It wasn’t my original intention to write about my Alaskan adventure in a series. But as I reviewed my photos and videos, I realized that I couldn’t do justice to the places I went and things I saw by trying to squeeze them into one post.
Through the process of writing each blog entry I’m discovering photos that I don’t remember taking and seeing new details in the photos I remember taking. One of the things I do when I travel is take a photo and then get back into the moment in real life. When I enjoy these moments with my loved ones, it enhances each travel experience and my take away is vivid memories and sharp images.
Join me as I explore Alaska’s capital and its southernmost entrance to the Inside Passage.
Alaska’s Whales & Glaciers Photo Safari
Our day in Juneau started very early. The Wonder arrived at port at 6:45 a.m. Our excursion was scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. By nature, I am not a morning person. When I’m on vacation, I make exceptions.
Temperatures were in the lower-40s and I dressed in layers because the weather could change at any time. The slow shift to colder temperatures at Dawes Glacier along Endicott Arm taught me that if we were going to be around another glacier, I would need to be prepared.
One thing that drew me to this excursion was the opportunity to learn more about how I could use my photos to tell the story of my visit to Juneau. Our guide from Gastineau Guiding was named Jim, and as we drove away from the ship, he showed us the eye-popping photos he had taken and gave us tips on how to take photos that focus on the subject. It was evident that Jim had a passion for photography and the city he called home.
Tongass National Forest
From the moment we entered the rainforest, I was struck by the natural beauty of the area. I took my first photo and kept snapping with Jim’s tips running through my mind.
Our hike took us past rushing rivers and waterfalls. Jim explained how to spot evidence that bear cubs were nearby by looking for scat (poop) at the base of trees where the cubs play and wait for the female to come back with food. We stopped at a sign that showed evidence that a bear had previously used it as a scratching post.
I enjoyed learning about Mendenhall Glacier and the way it moved through Tongass National Forest. Since the 1900s, ice markers have been a part of recording the movement of the glacier through the Tongass. Jim stopped at an ice marker and asked for a volunteer with an iPhone. I happily volunteered and he used my camera to show how a picture can tell a story of the past and the present in one shot.
As I predicted, it started to get colder as we approached the glacier. Even though it was a bit of an overcast day, a clear view of Mendenhall Glacier greeted us when we rounded the bend. It felt like I was looking at a tropical island view and a frozen tundra all in one setting. It was nothing short of amazing. I told myself that if I ever had the opportunity to return to Juneau, I would visit Tongass National Forest again, take a longer hike, and get closer to the waterfall that I was viewing from a distance.
We boarded the bus and took a short drive to Auke Bay, the place where we were going to begin the whale watching portion of the photo safari. Gastineau Guiding is a local company that specializes in small group tours, and it was nice to be on a small vessel that was not overcrowded. Everyone had a window seat and had a perfect view of the bay.
Our vessel skimmed along the water, and anytime it paused for wildlife, we were permitted to go out onto the bow. Captain Kellie asked us to keep our eyes peeled for whales, and I captured these shots during our search.
It wasn’t long before one of the youngest members of our party spotted whales, and not just any whales. This youngster spotted an orca pod. Our vessel slowed and I left my seat to go back out onto the bow.
I left with the feeling that I enjoyed a successful whale watching excursion.
Would I have liked to see humpback whales? Yes!
Did I see whales? Yes!
Could I return to Juneau and join another excursion to look for humpbacks? Definitely!
Duck Boat Tour
The final port along Alaska’s Inside Passage on our cruise was Ketchikan. I was able to enjoy the morning at leisure because the Wonder didn’t dock until 11:00 a.m. The excursion we chose for this port began at noon.
My kinda morning!
I looked out onto the port from the top deck of the Disney Wonder and was captured by the charm of Ketchikan Harbor.
In my travels I attempt to seek different experiences, and one thing I have always wanted to try as a family was a duck boat tour. This tour fit my preset excursion budget and was something that everyone in my family was interested in doing.
The duck boat was a few short steps away from the dock and we boarded with the help of a small set of steps. As we rode through the city, our tour guide told us about the history of Ketchikan, and before we knew it we stopped for the captain to convert the boat, and we were out on the harbor.
This was a very relaxing tour, and it was a beautiful, sunny day to be out on the water. Our captain and tour guide both commented on the unusual weather, as June days in Ketchikan usually bring rain. The boat circled around and we headed back to the ship.
We had the most beautiful dinner at sunset while the Wonder was still at port in Ketchikan. If you haven’t read, “Palo and Parents on the Disney Wonder” this would be a great time to find out about my culinary experience.
After the Adventure
The experiences I had with my family in Alaska were incredible and unforgettable. Each excursion inspired me to learn more about the state of Alaska and the culture of each city. I can see my family and I taking another Alaskan cruise in the future, and would love to sail the 9-day itinerary.
There was one day left to enjoy the Disney Wonder, and it was a sea day that would take us back to Vancouver. A vacation experience like this deserves to be shared, and I hope you enjoyed taking the journey with me!