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Week 4 – Juneau, Alaska

The ferry to Juneau was beautiful with great food. We had a wonderful stay in Juneau, the best campground so far – Glacier Nalu.  It was woody and private and far enough off the road to think that we were actually camping and not stopping on the side of the road as was the case for most of our trip north to Skagway.

I have yet to find a properly cooked piece of halibut, but I keep trying.  The weather has been amazing, so we keep trying to find places with outdoor seating so we can take the dogs.  There are at least 6 terminals for the cruise ships, so when they’re all in town, ‘little San Francisco’, they call it, is jam packed, and it’s hard for us to walk the dogs there.  As was the case in Skagway, we were stopped constantly by people asking to pet our dogs as theirs was home.

Our first lunch was at the end of the wharf of the 2 closest cruise ship terminals at Twisted Fish.  They did a good job, and we were able to sit outside with the dogs and then take a walk through the town – slowly, oh so slowly.

We ultimately found a lovely trail around half of Auke Lake (pronounced owk). It was through the woods along the lake and populated enough that we didn’t anticipate any wildlife coming to visit.  But still, we were nervous the whole time walking the trail.

The pollen is ridiculous to say the least.  Lifelong Juneau residents say they’ve never seen anything like it.  We hosed down the Jeep only to have it covered in pollen again within an hour.    We’ll probably be coming home pretty darn dirty, and our new Jeep will warrant a nice detailing inside and out.

We were able to make a stop at the Juneau Elks Lodge. They’re open Sunday early. However, there was no one there because 70+ degree weather takes all of these sun-starved residents directly out to the sun. But at least we were able to make a pitstop.

Speaking of dirt, they are super start. The dog hair is beyond belief.  Virtually every day, we can pick up 3+ cups of hair.  I have a special comb in the RV to alleviate that but have yet to use it.  They’re happy to be out and with us, and they did really great on the 12-hour ferry ride into Juneau.

We chartered a 6-hour fishing trip with 49th Fathom, an all woman organization out of Auke Bay near the ferry terminal.  We got there at 7:15am to find that the other 2 people signed up had canceled without paying the crew.  Simply not right, but Captain Shelby says that no shows are few and far between.  Shelby and Megan were our crew.  Shelby tells us that they work almost every day during the warm season – last year was 49 days with 1 day off and then another 37.  Shelby works for the Alaska Marine Exchange in the winter, so she was quite familiar with Matson and their whereabouts in Alaska.  (Dave is 4 years retired from Matson, just before they made their Alaska shipping line acquisition.)

It was a picture perfect day on Memorial Day, with the temperature reaching 73 degrees in the afternoon.  We started out and headed about 20 minutes to Capt. Shelby’s favorite spot for rock fishing.  I do believe that rockfish are so much more tender and easier to cook right than halibut.  Capt. Shelby has a fish finder, so we were able to hone in on paradise quite quickly.  The boat would drift and we would pull up our lines and head back to the 70’ space and drop our lines again.  Within an hour, we were able to catch our limit – 5 each, and Dave caught a Pacific Cod that didn’t have a limit.  We chose to get all of the fish processed to be sent to us when we get back home.  They do such a great job vacuum sealing the fish, they will last for up to 2 years.  But, I have hungry neighbors, and I anticipate a fish taco party in my near future.

We picked up from there and headed north in an inlet to hopefully see some whales and then further north for halibut.  We were just ready to give up when a calf, aka baby whale, breached.  OK, super cool!  BUT, the dude breached 12 more times in a row.  It was happy playing while Mama swam alongside, slapping her dorsal in delight.  Even Mama breached once.  It was truly a thrill.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get a good photo to share. Whales come to Alaska in the summer to feed.  They consume 1.5 million pounds of food per day!

We headed north, but they’ve told us even when reserving fish charters that halibut are few and far between, and our experience was exactly that – no go for halibut.  And it was quite a lot of work for us, having to haul up 300+’ of line 4 times as we tried to fight the current down below.  Arms are a little sore today!  We’ll try again on 5/30 in Ketchikan.

Finally we sailed around a small island, just outside of the wharf where the C-Shel is docked.  Capt. Shelby normally uses beef fat for this exercise, but the store was out, so she opted for turkey bacon only to learn that it doesn’t float as well.  We came to a stall, and there on the coastline, we observed 3 bald eagles.  They were hesitant at first, but after a few tosses into the water, they began swooping down to pick the bacon bits up with their ginormous talons.  They are a site to behold.  They looked far smaller at the coastline than their actual 5-6’ wingspan close up.

Some people object to feeding the eagles in such a way, but Capt. Shelby explained that, with the 3-year shortage of salmon and a long drought, causing constant delays in opening the season, the eagles are starved for food, and Shelby sees it as a thoughtful way to care for them.  It was remarkable indeed.

So we were 3 out of 4 on our fabulous day of fishing.  We tried going back into town for some fish tacos at the recommended Deckhand Dave’s but Memorial Day was an absolutely madhouse downtown.  We couldn’t find parking, and it took forever to get through just 15 blocks of town.  So we opted for a Safeway chicken with salad back at the RV, watched a little of the French Open, and hit the pad early for our 3:45am checkin in today.

Mendenhall Glacier one more time

It’s 9 hours from Juneau to Sitka with one deck visit to hopefully let the dogs do their business.  No luck.  It is an absolutely beautiful ride down through some narrow channels to Sitka, where we have a 3-hour layover, just long enough to get the dogs their dinner and take a good walk through Sitka before departing for Wrangell which is another 12 hours.  All in all, it’s 34 hours from Juneau to Ketchikan, not that many miles, but the narrow channels make for slow going.

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  1. Cindy Culcasi

    Another great blog!! Thank you. Sal and I recognize some of the sights from our Alaska Cruise a couple of years back. Pet the pups for us.

    • Donna Riley

      Thank you, Cindy!! Really appreciate it! Wifi has been so suspect our entire trip, so I’m now sitting in a bar with an outside area for my dogs to put the next post up. Crazy!!

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