a bed and
breakfast inn is their breakfast! Everyone looks forward to the
Dungeness crab eggs benedict, lemon souffle hotcake's and thick cut
ham, sauteed apples in hot cinnamon sauce, or any of their 30
breakfasts. The home and all of its rooms are decorated with antique
Best Western Grandma's Feather Bed 14 rooms with feather beds and
Driftwood Lodge is 1 block from the convention center and 2 blocks
from the waterfront.
Goldbelt Hotel is Juneau’s finest hotel and is located on the
waterfront in downtown Juneau.
Prospector Hotel was built in 1973, but it is located in historic
downtown Juneau, and adjacent to the state Museum, business and
Glacier Bay National Park offers several types of accommodations in
all price ranges- National Park concessionaire, bed & breakfast
inns, cabins, lodges, full service hotel-style inns, and apartments.
Alaska Airlines - 4 daily non-stop flights
from Seattle to Juneau
American – Juneau to Gustavus route runs from June 5-September
10, 1 flight per day. 800 426-0333.
Wings of Alaska Their 25 minute
flights run all year with bush-style planes holding 8
passengers. The number of flights and schedules change
seasonally. We had to walk on the plane’s wing and crawl through
the small window in order to board the plane.
907-789-0790 (Juneau), and 907-697-2201 (Gustavus).
Although Glacier Bay National Park is located only 50 miles
northwest of Juneau, you can only travel by air or boat.
The Auk Nu Tour’s Juneau-Gustavus
ferry sails daily for a scenic 2-? hour trip to Glacier Bay
($69- 1 way). Once in Gustavus, you may choose to remain aboard
for the Icy Strait Wildlife and Whale Watching Cruise. Many
people stay at Glacier Bay Lodge or nearby hotels and take the
bush plane back. Every day except Wednesday, starts May 20-
Sept. 11. 1 way includes 4 hour wildlife cruise $103.95, round
trip- $149. 800-820-2628.
Glacier Bay Cruise Line offers 4
boats, 8 day/7 night cruises ($2,800-4,000), Seattle to Juneau
begins April 27, Juneau to Seattle until September 10, Juneau to
Glacier Bay and return. 800-451-5952.
Alaska Travel Adventures: Glacier
View sea kayaking ($79), Mendenhall Glacier Float Trip ($99),
Historic Gold Mining and Panning Adventure ($45), and Gold Creek
Salmon Bake Tours ($32). Tours: May 1-September 30. 9085 Glacier
Highway, Ste. #301, Juneau. 800-791-2673.
ERA Helicopter Flight Seeing Tours:
We were impressed with their expertise and professionalism on
this exciting, action packed tour. Four Glacier tour -40 minutes
sightseeing, 20 minutes walking on the glacier ($229), Four
Glacier Tour with Dog Sled ride- 40 minutes flight seeing, 1
hour on a dog sled ($410). Tours: May 9-September. 800-843-1947.
Glacier Gardens Rainforest:
Mount Roberts Tramway:
Temsco Helicopter Glacier Tours:
The Mendenhall Glacier Tour combines 50 minutes of flight seeing
and 30 minutes on the glacier ($199). The Pilot’s Choice tour
takes you flight seeing for 50 minutes and then you spend 30
minutes on the glacier, with 2 landings ($299). Tours
May-September. 1650 Maplesden Way, Juneau, 907-789-9501.
Places To Eat
Chan's Thai Kitchen: ($9-13) You
will need a car, as Chan’s is 20 minutes from town, across from
the Auke Bay boat harbor. 11820 Glacier Highway, Juneau,
The Di Sopra Italian Restaurant:
pasta (from $16), rack of lamb dijon painted with Dijon mustard
and Italian bread crumbs ($26.95), Sicilian fisherman’s stew
with fresh clams, prawns, salmon & halibut in a fennel scented
broth with fresh tomatoes, garlic, leeks and olive oil ($26.95),
and much more. The Di Sopra Restaurant ($14.95-24.95) upstairs,
and the Fiddlehead Restaurant ($13.95-24.95). 429 W. Willoughby
Avenue, Juneau. 907-586-3150 Across from the Alaska State
The Inn at the Waterfront:
upstairs, 455 S. Franklin Street, Juneau, 907-586-2050.
Jovany's Restaurant: ($12-$20) 9121
Glacier Highway, Juneau, 907-789-2339.
Thane Ore House Mining: museum,
all-you-can-eat salmon bake, halibut, BBQ ribs, salad bar, corn
bread ($22.50). 907-586-3442, 4 miles south of Juneau, free
shuttle. Open April-September.
Places To Stay
Alaskan Hotel & Bar: This
three-story Victorian hotel ($50.00-$80.00) is located in the
historic district. No elevator. 167 South Franklin Street,
Alaska’s Capitol City B&B: ($99-
275), 113 West Fifth Street, Juneau, 888-588-6507.
Best Western Grandma's Feather Bed:
($99.95-$159.95). 2358 Mendenhall Loop Road, Juneau,
907-789-5566.The Driftwood Lodge: ($48.00-$85.00) 1 block from
the convention center, and 2 blocks from the waterfront. 435
Willoughby Ave., Juneau, 907-586-2280.
Goldbelt Hotel: ($95.00-$149.00),
51 Egan Drive, Juneau, 907-586-6900.
Prospector Hotel: ($97.00-$143.00)
375 Whittier Street, 907-586-3737.
Glacier Bay National Park Glacier
Bay Lodge: Offers standard rooms- $185, water view $205- and a
restaurant. Open May to
Juneau Convention and Visitors
Glacier Bay National Park: Call for
information about accommodations, whales, hiking trails,
glaciers, bear guide, wildlife list, fishing, kayaking, rafting,
and year round activities. 907-697-2230.
Notice: This information is
current as of February 2005. It is recommended that you contact the numbers,
and/or visit the web sites above to determine any changes to the information.