Before we got to Ketchikan, we read that it rains there 340 days a year, and that generally speaking if you are in Ketchikan for more than an hour it will have rained. Our weather luck reigned once again as we walked around the town for about 3 hours and it didn’t rain! This was sadly another ‘cruise-ship’ town though, very disappointing that the Alaskan cruise stops are so un-authentic with rubbishy tourist shops. The scenery has been absolutely amazing on this cruise, and for that it has been definitely worth it – Glacier Bay was so stunning and we could never have seen that if it weren’t for the ship, but the ports have been very made-for-tourist type stops which has been a shame. The towns used to be pretty little towns but now they have basically sold their souls to the tourist industry (excepting Sitka to some extent) which we were quite shocked to see. Again though, the fantastic scenery along the way has more than made up for this.
While in Ketchikan we walked around the original Creek Street (above), where the Salmon swim upstream to spawn in summer, went up to the waterfalls and then bypassed all the shops as quickly as possible! Back on the ship we had a Dutch chocolate night which consisted of over 100 chocolate dishes – impressive to see, yummy to eat, and gross to watch all the morbidly obese Americans eat plate after plate of.
Sitka was a pretty town, set in an archipelago surrounded by snow capped mountains, and with Russian architecture around the town it was quite different to anywhere else we had seen. We walked around to the Totem pole park and stayed there for a couple of hours, and wandered around the town and found an American Indian mask that we liked and so bought. A fairly lazy day in this quaint little town.
The day after Glacier Bay our ship stopped at Juneau. The town itself was very disappointing, a ‘made for cruise-ship’ town it was just tourist shops, very different from our last cruise. Anyway, we didn’t come here for the town, we came here to hike the West Glacier Trail. After talking to the information centre, we were told that the West Glacier trail was still mostly snow and ice, and that it wouldn’t be safe for us to do that until there was a lot more melt. So we settled on doing the Mt Roberts trail, which turned out to be fantastic. We were surprised, though, when the trail turned to snow and then soon we were in a forest with no track, only heavy snow which we were sometimes sinking up to our thighs with each step. We were really grateful that another couple from Alabama were walking the trail as well, so once there was no trail we stuck together, thinking that at least in the worst case scenario we could just go back down to the start and not complete the trail. After around half an hour of walking in the snow a local guy speedily passed us, we laughed and said to him that he’d obviously walked in snow before as we were all sliding around and each 100m sometimes was taking minutes just because we couldn’t get footing. It turned out to be very lucky that the local passed us, as then we could follow his footprints, and all 4 of us are pretty sure we wouldn’t have found the top if it wasn’t for that. Anyway about an hour later we reached the top, and were instantly pleased that we’d chosen this trail for two reasons; it is the top of the Mt Roberts Tramway, which meant that we could both get the chairlift back down the mountain, and also that there was food and drink at the top. Many drinks later we jumped on the tramway and returned to our ship. Our photos are here.
Our day spent cruising Glacier Bay was the most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, amazing day we have had. Nothing compares to this scenery, and even though the Rockies were utterly mind blowing, Glacier Bay takes first place for natural beauty. (The Rockies are definitely a close second). We spent the whole day from about 6.30am to 8pm out on our balcony, it was simply fantastic.
Almost the whole day was perfect clear blue skies and still water with either reflections of the mountains, lots of ice, or a mixture of both.
We spent a couple of hours floating about 100m away from the Grand Pacific and Margaret glaciers (which used to be separate but are advancing and are now joined at the face). The face of the glaciers is 22 stories high, humbling when you’re right next to it! We spent the time here watching the glaciers ‘calve’ over and over again – the perfect day, and time of day to see this as it was sunny all day and we were there from about 5-7pm so after all the warm sun we saw the glacier calve around 20 times. The following video is of a piece around 5 stories high falling into the water below. Our photos are here. Our video is here.