Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: Alaska (Page 2 of 3)

Whale Watching in Juneau

Whale Watching

After our short time at Mendenhall Glacier, we climbed back on the bus and headed for Auke Bay to catch our whale-watching boat. Once we got to the boat, we sat down on the comfortable, indoor seats as the captain hit the throttle to where the whales hang out.

When booking this trip, I noticed a lot of tour companies advertised that you will get your money back if you don’t see a whale, and now that I’ve been there, I get it. Auke Bay and the Inside Passage is where the humpback whales come in the summer to eat. The naturalist onboard explained that the whales migrate every year from Alaska all the way to Hawaii to mate. But, there is no food for them in Hawaii or along the journey so they have to get all their nutrients for the whole year when they are in Alaska. She estimated there were probably 50 whales in the water around our boat.

Whale tale at the surface

Glimpse of a whale tale

If you haven’t been following along on my journey, I should tell you that we left our camera batteries in Vancouver so all of the photos taken on our whale-watching trip were taken with my phone. While I wish I had awesome whale photos, I have to admit that not having my camera really allowed me to live in the moment and enjoy the experience of whale watching. And honestly, I don’t know if my reflexes would’ve been fast enough to see the first glimpse of a whale and move the camera to the exact spot to capture it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t try again.

We booked this excursion through Alaska Tales on Viator and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a whale-watching excursion in Juneau. We had an all-female crew, which is very uncommon, and the boat was much smaller than some of the other ones we saw in the area. When we saw “whale smoke” (what one of the kids on board called when the whale blows air and water above the surface. I liked the phrase so I adopted it) or a glimpse of a whale, the captain would move the boat closer so we could get a better look at it. Not to mention their price was significantly less than we originally payed through the cruiseline.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week when I detail our experience at the Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Mendenhall Lake

Mendenhall Lake

Exploring Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier from Photo Point

Mendenhall Glacier is a part of the Tongass National Forest in Southeastern Alaska and is located about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. Our Glacier and Whale Watch tour through Alaska Tales, took us first to Mendenhall Glacier before heading to the harbor to catch the whale watching tour.

Mendenhall Glacier is currently 13 miles long and has receded about 1.75 miles since 1929. In 2012, the retreating glacier exposed tree trunks and logs that have been dated to 1,200 and 2,350 years old and are teaching scientists about the ecosystem of Alaska before the glacier formed.

The Visitor Center at Mendenhall Glacier was the first U.S. Forest Service visitor center built in the United States in 1962. Exhibits in the visitor center cover the history of the glacier including what it looked like in 1794 versus today. There are also exhibits about the local wildlife including bears, mountain goats, and salmon.

One of the most popular hikes at Mendenhall Glacier is the Nugget Falls Trail. It is a 2-mile round trip hike from the visitor center and takes you to scenic Nugget Falls. It is a fairly easy, gravel trail and the forest service says the hike takes about an hour on average.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Sign

Unfortunately, our tour only gave us an hour to explore Mendenhall Glacier and we spend about ten minutes waiting for a bus parking spot to open up, so we didn’t have as much time to explore as we were hoping. We’re fast walkers and could probably make it to the falls and back in less than the hour that the forest service says the hike will take, but we didn’t want to miss the bus that was taking us to the boat to go whale watching. So, we ended up doing the 1/3 mile photo point trail instead. This short trail is the perfect spot to capture the glacier.

I wish our tour would have been set up so that we did the whale watching first and then had time to explore the Mendenhall Glacier area. It would’ve been great to just take as much time as wanted and then got on the next bus headed back to town. I guess, that’s why a lot of people rent cars when they’re in Juneau. Then you could spend as much time as you’d like exploring the trails. I guess we’ll just have to make a return trip to Juneau sometime!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Cruise Ship in Juneau

Serenade of the Seas in Juneau

One Day in Juneau, Alaska

Cruise Ship in Juneau

Serenade of the Seas docked in Juneau

After spending the day in Sitka, we woke up the next morning in Juneau, Alaska! Juneau was our longest day; we were in town until 8 pm, so that allowed us to see a lot!

We had originally booked a full-day excursion through Royal Caribbean for our day in Juneau that included whale watching, Mendenhall Glacier, and a salmon bake, but about a week before embarkation, they canceled it. Probably the most frustrating thing about this was that they credited the amount back to our debit card but we were told we wouldn’t have it for 10 days, which was after we boarded the ship. I really don’t understand why with it being so close to sailing, they didn’t just credit our onboard account and allow us to book another excursion through them. Excursions in Alaska are much more expensive than in the Caribbean so we really didn’t want to dish out hundreds of more dollars for something to do this day. We ended up going with a third-party excursion company that I found on Viator that didn’t charge us until 48 hours in advance, by which time we had the refund in our account for the original excursion. It ended up working out because the new excursion I found was $150 per person cheaper than the one through Royal Caribbean.

The excursion we ended up booking was with a small company called Alaska Tales and they offered a tour that took us to Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching. Afterward, we got lunch at the iconic Tracy’s King Crab and we took a ride on the Goldbelt Tram (AKA Mt. Roberts Tramway). Then, we explored the city for a while before heading back to the ship.

Chris was able to pick up the new battery for our camera while we were in Juneau, so pictures from the second half of this day were taken on our Fuji. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do this before our whale watching, which was disappointing, especially because I rented a big telephoto lens to catch some whale action shots. I guess that’s just another reason why we’ll have to make another trip up to Alaska sometime!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I get into the details of our time exploring Mendenhall Glacier! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Totem Pole

Totem Pole Trail

Sitka National Historic Park

Totem Pole Trail

After learning about bears and raptors, we headed to Sitka National Historic Park. The National Park Service Site is located a short walk from the Alaska Raptor Center. The park preserves the site of the battle between the Russian settlers and the native Tlingit people. The park was Federally protected back in 1890 and was the first federally preserved piece of land in Alaska.

Sitka was home to one of the first European settlements in Alaska being settled by Russian fur traders in 1799. In 1802, the native Tlingit destroyed the original settlement killing many of the settlers. In 1804 Russian forces returned and bombarded the Tlingit during a bloody battle that the Tlingit would have won had they not run out of gunpowder. Instead, they were forced to leave the fort under cover of darkness. The park sits on the site of this battle.

Yaadaas Crest Pole

One of the highlights of the park is the mile-long Totem Trail. The park is even known to some as the Totem Park. 18 Tlingit and Haida totems can be found along the trail conveying ancestry, history, folklore, and memorials. There are three main types of totem poles: house posts, which were carved as support poles for a home; frontal poles, which were placed against or near the front of a home; and detached poles which were placed anywere in or near villages. The Yaadaas Crest pole (left) was re-carved in 1982 and the figures on the pole represent the lineage of the family that owned it. The village watchman sits on top to symbolize that the people are being watched over and protected.

The totem pole featured at the top of the page is the K’alyaan Pole which represents the Battle of Sitka. The figure on the bottom of the pole represents the raven helmet of the Tlingit warrior who led the battle. The rest of the pole depicts the clans of the raven moiety. The pole was carved in 1999 and stands on the site of the Kiks.adi fort.

There is much more to see in this 112-acre park than we had time to explore. So, like many of the places we have been lately, Sitka is on our list of places fo us to return.

Thanks for stopping by! To learn more about the Sitka Historic Park and the significance of its Totem Poles, visit NPS.gov. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Totem Park Pin Sitka National Historic Park

Alaska Raptor Center

Quigiq the Snowy Owl

After our time at Fortress of the Bear, we headed to another wildlife rehabilitation center in Sitka, the Alaska Raptor Center. Where Fortress of the Bear takes in orphaned bear cubs, the Raptor Center focuses on rehabilitating birds of prey: eagles, owls, and falcons. Many of the birds in their care eventually are able to be released into the wild, but some have injuries that are too severe and they get to live out their lives in the center, educating guests about these magnificent creatures and the work of the raptor center.

Raptor TalkWe started our visit at a raptor talk where we met Owlison (left), a great horned owl, and Hannah, an avian care specialist. Owlison came to the Raptor Center with a fractured wrist bone and possibly some damage to her wing. Through Owlison’s rehabilitation, she is now capable of flight but not well enough to hunt on her own, so she is now a permanent resident at the Raptor Center.

Volta the Bald EagleAfter the raptor talk, we got to see the Flight Training Center where rehabilitated birds are able to practice flying from perch to perch as they would do in the wild. Rehabilitators watch the birds in the training center to determine if they are able to fly well enough to survive in the wild and be released. When we visited the birds weren’t very active but it was very good to see the steps the experts at the Raptor Center take to make sure the birds will be able to survive on their own once they are well enough to leave the center.

While many of the birds at the Raptor Center have sad stories, it is good to know they have a place to live out the rest of their lives (many of which are longer in captivity than if they were still hunting for themselves in the wild). Volta (right) has one of those sad stories. He was found electrocuted, most likely from stretching his wings between two power lines. His carocoid bone was fractured in his fall and without that, he is not able to take flight.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about their raptors in residence, plan your visit, or donate to their cause, visit AlaskaRaptor.org. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Black Bear

Black Bear

Fortress of the Bear

Black BearWhen planning a visit to Alaska, a bear sighting is usually high on the list of things people want to experience. But, any wildlife sighting is hard to plan, and seeing a bear in the wild can be dangerous. Fortress of the Bear in Sitka, Alaska is a bear rescue that allows visitors to view native brown and black bears from a safe distance while giving orphaned bears a second chance at life.

The state of Alaska has no rehabilitation program for orphaned bears so for years, when a mother bear was killed, fish and game rangers had to kill the cubs because without the mother they would starve to death. One ranger got really sick of having to shoot baby bears, so in 2007, he opened Fortress of the Bear to take in orphaned cubs. Since then, they have sent bears the zoos around the country and is currently home to 7 brown and black bears. Fortress of the Bear is currently working with the state of Alaska to change the law and allow bears to be rehabilitated and released.

I was surprised to learn that the trainers at Fortress of the Bear taught the bears to sign. Just like people have taught monkeys to do, the bears put their paws together in front of their chest to signal they want more food. It was fun to watch the bears at feeding time! You can watch the video above!

Brown BearFortress of the Bear is a nonprofit that does important work in Alaska! The money for their mission comes from admissions and additional donations. If you are in Sitka, I highly recommend a stop. It is not a big place, the hour they gave us on our tour was more than enough time. It was fun to see the bears and it was good knowing the admission supports Alaskan wildlife. If you want to know more about Fortress of the Bear, read about the bears, or donate to their cause, check out fortressofthebear.org.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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