Day 6: Juneau/Glacier Bay
Today we woke with our bags packed and ready to roll for a quick walk to the bus terminal located a few blocks from the hotel. You can tell Juneau is a cruise ship town (where your stuff stays on the boats) because the cracks in the sidewalk pavement make obnoxious clicking noises when rolling luggage is pulled over them. Like driving I-90 across South Dakota.
On the way to the bus station, we picked up some breakfast sandwiches from Subway. I noticed the $5 footlong does not make an appearance in these parts. So for the residents of Juneau, the bad news is that a footlong costs an extra two bucks. Good news is they probably don’t have a $7 footlong jingle burned into their subconscious.
The express bus arrived as expected at 8:15AM and we stepped off at the Juneau airport about 15-20 minutes later. Checking in for our Air Excursions flight was a breeze. No security screening or take-off-your-shoes nonsense. Good stuff. Maybe because the three of us comprised 60 percent of the passenger manifest for our flight? Or because an “air taxi” service such as this can be more relaxed? Anyhow, the friendly gate agent weighed our bags and we chilled in the gate area until it was time to leave.
We walked across the tarmac to board the plane. There was a back door on the left side the aircraft that our two fellow passengers used, but Mom, Dad and I entered using a front door on the right side of the plane above the wing. As the last one in, I lucked out and was seated in the co-pilot seat next to Logan — our pilot from Mississippi with the accent to prove it. I shut the door, Logan fired up the single-prop engine, and minutes later, we took off.
Apparently, the route from Juneau to Gustavus features something of a “short cut” thru a mountain pass that can be navigated if the weather is clear. Logan gave us a heads up on this possibility (as he found previous passengers tend to get nervous when they think he’s about to fly into the face of a mountain), but it turned out some clouds rolled in so we took the safe route around the peaks instead.
The landing at Gustavus was smooth sailing. Calling the place an airport would be generous… is is an airstrip with a couple offices housed in nearby trailers. We crawled out of the plane and all that separated us from our shuttle bus was a chain link fence. A second plane arrived minutes later with our bags.
Our van driver to Glacier Bay Lodge was a personable, yet low-key guy named Aaron. He pointed out THE town intersection, THE town gas station and THE town liquor store along the way. Like most of the employees at the Lodge, he is a seasonal hire who is just getting started (the Lodge opened up for the summer less than a week ago) and will work until the tourism season ends in September.
After checking in to our cabin-style accommodations and eating lunch at the Lodge, we set out for an afternoon hike on the Bartlett River Trail. The trail heads north along an intertidal lagoon, then winds thru a spruce and hemlock forest, and emerges along the Bartlett River estuary. Unlike one dude we saw hiking the trail barefoot, we all opted to wear our shoes.
Near the end of the trail — once it emerged along the Bartlett River — we started to see some wildlife. First, we saw several different birds, including an eagle. Then, we spotted a black bear in the woods about 20 yards to our right (but he or she was sufficiently obscured by trees and brush to get a good photo, and he wandered off deeper into the woods soon after our encounter). Last, Mom found a river otter (we think) catching fish, taking them to the shore of the river and munching on them.
When we had our fill of wildlife, we turned around and headed back two miles on the trail.
Upon our return, we ate a tasty roasted chicken dinner at the Lodge. Knowing that tomorrow calls for an early get-up, Mom and Dad retired for the evening and I took care of some blogging in the lounge area. I finished up around 11:30PM, but talked to the security guard for another 30 minutes before shutting it down. Hey, I wasn’t sure if he’d have anybody else to talk to for a couple hours!