Day 8: Glacier Bay/Juneau
With a half-day remaining in Glacier Bay, today’s plans were dictated by what could be done before our late-afternoon flight back to Juneau. Last night, I checked with the front desk and decided to team up with another lodge guest who wanted to go sea kayaking, but needed a second person to get a rental. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad plotted a hike on the nearby Forest Loop Trail. (We briefly considered a whale-watching tour, but the outfit only offered an afternoon trip and it felt that was cutting it a bit too close for our 4:55PM flight. Oh whale.)
With our plans in motion, we all woke up and ate breakfast at the lodge. At roughly 9AM, I met Renee, my kayaking partner for the day who is from South Africa, lives in New Zealand, works as a software tester and is currently on a six-month vacation around the world. We walked down to the kayak rental office and a staff member got us ready to go.
The kayak rental company provided us all the necessary gear for the half-day kayak rental, including the rain pants, rain jacket, rubber boots, dry bags and, of course, the kayak, paddles, etc. The woman in charge gave us some tips on our planned route and reminded us how the tides would play. Then, she sent us on our way.
I’ve never been sea kayaking before, but Renee is an intermediate kayaker and knows what she’s doing. She kayaks all over the place when she travels, including plans to kayak downtown Manhattan (the Hudson River) in a couple weeks. After seeing how they handle, it is clear that a two-person sea kayak would be really hard to flip. I’d say two-person canoes are way more precarious.
We navigated southwest out of Bartlett Cove and followed the east shore of the Sitakaday Narrows. We approached Point Gustavus, but did not venture beyond into the Icy Strait (which just sounds menacing) where the kayak guide said we’d encounter a confluence of several bodies of water, tides, and other unpredictable things. Plus, it was time to pause for our half-way snack and turn around. I ate a bag of Peanut M&Ms and Renee busted out her GPS notification device to tell her people she was in a boat in the middle of the Sitakaday Narrows in Glacier Bay National Park. Neat-O.
On the way back in, we had better luck seeing wildlife, as a pod of 3 or 4 Harbor Porpoises surfaced near our kayak for a couple minutes. Also, paddling back north into Bartlett Cove was much easier because the tide was rolling in. For the last 45 minutes, we barely needed to dip our oars in the water. We returned to the lodge on schedule at 1PM, docked the kayak and shed our rental clothing.
With a checkout time of 2PM, we packed our bags and killed some time in the lodge before heading to the airport. Renee joined us in the lobby and swapped camping stories with Mom and Dad. We also grabbed a bite to eat. Before long, the shuttle van was ready and we were on the road. Our driver Aaron was losing his mind due to a hectic day, but he dropped us off with plenty of time to spare.
As noted upon our arrival, the Gustavus “airport” is definitely casual. Sometime if you’d like to hear a funny story, ask Mom about the restrooms.
Mom, Dad and I — plus an Air Excursions employee who actually helped check us in two days ago — comprised the four passengers on the flight back to Juneau. This time, our pilot was a young woman named Taylor who looked like she might still be gathering college credits, but flew like a seasoned pro.
Back in cloudy and overcast Juneau, we were prepared for the transportation conundrums that our less-experienced selves faced a couple days ago. This time, rather than walking blindly toward the bus stop (me) or searching high and low for a taxi (parents), we immediately found the elusive wooden bridge thru the tress that marks the most direct path from Juneau Airport to Nugget Mall, the site of the regular service bus pickup on weekdays.
A 30-minute bus ride later, we arrived steps from the front door of the ‘ol Westmark Baranof. Upon check-in, we were assigned a different room. Bad news is that it didn’t have nearly as cool a view as our front-facing room earlier in the week. Good news is that I got a real bed rather than a roll-away cot. I’ll take that trade, especially since it’s only for one night.
After passing on a Filipino Chicken place, dinner ended up being a delicious salmon meal at the Twisted Fish. Then I found a place selling ice cream sandwiches for a buck. It took four days, but I finally found the best value in the city. With nothing left to do in Alaska’s capital city, we returned to the hotel and retired for the night.