Juneau is a small, compact city you can get around in without the use of a car. I did not realize this until after I had picked up a rental car. All we used that car for was to drive the ten miles to and from the airport. We parked it for the duration of our visit. Juneau is a port city and one expects to that being reflected in the city. What I did not expect was to turn a corner downtown and be startled by the sight of a very big cruise vessel looming over the street. This is very convenient for the passengers because they are in downtown Juneau when they disembark; for others not so fortunate. They must be shuttled ashore by boat. Our stay in Juneau was pleasant and I have fond memories of salmon cooked over a open fire, king crab legs, Alaska brewed beer, and the Alaska State Museum. On our first trip to Alaska we flew Alaska Airlines from Juneau to Glacier Bay where we had booked a multiple night stay at the Gustavius Inn. The flight to the air strip at Glacier bay was fifteen minutes long. Barely time to retract the landing gear! Yes, this was in a Boeing 727 airplane. The airstrip was a former WW II air strip used by the USAAF for practice landings. It was pretty rustic. The only building was a log house the airline used as terminal and the baggage facility was small wooden structure near this ‘terminal’. The baggage handler placed the baggage at the top of sloped ramp on one side of the structure, the baggage slid down the slope to the other side and there the passengers retrieved their luggage. Simple and effective!
On our second trip to Alaska, Patty and I elected to fly from Juneau using a local flying service. A small plane seemed to be more appropriate given the short trip to Glacier bay. The flight, short as it was, would be more scenic. It turned out the flight was scenic and a bit more exciting than the Alaska 727 we flew on our first trip to Alaska. Our pilot and tour-guide also met us on the tarmac at the Juneau airport. We did all of the usual things prior to takeoff and we were soon on our way to Glacier Bay. Our pilot told us we were fortunate that day because he had to take a longer route as he had to pick up a passenger at a fish cannery. He also told told us to be on the lookout for bears. He had recently spotted several on this route. We headed out over the water and in a few minutes we were over land again. We flew up a heavaly wooded valley and Patty and I looked for bears. Suddenly, with warning, he did a wing over and then went into a descending spiral while reving up the engine to make noise. He then explained that was the way he signaled someone at the cannery to turn on the red light by the side of the road that indicated this section of road was now a runway for airplanes to land on and no longer a road. I got a good look at the ‘runway’ and it did not appear to afford much width on which to land. Fortunately I was wrong. He landed without any fuss and he taxied to the place where a man with his belongings was waiting. In a short while, with the new passenger on board, we were ready to take off. He made what I perceived as a warning radio call to other aircraft that he was about to take off. He did and we arrived at Glacier Bay without anymore surprises and that was that for flying that day. We loaded into the Gustavus Inn van and we were soon on our way to renewing our acquaintance with Dave, our host at the Inn. Most of our time at the Inn was spent renewing our energy, otherwise known as log naps. We did this while resting a lot, eating a lot, went on a day long boat ride, and conversed a lot with our fellow guests. At our request, Dave put us into a room located in the Original Inn building. We stayed there because the furniture was original as well as was the huge porcelain bathtub that had the old style feet on which the tub rested. The only way to cool the rooms was by opening windows. We loved it. One morning I went with Dave to the local wharf where he pulled a wirenet cage that was full of live crabs fresh caught out of the local waters. It turns out that he has an agreement with a local crab fisherman to take as many of the crabs as he needs for his guests. Dave had apparently had cleaned crabs many times before as he quickly cleaned them. We had his delicious crab cakes for lunch. While I am on the subject of food, I want to tell you that during our stay we had some of the best salads that I have ever eaten. All of the vegetables and greens he used at the Inn came from the garden he maintained at the Inn. We even ate flowers from the garden in our salads. All of the seafood was caught locally. We feasted on sushi made with fresh caught local Halibut. We were pig- heaven as far as food was concerned.
While at the Inn, Patty and I went on an all day boat excursion to the end of Glacier Bay. This trip was particularly interesting to me because of the history of the Bay. The English explorer, Captain Cook, on his exploratory voyage along the western coastline of North America, discovered what he named Glacier Bay. At the time of his discovery of the bay, the bay was entirely filled with ice and he was denied any knowledge of the true extent of the bay. In the three hundred years since the discovery of the bay, the glacial ice has retreated one hundred miles, exposing the entire bay. This gives persons interested in glaciology, such as myself, the opportunity to trace the various effects that three hundred years of glacial retreat of has had on the the bay environment. On another trip to Alaska, I had the opportunity to do much the same thing when I walked the entire five mile length of the Kanakula glacier traveling over the many kinds of terrains that comprise the area surrounding Denali. When you travel the length of Glacier Bay, as we did, you can observe the gradual changes the glaciers made to the land forms and that which grows there. Three hundred years ago, at the place where your excursion begins, the land was covered by active glaciers. Today one sees an old rainforest and vast areas covered with trees with no year round ice. As your travel to the end of the bay, you see landforms and vegetation for which the time since the glaciers occupied that place is less and less as you go further toward the end of the bay. You can see the changes to the land that has occurred since the glaciers were last at that place. For a person interested in glaciers, the trip can be very educational, but for everyone there is a lot to experience. Breaching whales, pods of killer whales, seals and walruses basking on the rocks, the islands covered with seabirds, and sea itself, all present a very lively show to the visitor.
Let me close by saying that Patty was the love of my life. She was the person with whom I spent 66 years of my life and I miss her presence in my life now more than I can ever adequately express. It has been four years since she passed away and the anniversary of her birth is only a few days hence; she would have been eighty eight years old.