Glaciers! Frozen tundra! Bears! Leaping salmon! Dog sled rides! What calls you to this beautiful place? Although some would disagree with me, the best way to see the glaciers of Alaska is by cruise ship! If you’re thinking about it, I have great information to share with you.
Though there are many glaciers in this huge state, there are two main glacier sites you’ll want to see.
Hubbard Glacier is the largest, ice blue in color, and still growing. It’s what you imagine when someone says “glacier”. What I didn’t’ expect when I saw it was seals playfully sliding on and off all the ice floes in the water! “Whales on the port side”, the captain shouted, and in response, 1000 people dashed to the left. “Dolphins on the starboard side” and everyone scurried to the right! Just like in the movies!!
Glacier Bay is the other significant glacier field. Rivers of ice flow slowly down the rivers named for colleges into the bay which is a National Park. Because these are slow moving, the ice picks up dirt, sticks and stones and appear brown in color. These glaciers are smaller but majestic if not for their numbers alone! Only Princess Cruise Line and Holland America, because of their seniority in Alaska, have the privilege of cruising Glacier Bay. And Princess is the only cruise line that goes to both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay on one seven-day cruise. If I were going up there again, that’s the cruise I’d take! (not a commercial, simply the truth.)
In Juneau, the water-locked capital, there are several things to do. Take a helicopter ride to the top of Mendenhall Glacier. They provide raincoats, hats and boots with grips on the bottom for walking on the ice! You cannot possibly imagine the heavenly blue color of melted water on top of the glacier!! It’s one of those lifetime memories. Watch out for crevasses! For those so inclined, you can add a dog sled ride to this tour. Mush, you huskies! Or you can shop!! The shopping area is only 1-2 blocks long and is filled with unusual treasures. At the end of the block, you’ll hear the riotous sounds coming from the Red Dog Saloon! Enter at once and get heckled by the piano player leading the crowd in fun. Grab a seat quickly so you can join in the exuberance when the next innocents stroll thru the door!
Ketchikan looks like a movie set as you approach. I wanted to peek around the back to see if the facades were real! You can buy little souvenirs everywhere and might just come face to face with a wolf pelt hanging over a door!! Eeek! But those beautiful, blue eyes were mesmerizing. I almost talked myself into bringing him home with me! Maybe you will succumb!
Skagway is fabulous. Its a must to ride the White Pass Railway, a narrated tour of the gold rush aboard a fabulous train. Your chin will hang down as you listen to the hardships endured. In the train, you can adjust your warmth by how close you sit to the pot belly stove in each car. And I suggest you bring your own granola or power bars. The trip is 4 hours long and they only serve candy.
When should you go? The peak season is from July 1 – August 15 because its the warmest, going into the 70’s during the day. It can drop into the 40’s at night so dress in layers. This is also the wettest season with short bouts of rain every day. Take a fleece lined raincoat with a hood and wear t-shirts, long sleeved t-shirts and a sweater or sweatshirt underneath. You’re set! Take a backpack to put layers into as you peel them off. Rain brings the mosquitos (the size of baseballs) so pack your Avon Skin So Soft and you’re set!
And if seeing bears is what you want, the salmon don’t run til July 15 and you’ll see plenty of bears after that date. When you ride the train back to Anchorage, get coffee and sit on the top deck of the dining car. Do this immediately upon boarding because there are only a few small booths and tables up there. Take your binoculars. The views are stupendous.
Have you been to the Last Frontier? When are you going?
Photo credits: usnews.com, pinterest.com, dixiedelightsonline.com, meetingsyukon.com, telegraph.co.uk, travel-british-columbia.com, princesslodges.com, adn.com, brittanica.com