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Posts Tagged ‘Juneau’

So where were we when we had our wonderful encounter with whales?

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Cargo Barge in Stephens Passage © JT of jtdytravels; P1130525

I knew we must be in one of the few main waterways that carve their way through the islands of the Inside Passage because, very early in the morning, before we saw the whales, I’d seen this cargo barge being pulled along by a tug boat.  As there are no roads into Juneau, this is the way most goods are moved around in this part of the world. 

Stephens Passage ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130584

Stephens Passage © JT of jtdytravels; P1130584

Overnight, we had sailed 105 km (65 ml) south from Juneau along Stephens Passage, the main shipping ‘highway’. The expedition’s very jovial professional wildlife photographer, Steve Morello, marked up the map with arrows and a ‘whale tail’ to pinpoint our encounter! The map is in greens because we were passing through Tongass National Forest…  more about that forest later.

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Five Finger Lighthouse © JT of jtdytravels; P1130577

On the map, right beside Steve’s whale tail, I noticed a lighthouse called Five Finger Lighthouse. Ah Ha! While watching the whales, I had spied that lighthouse in the distance and had taken a photo to try to pinpoint our position.  It pays to look up from the exhilaration of whale spotting and take a look at your surroundings… occasionally, anyway!

I’ve researched the Five Finger Lighthouse since and now know that:  it’s been an active navigation beacon since 1902. The original timber building was burned down in 1933… (timber and naked flames are a bit hazardous, are they not?) A new concrete building was built during the Depression. It was completed and relit in 1935. The last resident light house keeper left in 1984 when the lighthouse was automated. Now the Coast Guard is in charge of  maintenance. In 2004, Five Finger Lighthouse was put on the National Register of Historic Buildings. A Juneau based group of volunteers has taken on the task of restoring the lighthouse and out buildings. They hope to use the site as a whale research centre and for environmental educational purposes.

That’s the summary.  I’ve given the lighthouse web site at the end of this post. It includes some interesting stories for you to peruse at your leisure.

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Map of Stephens Passage and Frederick Sound © Jt of jtdytravels; P1130581

While we enjoyed our breakfast, the Captain turned ‘Sea Lion’ away from the main shipping channel and began to sail through Frederick Sound, an area we were to explore for the next two days. First chartered in 1794 by two of Captain George Vancouver’s men, this sound was named in honour of Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.

During the morning we cruised south towards Le Conte Glacier. Whatever the afternoon brought for us, we were already very happy and well satisfied with our first morning encounter with those whales. Anything else would be a bonus!

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Brady on lookout duty! © JT of jtdytravels; P1130585

While many of the adults chose to spend the morning on the aft sun deck, young Brady found his special spot, perched in the bow with binoculars at the ready. He was one of 3 children on board, and by far the most inquisitive of the three. Brady’s dream is to become a naturalist and he certainly shows the right aptitude to reach his goal.

The age range on board was from 80 to 6 years old…. the latter was a bit too young in my opinion. But he came with his family group; grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and sister! There were quite a few smaller family groups, a great way to get together when family is spread across the length and breadth of the country. Most passengers came from the ‘Lower 48’ of the USA with one New Zealander and four of us from Australia.

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David watches the world go by! © JT of jtdytravels; P1130596

The sky was a clear and blue, the waters flat calm, the surrounding mountains were topped with snow. Here, we were a long way from the busy and sometimes worrying and chaotic world we had left behind. Here, there was not a house, not a telegraph pole in sight, not even another boat or ship. David and I chose to watch the stunningly beautiful scenery slip by from the walkway just outside our room.

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Our room on ‘Sea Lion” © JT of jtdytravels; P1140127

And what was our room like, I hear some say. Small, basic but comfortable. Two single beds with firm mattresses. A small shower/toilet room with a curtain to protect the latter from getting wet while we used the former. A basin in the bedroom. Plenty of hot clean water… potable water. A large window so that the scenery was always visible. All we needed.

And, what we really loved was this… there were no locks on any doors! Oh, what a feeling of freedom! It was wonderful to be in an environment of complete trust. It reminded me of my life as a child, living in a tiny country village where no one had a lock; no one owned a key! We lived in trust, without fear of robbery or of ‘strangers’ who might wish us harm. How different the world is today.

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Purse Seine Fishing vessel © JT of jtdytravels; P1130593

About halfway down the Sound, we caught site of a purse seining fishing boat. It had already strung its net in a circle, floats on the top side, weights below.  The crew was waiting for the fish to gather within the circle. Then they would pull on the ropes attached to the lower part of the net to make the ‘purse’ that traps the fish. We cruised on, leaving them to their task.

Diagram of Purse Seine Fishing

A description of purse seine fishing with good photos of each of the stages in the catch can be found on the web site given at the end of this post. The diagram above is taken from that site.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130638

Back to the peace of quiet cruising.

Small ice chunks floated by, some in fantastical shapes.

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Ship’s wash © JT of jtdytravels; P1130599

I lost my thoughts in the rhythmic movement of water patterns.

Ever changing abstracts.

I realised anew that each of us needs ‘time out’ to withdraw from cares;

especially from those cares that will not withdraw from us.

Water abstract ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100286

Water abstract © DY of jtdytravels; P1100286

David was also looking for water abstracts.

I love this one.

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Harbour Seal on ice flow © JT of jtdytravels; P1130604

A harbour seal floated by

taking a ride on a small ice flow… what a way to go!

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View from the bridge © JT of jtdytravels; P1130606

I moved back to my spot in front of the bridge.

This was a much wider view.

How peaceful is that?

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Small ice flow © JT of jtdytravels; P1130607

Many of the ice flows were now larger.

We were getting ever closer to Le Conte Glacier Bay.

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Panorama © JT of jtdytravels; P1130613

The mountains were closing in on us… more ice flows appeared.

And then lunch was served!

More anon

Jennie and David

Photography © JT and DY  of  jtdytravels

Our other travels sites are:

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.dymusings.com

The Five Finger Lighthouse web site is:

www.5fingerlighthouse.com

The Purse Seining fishing link is:

http://www.thekitchn.com/this-is-one-way-to-catch-salmon-in-alaska-193566

or Google

One Way to Catch Salmon In Alaska:

Onboard the Purse Seine Owyhee

Read Full Post »

Back in Juneau after an absorbing afternoon at Mendenhall Glacier, we waited in keen anticipation for our call to board the small ship “Sea Lion” for our Lindblad / National Geographic expedition.

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“Radiance of the Seas” © JT of jtdytravels; P1130425

This was certainly not our ship. It was one of four huge cruisers, monoliths of the sea. that were moored at the docks. Obviously many choose to cruise this way, but it’s not our choice.

However, if we had chosen to do so we would have had the advantage of 10+ dining venues, plus 16 more cafes, bars and lounges; 3 pools and 3 whirlpools; rock climbing; basket ball; mini golf; a jogging track; broadway style theatre; a casino and shopping, to mention a few items to entice one to cruise this way. And I forgot to mention the 220ft outdoor movie screen that shows first run movies night and day. There wouldn’t even be a television on our ship !

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“Sea Lion” © JT of jtdytravels; P1130434

Our ship “Sea Lion”, was tucked away in front of “Radiance of the Seas”. It’s gangway went up; ours went down. It had 13 decks; we had three. It carried 3,000 passengers with a crew of 850+; Sea Lion takes just 62 passengers with a crew of 43 on an expedition, a voyage of discovery. On top of our ship were inflatable DIBs (Zodiacs) and kayaks which the nine naturalists in our crew would use to help us to experience the wilderness.

Front view of

Front view of “Sea Lion” © DY of jtdytravels; P1100151

So this was to be our home for a week. Our basic but comfortable room was on the top deck. I planned to spend many a quiet hour, not far from our room, on the walkway just in front of the bridge. It would be a great place to enjoy the beauty of the wilderness as we cruised in tiny bays and by sheltered islands. But for now, having found our ship, we left the crew to clean and prepare for our arrival while we explored the Juneau docks area a little more.

Dock Notice ©  DY  of jtdytravels; P1100233

Dock Notice © DY of jtdytravels; P1100233

Each day, the port authority puts up a list of ships and their arrival and departure times. It seems that we were but two of 10,150 people visiting Juneau by ship that day!  So we decided to shun the busy souveneir street and explore more of the boardwalk.

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“David B” © DY of jtdytravels; P1100156

A great little ship (or was it a boat?) was moored close to “Sea Lion”. Both David and I agreed that we could happily explore here aboard this ship /boat /yacht. We did ask later what the difference is and were told that a ship can carry a boat or boats but a boat can’t carry other boats!  A yacht is a yacht! It has sail power. A submarine, in nautical terms, is a boat! Hmm! Having got that sorted, let’s move on, shall we?

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Man hole cover! © DY of jtdytravels; P1100214

Along the boardwalk, near the fishermen’s cooperative, we found this great manhole cover. It reminded us that cruise ships and tourism are not the only source of income along this dock area of Juneau. Fishing is also important and obviously King Crab is one of the delicacies caught here. I wondered if it would be on the menu on the ship!

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Sign on Juneau docks © DY of jtdytravels; P1100144

And a little further along we found this sign!

Patsy ©  JT of jydytravels; P1130420

Patsy Ann © JT of jydytravels; P1130420

There’s a statue of a dog on the boardwalk in Juneau, a dog called Patsy Ann, a dog that lived a life which captured the hearts of the people of the town. During the 1930’s, no ship, or boat, entered this port and tied up at the dock without being welcomed by this white bull terrier. Although loved and kindly treated by her owners, she was not a homebody and became something of an identity around the town. When not visiting shops and offices in the town, and enjoying the inevitable treats that came her way, Patsy Ann chose to live with the men at Longshoremen’s Hall, down close to the docks.

In those days, steam ships did not arrive in port at a due time, like clockwork, as they do today. No one really knew when a ship or boat was approaching the docks. But Patsy Ann knew! Even though she was partially deaf from birth, she would know. And the people of Juneau learned that, when Patsy Ann dropped whatever she was doing and trotted off down to the docks, a ship was coming into port. Patsy Ann would then, unerringly, settled down at the dock where, she knew, the ship would tie up.

Having ‘left home’, Patsy Ann looked to be in a spot of bother when dog licensing laws came into effect in Juneau in 1934. The people of Juneau chipped in and bought her license, her tag and a bright red collar. It wasn’t too long before that collar disappeared and Patsy Ann went on with her life, as before, unencumbered by either home or mandatory collar. The city then donated her annual license fee. And, when Patsy Ann died in 1942, the people came to lower her, in a coffin, into the waters of the Gastineau Channel beside the docks that she loved so much.

Fifty years later, a group of residents raised the money for the statue. A special celebration was given by the Princess Cruise line, a blessing was given by an Alaskan native spiritual leader, and once more, Patsy Ann became the official greeter of ships docking in Juneau.

The Friends of Patsy Ann Fund continues. It now supports the Patsy Ann Education and Scholarship Fund which is dedicated to the achievement of new levels of understanding, respect, kindness and compassion. And don’t we need good doses of that in the world today!

Passersby are asked to greet Patsy Ann and, in leaving her, ‘to carry the blessings of friendship throughout life’s journey’. What a good story!

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Old wharf piers © JT of jtdytravels; P1130426

The poles under these shops might well have been here in Patsy Ann’s time!

Coffee at Heritage ©  JT  of jtdytravels; P1130489

Coffee at Heritage © JT of jtdytravels; P1130489

We had one last item on our ‘to do’ list before we embarked on the ‘Sea Lion’; a final visit to the Heritage Coffee Cafe to enjoy what might well be our last good coffee for some time. David looks happy. The coffee was good.

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Ship board drill © DY of jtdytravels; P1100216

Then it was “all aboard”, and time to meet the crew, stow our luggage, do the drill in our very fetching May Wests (and hope they would never have to be used), enjoy our first dinner with this happy bunch of fellow travellers and then go out on deck and watch the world go by!

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“Radiance of the Sea” leaves port © JT of jtdytravels; P1130494

And that’s where we were, on our deck, when “Radiance of the Sea” left port and sailed off to yet another Alaskan town. We waved up at them; they waved down at us and we each decided that we were on the best ship! After all, why would anyone want to go on such a small ship? But we knew we were preparing for a very different experience… and we were content.

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Sun across the harbour © JT of jtdytravels; P1130505

Now, we could actually see the sun sending its golden rays across the water as it sank lower in the sky. The other big ships departed… and all was quiet. We were left to anticipate the adventure ahead. Life was indeed good!

A Bald Eagle farewell © JT  of  jtdytravels;  P1130523

A Bald Eagle farewell © JT of jtdytravels; P1130523

Later, a bald eagle flew down, probably in the hope of picking up the scraps left by visitors, for town dwelling eagles have now become scavengers. We looked forward to seeing many more eagles, fishing for their supper, in the wild.

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The sun sets at last © JT of jtdytravels; P1130518

Finally the sun set on what had been a wonderful first day in Alaska.

What would the morrow bring?

You shall have to wait and see… just as we had to wait and see!

Jennie and David

Thought for today (Thanks to Patsy Ann)

Let us know and understand the power of respect, kindness and compassion.’

More of our other travel tales on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

Read Full Post »

One of our aims on this trip was to find and document as many flowering plants as we could. David is, after all, a horticulturist with “sap in his veins” and I’m enamoured of plants and flowers; what more motivation did we need!

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Nugget Falls © JT of jtdytravels; P1130474

So, now, let’s go plant hunting with David as he wanders towards Nugget Falls in the stunningly beautiful environment of Mendenhall Glacier. There’s not a lot of time for this exploration… time constraint is always a problem in the life of a plant hunter… but with David’s keen eye to find plants endemic to the area, there’s plenty to see and enjoy.

Plant names and notes are given to the best of our knowledge. Should you think otherwise, please let us know in the comment section below. I’ve also researched each plant that David photographed and have found interesting facts about each one to share with you.  

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Mendenhall Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1130473

One fascinating part of plant hunting is to look out for the “succession factor”; in this case the way different plants take their turn in colonising the moraines left bare by a retreating glacier. We look down at a green swathe now, but that has taken maybe a hundred or more years to become established to this point in its evolution. I’ve added David’s photos in a way that will, hopefully, explain how the plant colonisation has happened here in Mendenhall.

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Salix sitchensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100188

The first pioneer plants here are usually the ones whose seeds arrive on the wind, like the spores of mosses; plants that help to bind the rubble into mats onto which other seeds can find a place to grow. Like moss spores, the fluffy seeds of willows such as Salix sitchensis, or Sitka Willow, are so light, they travel on the breeze for some distance, even many kilometres. However, the tiny Salix seed has to find a suitable place to germinate very quickly because it only retains viability for about 24 hours. Undoubtedly, many of the abundant seeds produced by a Salix plant will fall on inhospitable surfaces and die. Those that live are true pioneers.

These willows can survive harsh environments without much nutrient. They reproduce quickly and abundantly but, as early colonisers, they are often stunted in growth and short lived. On their death, their decaying matter provides some nutrients for the next group of colonising plants which naturalists sometimes call “the homesteaders”.

Sitka Alder © DY of jtdytravels; P1100190

Alnus crispa ssp. sinuata © DY of jtdytravels; P1100190

These are the developing cones of Alnus crispa sp.sinuata, known as Sitka Alder, one of the dominant “homesteaders”. They are the first plants to really thrive in recently deglaciated terrain in Alaska and are important because their leaf litter adds nitrogen to the soil (in much the same way as clovers and legumes). With that enrichment of the soil, plants such as willows and cottonwoods have a much better chance of thriving.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1100192

Alnus crispa ssp. sinuata © DY of jtdytravels; P1100192

Mature cones of Sitka Alder, Alnus crispa ssp. sinuata may hang on the trees for long after their seeds are dispersed. Such cones are sometimes electroplated with gold and sold in the gift shops as jewellery. (They might have made the perfect souveneir for our Christmas tree but we didn’t see any for sale and in any case we can’t bring wood products into Australia.)

Boschniakia rossica Northern Groundcone © DY of jtdytravels; P1100193

Boschniakia rossica  © DY of jtdytravels; P1100193

The Alders play host to this unusual plant, Boschniakia rossica, commonly called Northern Groundcone, which looks very much like a bunch of pine cones stuck in the ground. It grows in the dense shade under Alder thickets where not much else can grow. It needs no light as it produces no chlorophyl. It is, in fact, a parasitic herb which lives on the roots of the Alder. What look like cone scales are really brownish, two lipped flowers. Grizzly bears like to feast on these thick fleshy plants… but none were around on this day, fortunately!

The plant is named after a Russian botanist, A.K. Boschniak. That’s not surprising since the Russians had a base in nearby Sitka from 1799 until 1867… the latter being the year that Alaska was purchased from Russia by the USA. 

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Lupinus nootkatensis © JY of jtdytravels; P1130481

A plant that is also important in the plant colonisation process here in Alaska is Lupinus nootkatensis, the delightful Alaskan Lupin, or Nootka Lupin, seen growing here in a bed of moss.  Lupins also add much needed nitrogen to the soil, enriching the environment for other plants to survive and thrive. Grizzly bears like to feast on the Lupin roots.

Lupinus nootkatensis is one of the Lupin species from which garden hybrids are derived. It was introduced into Europe in the 18th Century and now grows like a weed in northern Europe, festooning banks with colour in summer. In Iceland, it was introduced to try to stabilise soil, but, it has done so well there, that it’s now endangering native Icelandic plants.

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Pyrola asarifolia  © DY of jtdytravels; P1100177

Another plant commonly found with the Alders are Wintergreens. This one, Pyrola asarifolia, or Pink Wintergreenis the largest of the Wintergreens in the Alaskan coastal forests. There may be 8 to 25  delightful bell or cup shaped flowers along a tall stem. These flowers seem to hang their heads demurely. Perhaps they are not sure what we might think of their secret! For these delicate flowers belong to a plant that is scientifically known as a semisaprophytic plant; it can make its own chlorophyl (hence the semi) but it lives mainly on dead plant and animal material. Saprophytic plants like these require the assistance of fungi to help breakdown the organic material. It’s a delightful but unusual plant!

Pyrola has been used in native medicine as a poultice for sores or swellings.

Lycopodium selago Fir Clubmoss © DY of jtdytravels; P1100203

Lycopodium selago © DY of jtdytravels; P1100203

Another plant used by the native peoples for medicinal purposes is the low growing Lycopodium selago, commonly called Fir Clubmoss or Mountain Clubmoss. It was used as a purgative, a “strong medicine”. It’s also reported to contain a chemical that may be effective against Alzeimer’s Disease. It seems that we still have so much to learn from plants!

Another interesting fact about club mosses is that their spore powder, known as “vegetable sulphur”, is very flammable and has been used to make fireworks and was even used in early flash photography.

The Club moss above is growing in amongst some other mosses. In general, however, many of the mosses and lichens don’t do very well in the leaf litter in the deep shade of Alders. They prefer to grow on the branches as epiphytes where they find some light.

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Emerging conifer forest © JT of jtdytravels; P1130453

The next stage in the colonisation process is the growth of conifers, especially Spruce and Hemlock. In this photo, Alders are in the lower right corner, while conifers have displaced them on the lakeside bank.  Young conifers may take 100 to 400 years before the Spruce and Hemlock forest, which is endemic to this area, becomes fully established.

Our time at Mendenhall was flying but we still just had time to visit the excellent “Discovery Centre”and take in the documentary made about this glacial area. The interpretative section of the centre was also very well done; I could have spent hours there. However, our time was almost up; the bus awaited our return.

As we walked back down towards the bus, the bank beside the footpath provided us with yet another opportunity to photograph flowers!  

Holodiscus sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1130485

Aruncus dioicus © JT of jtdytravels; P1130485

This lovely plant is Aruncus dioicus (common name bride’s feathers).  It was growing on a moss covered bank of rocks which made a delightful back drop to my photo. It’s a hardy plant; there wasn’t much soil on this steep rocky bank.

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Holodiscus discolor and Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels P1100205

Holodiscus discolor (Oceanspray) was growing on recently disturbed soil amongst a delightful swathe of Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculus repens. Note the reddish stems of the Oceanspray.  Another common name for this plant is ‘ironwood’, because of the hardness of those woody stems. Native peoples made these stems even harder by heating them over a fire before using them to make digging sticks, small spears, harpoon shafts, and arrows. Some native groups even used the stems for salmon barbequing sticks.They have also been made into knitting needles. Before the advent of nails, pegs made from the stems were used in construction projects.

As a medicine, some groups made an infusion of the brownish fruiting clusters to help stop diarrhoea. The infusion was also used as a blood tonic and to counteract measles and chickenpox.  Indeed, a particularly useful plant.

Epilobium latifolium © DY of jtdytravels; P1100211

Chamerion angustifolium © DY of jtdytravels; P1100211

On the same bank David found this very common roadside plant, a member of the Evening Primrose family, Chamerion angustifolium, formerly known as Epilobium angustifolium. It is known by the names of Tall Fireweed, Great Willowherb or Rosebay Willowherb. Is it any wonder we need the Latin names for plants; so many common names for one plant.

Unlike other types of Fireweed, this one has unbranched erect stems. The buds grow on tall red stemmed spikes. They burst into flower from the lowest buds first. Again, this plant looks delightful against a background of golden moss.

Locals in Alaska make a syrup from Fireweed and they also enjoy Fireweed honey. What they also know is that when Fireweed stops flowering, winter is upon them!

Yellow Daisies © JT of jtdytravels; P1130484

Yellow Daisies © JT of jtdytravels; P1130484

It always amazes to me that, almost anywhere you go in this world, at least one member of the daisy family, Asteraceae, will find a place to make it’s sunny presence felt. This is not a planted garden; it’s a natural bank of plants. They are always a welcome sight to me.

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Bank of white daisies © JT of jtdytravels; P1130488

And just before I climbed on board the bus after a most enjoyable afternoon, I stopped to admire a bank of white daisies; how appropriate near a glacier!

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Fly pollinating white daisy © JT of jtdytravels; P1130456

And, of course, I couldn’t resist a closer look! Simple, very common and yet…

so stunningly beautiful.

Our plant hunting in Mendenhall might be over but there is plenty more to come!

It’s now time to get ready to board our home for the next week,

the small, but good ship, “Sea Lion”

Jennie and David

Thought for today:

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed

and to have my senses put into tune once more.

John Burrough (1837 – 1921)

American Naturalist

More of our travel posts can be found on

www.dymusings.com

and photos on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

Read Full Post »

After our morning exploration of Juneau it was time to meet our fellow “explorers” and hop onto a tour bus to travel 19km (12ml) north along one of Juneau’s two major roads (in blue on the map). Our destination was the base of the Mendenhall Glacier, the only glacier we would be able to get to, in a fairly close up and personal way, on this trip to the Inside Passage area of Alaska.

Map of Juneau

Map of Juneau

Mendenhall Glacier, top centre on the map, on the northern side of Mendenhall Lake, is a glacier in retreat.  Early mention of the glacier came from Joseph Whidbey, master of George Vancouver’s ship HMS Discovery, who visited the area in 1794. He noted that most waterways here were unnavigable because of ice flows from glaciers.

HMS Discovery

HMS Discovery

 

Of course, shipping was so much different then…. no ice breaking hulls and only wind power, so exploring in amongst the islands of the Inside Passage would have been all but impossible for such a sailing ship. Boat parties were sent out to chart some of the coasts of some of the islands. However, that was all that was possible before Vancouver turned south again to return to England.

By 1888, when the famous naturalist John Muir came to explore in the area, the native peoples, the Tlingits, inhabited part of the valley left by the retreating glacier. Muir gave the glacier the name Auke (or Auk) in honour of that group of Tlingits known as the Auk Kwaan. But the name was changed in 1891 to honour an American physicist and meteorologist, Thomas Mendenhall, the Superintendent of the US Coast Guard and Geodetic survey.

The glacier has been monitored since 1942, so it is known that Mendenhall Lake is a modern day lake, created by the large amount of moraine pushed down while the glacier has been retreating rather quickly, (2.82km or 1.75 ml), since 1958.  It is thought that the glacier has retreated a total of 4km (2.5ml) since the 1500s. With warming temperatures it is expected to retreat further.

Top section of Mendenhall Lake  ©  JT  of  jtdutravels P1130478

Top section of Mendenhall Lake © JT of jtdutravels P1130478

Viewed from the “Discovery Centre”, it’s easy to see how the glacier melt has gradually formed the lake with piles of murrain. Much of that moraine is now covered with young trees. The sides of the glacier are still all but devoid of vegetation. The glacier itself vanishes into the distance for 19 kilometres (12ml) to where it joins the vast Juneau Icefield.

Juneau Icefield

Juneau Icefield

There are a couple of ways to enjoy the icefields from the air,

either by small plane or by helicopter.

Our group took the option of viewing the glacier from ground level.

Juneau Icefield from maps in the Park Centre.

Juneau Icefield from maps in the Park Centre.

At the Discovery Centre, a map shows the extent of the Juneau Icefield which covers 3,900 square kilometres (1,500 sq ml) and crosses the border between USA and Canada. Mendenhall (pin pointed by the small banner on the left) is just one of 40 major glaciers spawned by this Icefield. There are also about 100 smaller ones. All are in retreat except for the Taku Glacier, centre right, which filled its valley with so much glacial moraine that it has blocked its own waterway. It can no longer calve and has steadily been growing.

A piece of calved ice ©  Jt  of  jtdytravels; P1130466

A piece of calved ice © Jt of jtdytravels; P1130466

Calving happens when a chunk of ice breaks off the face of a glacier. This chunk of ice now floats in the lake. The men in the row boat give an indication of scale as does the next photo. Most chunks that we saw calving were much smaller than this one and are invisible in the longer distance.

Mendenhall Glacier ©  JT  of jtdytravels; P1130473

Mendenhall Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1130473

There were two paths to follow. One through the trees towards the waterfall and one down to the lake’s edge. David chose the former; I chose the latter.

David’s aim was to seek out some of the native plants of the area.

Mine was to take a closer look at the glacier.

Face of Mendenhall Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1130459

Mendenhall Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1130459

The face of a glacier is a truly magnificent, awe inspiring sight.

It makes one feel quite small.

Close up of face of Glacier ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130477

The face of the Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1130477

The leading edge of the glacier is very dirty although the ice itself has a lovely blue tinge. The dirtiness is made up of earth and rocks carved out from the mountain sides by the moving glacier.

Closer look at the face of the glacier ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130468

Closer look at the face of the glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1130468

An even closer look, thanks to my 30 times camera, shows the great, blue chunks of ice that will eventually calve from the glacier, each one shrinking the total ice mass. What will be the future of this glacier?  Who can tell? How much does global warming effect them? There are so, so many questions we need to answer about the health of glaciers… and of our beautiful planet!

Colours of ice! ©  JT  of jtdytravels; P1130471

Colours of ice! © JT of jtdytravels; P1130471

From afar the iceberg looks white. But what is white?

This close up shows the many colours that an artist would need to use.

Ice caves at Mendenhall.

Ice caves at Mendenhall.

The beautiful blue of the ice is much more evident under the glacier inside the Mendenhall Ice Caves. I found this photo in a wonderful set of photos of these ice caves on the internet and will add the site below for those who wish to enjoy that aspect of the glacier. Going into that cave is certainly something I wouldn’t do, but I’m always grateful to those who do and who share their experience.

Our thought for the day comes from the great naturalist, John Muir, who urged us all to:

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile; climb a mountain or spend a week in a woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

This we hoped to do on this expedition into the wilderness of Alaska.

In our next post we’ll share a different aspect of our visit to Mendenhall Glacier…

 the native flora of the area, the Tongass National Forest.

Jennie and David

our other travel site is

www.dymusings.com

more travel photos are on our flickr site

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

The internet link to the site for photographs of the beauty of ice inside Mendenhall Glacier is

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/mendenhall-ice-caves_n_4374019.html

or

Ditch Your Responsibilities And Go Hike The Mendenhall Ice Caves

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Welcome back, armchair travellers! David and I have just returned to Canberra from a three week sojourn on the west coast of USA and Canada where we enjoyed happy visits with friends and family in Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Santa Monica (LA); wandered for a few days in Seattle; and spent a week aboard the small ship “Sea Lion” exploring the the coves, inlets and forests of the Inside Passage of Alaska. Now that we’ve recovered somewhat from jet lag and have downloaded our photos, we’re ready to begin sharing some of our experiences with you in yet another wonderful part of our world.

Because it’s a place that many of you may not have had the opportunity to explore for yourselves, we’ll begin our stories with our trip into some stunningly beautiful wilderness areas of Alaska.

To begin that journey, we had to fly to the small, quiet town of Juneau, home to about 32,000 people. That’s a number that swells by upwards of 10,000 a day in the tourist season from May to September. The only way in or out of this town, surrounded as it is by mountains, is by sea or air. We arrived by air a day earlier than our group so that we would have time to explore the town.

Juneau as seen from Mount Roberts

Juneau as seen from Mount Roberts

Hemmed in by mountains on all sides, Juneau has always been dependant on the sea. Nowadays, the airport is situated on the level plains beyond the town. The flight path is quite exciting as it comes down between mountains that range from 1,100m to 1,200 m in height.

The airport is a very busy one because of the constant small plane and helicopter traffic. In fact, we were told that there are more planes in and out of Juneau per year than fly in and out of LAX in busy Los Angeles. Many people in Alaska have their own planes; it’s the popular way to get around.

Map of Juneau from sign post in the town

Map of Juneau from sign post in the town

It doesn’t take long to explore this small town, even though, by area, we were told, that it’s the second largest city in USA! Juneau is, in fact, the Capital of Alaska having been given that title in 1906 after the US took ownership of the Russian base of Sitka. The city is named after gold prospector Joe Juneau, though it was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg. Joe Juneau and Richard Harris marked out 160 acres as a town site on October 18, 1880. A mining camp gradually grew on the site as more gold was discovered in the area.

The town is built on a grid pattern although there are two main roads. One runs alongside the Gastineau Channel while another heads up from the docks into town. This street is lined with souveneir shops since it is closest to the port and the coming and going of cruise liners. The main town is more interesting; it’s the place where locals shop and it’s where we spent most time. We had breakfast at the Heritage coffee shop… not Starbucks, though of course they are there. The coffee was so, so much better to our Australian taste at Heritage!

Local shopping street in Juneau ©  P1130408 by JT of jtdytravels

Local shopping street in Juneau © P1130408 by JT of jtdytravels

It doesn’t take a lot of time to explore here; we just browsed.

So why not come for a wander with us!

Art in the streets © DY  of jtdytravels P1100166

Art in the streets © DY of jtdytravels P1100166

One of the first things to catch the eye are the colourful banners.

Bold, brash, colourful and cheerful.

They are everywhere.

King Crab Banner ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100213

King Crab Banner © DY of jtdytravels; P1100213

Each individual banner is someone’s art.

This one evokes the warmth of the summer sun,

the beauty of the channel and mountains

and the taste of my favourite Alaskan food, King Crab.

Detail of King Crab ©  DY  of  jtdytravels P1100213 - Version 2

Detail of King Crab © DY of jtdytravels; P1100213 – Version 2

It’s not hard to imagine the members of the Juneau version of the “stitch and bitch” group getting together on long cold, dreary winter days to make these wonderful banners. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but I rather hope they do. Social contact and a focus on something so uplifting and cheerful would be very beneficial in a place that experiences long dark days. We were in Juneau on the longest day of their year. We would experience almost 22 hours of daylight every day of our trip. But in winter, those hours are more like 6 hours of daylight (not necessarily sunshine as it is most likely raining or snowing!) and 18 hours of black darkness. There are not many visitors to Juneau in winter. Contact with the outside world is a summer thing. Winter can be a time of increased mental stress for many and getting together to make such banners would be a fun thing to do.

Baskets of flowers line most street. ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130414

Baskets of flowers line most streets. © JT of jtdytravels; P1130414

Hanging baskets of flowers also brighten up the streetscape

after the long, cold, dreary, wet winter!

Petunias make a happy statement to all who pass by.

A delightful geranium © JT  of jtdytravels; P1130440

A bumble visits geraniums © JT of jtdytravels; P1130440

It seems that every town in the world uses

delightful geraniums to brighten up garden beds and sidewalks.

Cheerful flowers along sidewalk © DY  of jtdytravels

Cheerful Rudbeckia flowers along sidewalk © DY of jtdytravels; P1100149

There were many other flowers, like this Rudbeckia, or cone flower,

bringing the feel of sunshine to the side walks.

Cheerful flowers brighten the sidewalks © DY  of jtdytravels

Taking a closer look!  © DY of jtdytravels; P1100148

As most of you know, both David and I are avid flower photographers.

We enjoyed these well known garden plants but

we were also hoping to find many native plants on walks in the forests.

An inviting book shop; © JT of jtdytravels P1130409

An inviting book shop; © JT of jtdytravels; P1130409

Rainy Retreat! I do like this type of inviting bookshop.

And yes it does rain, often, in Juneau.

You can’t have the famous Alaskan glaciers without precipitation.

Records show an average of 93 inches of rain over 240 days in a year.

Add to that, 70 inches of snow over 30 days in the year.

Luckily for us, June/July has a low amount of rainfall.

Eye catching book title  ©  JT  of jtdytravels; P1130447

Eye catching book title © JT of jtdytravels; P1130447

What a great name for a book; it certainly catches the eye!

It’s author is cartoonist, Matthew Inman.

We wondered if we would meet any grizzly bears on our travels….

and if so, would they be wearing underpants…

or would we need clean ones!

Large mural on side of City Hall ©  JT  of jtdytravels; P1130417

Large mural on side of City Hall © JT of jtdytravels; P1130417

The wildlife doesn’t look particularly friendly

as depicted in this large mural along the side of the Juneau City Hall!

An Alakan no smoking sign ©  JT  of  jtdytravels ; P1130490

An Alaskan no smoking sign © JT of jtdytravels ; P1130490

Most cafes and shops are non smoking places, thank goodness,

and most have this great sign in their windows.

We hoped to see some puffins in the wild on our journey.

An interesting souveneir! ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130491

An interesting souveneir! © JT of jtdytravels; P1130491

Indeed, it seemed to us that the people of Juneau have a great sense of humour.

We left this souveneir in the shop, but did buy a couple of tee shirts and

a small harbour seal ornament for our Christmas tree.

We always add some small momento of our travels to our tree.

A great motto  ©  JT of jtdytravels; P1130445

A great motto © JT of jtdytravels; P1130445

There may be ships, boats and small planes aplenty in Juneau,

but there are no hot air balloon rides.

This poster was inspirational; it made a very good ‘thought for the day’!

.

In our next post, we’ll join our group to visit Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau.

It’s the only glacier we could visit by bus and on foot.

Jennie and David

Some of our other travel adventures are on

www.dymusings.com

and travel photos on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

AND

you can watch a youtube film of the approach and landing at Juneau airport on

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWsqKR0dxRg

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