North To Alaska

We sailed out of Seattle under a cloudless sky, giving us (oh how false) hopes of a sunny voyage northwards. The sea was smooth and expectations were high: off to Alaska for the first time, Shel planning to bag his 50th lifetime state, and me, I wanted to see the truly wild places that I knew lay far north of where I’d been on our continent.

As we lounged on our balconies, drinking rosé in the warm sun, I said, prophetically “We’d better enjoy this bliss while we have it, this may be the last time we see the sun this week.”

So when I awoke the next morning to this fabulous and fleeting sight, I rejoiced in the serendipity that had left the camera within a quick millisecond’s reach of the door, and immortalized the morning sun somewhere off the Queen Charlotte islands. Four minutes later the moment had passed, and the sun has eluded us ever since.

Pulling into Juneau under a bright but cloudy sky, Eric remarked that it looks like a frontier town, which it does, because it is. We bypassed the endless array of tourist shops and headed for the lovely but rapidly receding Mendenhall Glacier.

I should also mention that we bypassed one of the most typical Alaskan means of transportation. Juneau can only be reached by boat or plane, as no roads come here because the city is surrounded by ice fields.

You can get quite close to Mendenhall glacier by bus and on foot, although to walk on the glacier itself you have to arrive by helicopter. Helicopters being on my personal No Fly list, we contented ourselves with the views from the visitors’ center.

Leaving the glacier we headed out to look for humpback whales,

but first we came across this eagle defending his salmon lunch from a variety of other hungry shore birds.

Everyone was out for salmon, and these sea lions seemed especially vicious in their pursuit of the plentiful fish. The sea lions followed the whales, and sea gulls followed the sea lions, often swooping down and ripping bits of salmon right out of their sharp-toothed mouths.

But we were there for the whales, and happily, the whales were there for us. Lots of whales,

really big whales. I wish we’d been in that little boat, although it might have been a bit scary, seeing that huge tail within a simple flick of capsizing the whole shebang.

Although they’re enormous, weighing in at 40-50 tons each, and about 50 feet long, I think the humpbacks have a friendly, engaging look to them.

This one even waved goodbye to us as we headed back to Juneau, on our way to Glacier Bay. Sweet, eh?

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6 Comments on “North To Alaska”

  1. Julie H. Says:

    Whales are wonderful. What an amazing thing to see! And great you are both well enough to have these trips.

  2. Barbara Says:

    I remember so well Mendenhall. But you got much closer than I did to get such wonderful shots of the whales. And the sea lions! But we did see a few cute little otters floating on their backs.

  3. Randy Dudding Says:

    Your pictures are wonderful! I hope we are as fortunate next year to see whales although I know the pictures won’t be as good.
    It’s 5:40 here. I’m going to pretend it’s Happy Hour and have a glass of wine while thinking of you and Shel. (-:

  4. Jen Says:

    Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing we can live vicariously through your amazing photos and words.

  5. Mark Stein Says:


  6. jessica Says:

    I am so jealous of your whale watching experience. When we were in Alaska, we saw about 2 whale tails far, far away. Enjoy this trip and I am excited to enjoy it through you!

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