I’m starting to feel like a bit of a broken record, but my sister and I agreed that every day gets better and better. Like Alsaka just knows that the farther north you go, the more impressive things get. Maybe it was because we had our first full day of sunshine because despite us both having really bad headaches throughout the day, this capital city didn’t fail to impress.
So…this place was pretty spectacular. Only 11 miles from downtown Juneau, it was easy to get to. From Nugget Falls, to the many walking paths and streams, to Mendenhall Lake and the glacier itself, to the ice bergs, there are some insanely epically gorgeous views to soak in. The blue in the glaciers are astounding.
Plus, the museum is really informative, and you can learn a lot about the history and the future of the area.
They. Are. EVERYWHERE. Here. I was saying to my sister that I’m a bit jealous that seeing them is normal, everyday part of Alaskan life. It’s a major feat (and bragging right) to see them back home. Thanks to the tips of Milos, the on onboard naturalist, he offered some tips on how to easily spot them:
- They’re often perched on points, typically on tall, dead trees because it provides unobstructed views of their surroundings.
- Once you find said trees, look for the white “golf balls.” Those are the heads of the Eagles.
Seriously, once you learn those two tips, spotting them is really easy.
On top of Mount Robert, we met Lady Baltimore, a bald eagle who was found in 2006 with a gunshot wound that went through her beak. She’s blind in one eye and her right wing was badly injured as a result. The injuries have impacted her ability to stop, so she can no longer hunt and can’t be released to the wild. Regardless, she was a beauty and it was incredible to see one up close.
Mount Robert and Tlingit culture
A short tram ride up the mountain offered more gorgeous views of Juneau, Douglas Island, and Gastineau Channel. We walked around quite a bit, but opted not to walk all the way down to the city center because we both had strong headaches and were pooped from walking around at Mendenhall Glacier.
The visitor’s center had a great movie about the local Tlingit Tribe. There are two clans within the tribe: Eagles and the Ravens. Like all Native American cultures, it’s matriarchal, meaning, whatever your mother is determines what you’ll be. The rule is that an Eagle can only marry a Raven; a Raven cannot marry another Raven. Tlingit captured a lot of their history through art, from totem poles, to woven robes, to weaponry. The movie was really done, but was a sad reminder of our country’s history and things the
It seems to be no coincidence that you see both birds (Ravens and Eagles) in the wild everywhere here (a Raven joined us for breakfast on our ship this morning!). The smart Ravens and majestic Eagles really do add to everything going on here.
Alaska’s total population is less than 500,000, so given the sheer massive size of the state and the very small number of people who occupy it, I get how so many of us who live away from where the change is happening can get complacent and doubt things. But when you see and learn about what’s happening up here, it’s amazing to me that people can deny climate change. In just 1935, Mendenhall Glacier reached a mile longer than it does today. There was no lake that we walked around today. Gastineau Channel gets shallower and shallower each year.
The science guys, you know, the guys who went to school to study this stuff, all explain and offer proof that it’s really, truly happening. Yet people deny the facts. It does our world no good.