Sailed into Juneau around 5.30am this morning. It is Alaska's capital although their Congress building just looks like a large office block , awarded the least impressive looking legislature building in America! It was described to us as being this way so it doesn't detract from the local beauty of the environment. The population is around 30000 people living mainly in the valleys. Juneau was founded in 1870 . It grew to be one of the hubs of large scale mining and reached peak production in 1915.
We visited Tongass National Park which is the largest temperate rainforest in North America. It covers nearly 17 million acres. Hiking through the park we learned about the retreat of Medenhall Glacier and the biodiversity within the area. After a glacier retreats moss arrives within 10 years, then alder and spruce (the Alaskan state tree) and then Western Hemlock. We saw Eagles soaring as they watch the streams for salmon. Stacy our guide is a Visual Arts major and taught us about our cameras and photography whilst we hiked.
We hiked into the Mendenhall Valley viewing Steep Creek where Salmon spawn. We were reminded constantly why we must have food with us - the bears will start to look for Salmon shortly and hikers make good alternatives!
The East Glacier Loop Trail took us past waterfalls and we hiked the Time Trail where we examined the markers identifying the years of the retreat of the glacier. It is now retreating faster than it has done. Once we got to the Glacier we noted that there were many icebergs in the water. Thus happened yesterday as the Glacier calved.
We left the Tongass and headed off to the marina where Stacy took us aboard a whale watching boat that was specially designed for photography. She explained we will definitely see Humpback Whales but highly unlikely to see Orcas. Much to our delight we did see Orcas. They are amazing creatures of the sea. We also were able to observe Humpback whales and gained an appreciation of their life cycle and migration patterns. When we see them off the coast of Austinmer we will have more appreciation and respect of their behaviors.
We walked around Juneau before boarding the ship.