Alaska’s Auke Bay – Yukon Wonderland

Downtown Juneau

Downtown Juneau

While sailing aboard the Disney Wonder along the northwestern shoreline, we enjoyed a magical day in Juneau Alaska. Juneau is the capital city of Alaska since 1906 and the second largest city in the U.S. by area.  Located on the Gastineau Channel in the Alaskan panhandle, at the foot of Mount Juneau, more than 32,000 people make their year-round residence in this Yukon town.

Looking north up S Franklin St., Juneau, AK

Tourism is a major industry for Juneau. Several cruise ships dock there on the channel.  Many thrilling attractions are provided for tourists, including shopping for locally made trinkets.Mount Roberts Tramway

Mount Roberts Tramway departs from South Franklin Street close to downtown Juneau, from directly across the cruise ship piers. It transports excited passengers up the mountain for a picturesque view of Juneau and the cruise ship terminal.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier is a popular attraction in Juneau.

Alaskan Cruise Whale Watching in Stephens Passage

Whale Watching in Stevens Passage

Whale watching is also a favorite attraction. For our shore tour we enjoyed a thrilling afternoon aboard a narrated flat-bottom boat as our captain sailed us along Stevens Passage and into Auke Bay.

Auke Bay Alaska -2

Auke Bay

The scenery was dream-like, the vastness—incredible.  As our captain narrated it was difficult to comprehend how the shoreline and mountains could be so… far away. Many miles.

Whales in Auke Bay

There were numerous whale watching boats afloat on Auke Bay. The captains kept in contact by radio. When a humpback fluke was spotted, the captain reported the location and many other captains followed quickly with their tourists.

Whale Fluke in Auke Bay

Our captain received many reports then speeded across the enormous bay to give us the most opportunities for humpback sightings. We thought he did as excellent job as we saw numerous whales fluking, swimming, and puffs. From a distance, they look like logs floating on the water until the waterspouts. When they dive deep, that’s when they fluke.

Eagles in Auke Bay

On this tour, our captain also gave us numerous opportunities to observe eagles both nesting and soaring freely in the vast skies overhead.

We also saw countless sea otters in their communities. They are very social animals and cuddly, not to mention adorable.

Alaskan Seal

Along the waters, we also saw harbor seals, but many more sunbathing on the shore.

Our captain went above and beyond to make sure we saw the wildlife promised on this tour. And did we see humpback whales? We saw a lot of whales.

On the long, picturesque boat ride back to Juneau, he mentioned that under the surface of Auke Bay was mountainous just like above the lake.  That never occurred to me.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

We also sailed past the entrance of Glacier Bay both, going to Auke Bay and returning. Having spent a day inside Glacier Bay a few years previous, also on the Disney Wonder, we were fine with only a view of the entrance.

Our day visiting Auke Bay was one of the most memorial days in the Alaskan Yukon we’ve ever had. The scenery was so amazing it was dream-like. It was like being in another world, a place untamed, untouched by people.

Mendenhall Glacier-2

Mendenhall Glacier

 

Humpback Jumping close to boat

There were several times when the Humpback Whales rolled so close to the boat we could almost touch them.

Humpback Whales in Juneau

The next time we vacation in Alaska and visit Juneau, Auke Bay will be must see, again for more whale watching.

Auke-Bay-Alaska.10

Thanks for stopping by.

J.A. Ireland

The Untamed, Majestic Beauty Of Sitka Alaska

Mount Edgecumbe Sitka, Alaska

Mount Edgecumbe, Sitka, Alaska

Alaska is an untamed land of wonder like none other. A world of its own. A must see for nature loving travelers.

One of the many unique attractions in Sitka Alaska  is the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest. The tour offers a wonderful opportunity to see Alaskan Wildlife up close as well as picturesque scenery, like Mount Edgecumbe, a real volcano.

Our boat captain sailed the open-air vessel through the inlets and waterways of Sitka while showing us the exciting wildlife. There were Alaskan naturalists aboard who kept us informed of what we would see coming around every bend.

On this shore excursion, people are guaranteed to see a sea otter, harbor seal, or whale. Our captain went out of his way to make sure we saw Humpback Whales. He made an extra effort for us to have a fantastic time.

Bald eagles
Numerous bald eagle sightings thanks to the captain. We saw soaring eagles and their nests high in the treetops.

Sea otters
We saw adorable Sea Otters. Lots of them. They seemed very affectionate with one another. Kept in groups.

Harbor Seals-2

We also saw Harbor Seals on the rocky shores.

The captain made sure we saw more than half of dozen humpback whales. He kept in constant contact with other whaleboat captains so he would know where the whales were fluking. Then he drove the boat quickly to that area of the water. Whale fluke

Humpback Whale Fluke

He waited for us in one place for everyone to get one final picture of a whale’s tail fluke. What a guy!

Our adventure in Sitka Alaska on the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest was memorable. A day of nature and whale watching.  Amazing and beautiful.

Earlier that day, when sailing into port, we noticed the Russian inspired, onion dome roof buildings, including the famous St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church.

Also part of our day in Sitka, we spent walking the downtown area, going through  St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church with its onion dome roof.

St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Church, Sitka, Alaska.

St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church

The Native Indian and Russian-American cultural influences were impressive.

 

Next, as a compliment, we saw the Tlingit Indian totem poles in the park and a harbor of fishing boats. This scene was set against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains.

Russian-American Era

“In 1741, the Vitus Berring expedition recorded the location of the Tlingit settlement at Sitka and recognized the value of the location and resources, recording this in their log books. The world of the Tlingit people came to a calamitous turning point in 1799 when the Russians returned, built a fort and trading post, and named the site “New Archangel.” In 1802, the Tlingit destroyed the Russian outpost; however, the Russians returned in 1804 and retaliated by destroying the Tlingit fort in the Battle of Sitka, a site commemorated at the Sitka National Historical Park. Just a few years later, in 1808, Sitka became the capital of Russian-America, a vast territory that extended from Northern Alaska, south to Fort Ross, California.

Sitka was the capital of Russian-America from 1799 until 1867 and during the mid-1840’s Sitka was the leading economic center of the Pacific Rim with the first boatyard, lighthouse, sawmill, iron, brass and bronze foundries, and flourmill. Sitka, with scenic beauty possessed by few world communities, was known as the “Paris of the Pacific” and was the largest European-style settlement on the West Coast of North America.

When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million, the Stars and Stripes were first raised on Castle Hill in downtown Sitka. Sitka was the capital of the Alaska Territory until 1906 when it was moved to Juneau.”

Article retrieved from http://www.sitka.net/sitka/culturehistory.html

Visiting Sitka, we saw both Russian and Tlingit culture and heritage.  There were Native Indian artifacts and dancers, Russian inspired onion dome buildings and churches, and the New Archangel dancers.

Porky’s Prank

In the Port of Sitka, we were told about this local legend known as Porky’s Prank.

On April Fool’s Day in 1974, the residents of Sitka were startled when the dormant volcano, Mount Edgecumbe, started to blow out smoke.  Since Mount Edgecumbe hadn’t erupted in 8,000 years, residents were very concerned. People ran out of their homes to watch the volcano, fearing the dormant volcano was about to erupt.

Mount Edgecumbe Sitka, Alaska

Mount Edgecumbe, Sitka Alaska

It turned out that the incident was not because of the volcano, but because of a local prankster named Porky Bickar.  Porky had thrown hundreds of tires into the volcano’s crater and lit the tires on fire, causing black smoke to pour out of the volcano.  He was trying to convince his fellow villagers that the volcano was on fire.  He also spray painted “April Fools!” in the snow by the fire.  He explained later that he had been planning this event for three years.  It also proved to be an expensive prank for him as the Coast Guard required him to pay for the cleanup.

By the time it was over, the event was worldwide.   Porky will be remembered for ages because of it.

This ranks as one of the greatest April Fools Day Pranks ever.

Whether taking a cruise or visiting Alaska by other means, Sitka Alaska is a port city full of natural wonder and beauty. The wildlife alone is worth exploring but there’s so much more. A pacific coast city worthy of exploring, if an Alaskan vacation is in your plans.

May good fortune guide your path.

J.A. Ireland.

The Untamed, Majestic Beauty Of Sitka Alaska

Mount Edgecumbe Sitka, Alaska

Mount Edgecumbe, Sitka, Alaska

Alaska is an untamed land of wonder like none other. A world of its own. A must see for any nature loving traveler.

One of the many unique attractions in Sitka, Alaska  is the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest. The tour offers a wonderful opportunity to see Alaskan Wildlife up close as well as picturesque scenery, like Mount Edgecumbe, a real volcano.

We sailed through the inlets and waterways of Sitka. Our boat captain delighted us with  exciting wildlife sightings. There were Alaskan naturalists aboard who kept us informed of what we would see coming around every bend.

On this shore excursion, people are guaranteed to see a sea otter, harbor seal, or whale. Our captain went out of his way to make sure we saw Humpback Whales. He really made an effort for us to all have a fantastic time.

Bald eagles
Numerous bald eagle sightings thanks to the captain. We saw soaring eagles, and their nests high in the treetops.

Sea otters
We saw adorable Sea Otters. Lots of them. They seemed very affectionate with one another. Kept in groups.

Harbor Seals-2

We also saw Harbor Seals on the rocky shores.

The captain made sure we saw more than half of dozen humpback whales. He kept in constant contact with other whaleboat captains so he would know where the whales were fluking. Then he drove the boat quickly to that area of the water. Whale fluke

Humpback Whale Fluke

He waited for us in one spot for everyone to get one final picture of a whale’s tail fluke. What a guy!

Our adventure in Sitka, Alaska was a memorable. A day of nature and whale watching.  Amazing and beautiful.

Sitka, Alaska was one of the port stops on our Alaskan cruise with Holland America. During our visit, we spent the day walking the downtown area, going through  St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church with its onion dome roof, and taking a three-hour Sea Otter Wildlife Quest boat tour. We had a wonderful day in this charming Alaskan town.

St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Church, Sitka, Alaska.The Native Indian and Russian-American cultural influences we noticed impressed us. As we sailed into port, we were able to pin point all of the Russian inspired onion dome roof buildings, including the famous St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church

Complimenting this we saw all of the Tlingit Indian totem poles in the park and a harbor full of fishing boats. This whole scene was set against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The port of Sitka was a fascinating and unique experience.

Russian-American Era

“In 1741, the Vitus Berring expedition recorded the location of the Tlingit settlement at Sitka and recognized the value of the location and resources, recording this in their log books. The world of the Tlingit people came to a calamitous turning point in 1799 when the Russians returned, built a fort and trading post, and named the site “New Archangel.” In 1802, the Tlingit destroyed the Russian outpost; however, the Russians returned in 1804 and retaliated by destroying the Tlingit fort in the Battle of Sitka, a site commemorated at the Sitka National Historical Park. Just a few years later, in 1808, Sitka became the capital of Russian-America, a vast territory that extended from Northern Alaska, south to Fort Ross, California.

Sitka was the capital of Russian-America from 1799 until 1867 and during the mid-1840’s Sitka was the leading economic center of the Pacific Rim with the first boatyard, lighthouse, sawmill, iron, brass and bronze foundries, and flourmill. Sitka, with scenic beauty possessed by few world communities, was known as the “Paris of the Pacific” and was the largest European-style settlement on the West Coast of North America.

When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million, the Stars and Stripes were first raised on Castle Hill in downtown Sitka. Sitka was the capital of the Alaska Territory until 1906 when it was moved to Juneau.”

Article retrieved from http://www.sitka.net/sitka/culturehistory.html

English: One of the many Native Alaskan totem ...

Visiting Sitka, you see both Russian and Tlingit culture and heritage.  You see Native Indian artifacts and dancers, Russian inspired onion dome buildings and churches, and the New Archangel dancers.

Sitka is also teaming with wildlife. We went on a shore excursion called the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest to see sea otters, harbor seas, bald eagles, and whales.  To our delight, we saw them all.  From bald eagles nests set high in the treetops, to harbor seas laying on the rocky shores, our shore tour guide delivered them all.  We saw coves full of sea otters, swimming on their backs in family groups.  It was amazing.  An onboard naturalist explained the workings of this remarkable ecosystem, as well as how the sea otters recovered from near extinction from the overhunting of Russian fur traders.

Our guide went one-step further and ended the excursion with a whale-watching quest.  He made sure that we saw at least six humpback whales swimming, diving, eating, and showing their tail flukes.

Our day ended with spending time at St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church in downtown Sitka. It was a fascinating experience and a day full of wonderful memories.

Porky’s Prank

When we were on our Alaskan cruise on Holland America we sailed by Mount Edgecumbe on our way into the Port of Sitka.  Once in town and on our tour of Sitka, we were told about this local legend known as Porky’s Prank.

On April Fool’s Day in 1974, the residents of Sitka, Alaska were startled when the dormant volcano, Mount Edgecumbe, started to blow out smoke.  Since Mount Edgecumbe hadn’t erupted in 8,000 years, resident were very startled. People ran out of their homes to watch the volcano, fearing the dormant volcano was about to erupt.

It turned out that the incident was not because of the volcano, but because of a local prankster called Porky Bickar.  Porky had thrown hundreds of tires into the volcano’s crater and lit the tires on fire, causing black smoke to pour out of the volcano.  He was trying to convince his fellow villagers that the volcano was on fire.  He also spray painted “April Fools!” in the snow by the fire.  He explained later that he had been planning this event for three years.  It also proved to be an expensive prank for him as the Coast Guard required him to pay for the cleanup.

By the time it was over, the event was worldwide.   Porky will be remembered for ages because of it.

This ranks as one of the greatest April Fool’s Day Pranks ever.

May good fortune guide your path.

J.A. Ireland.

ALASKA; Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm Fjord

The Fjords Are Like Being In A Dream

Humpback Whale in Glacier Bay

Humpback Whale in Glacier Bay

When we booked our Alaska cruise, we didn’t know what to look for. Some people will choose to sail on their favorite cruise line.  Others say to book for the port adventures, or onboard adventures. For many the question will be, do I want to see Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm Fjord? Both are enchanting and dreamlike, but different experiences.

When we cruised through the Tracy Arm Fjord, the ice, mountains, nature, and waterfalls seemed close enough to touch with the stunning Sawyer Glacier as a conclusion.

Glacier Bay National Park,  with it’s vastness, huge bald eagles soaring high over the mountain tops,  glacier carved mountains, and streams ragging down the mountains.  After getting a wide perspective of Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm Fjord’s vastness, we were able to see more of the small details.

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park– Our day in Glacier Bay National Park on Holland America’s Zaandam was breathtaking. We were blessed with a nice sunny day, with temperatures in the mid 50’s. We cruised through the St. John’s Inlet, and viewed the magnificent John Hopkins Glacier. Even though it was partially dirt covered, its majesty and splendor were breathtaking.

We were approximately 6 miles from it, but due to its vast nature; it looked to be only a quarter-mile away. Imagine our amazement when we were informed that we were 6 miles away from this giant natural wonder. As we gazed upon her beauty and splendor, we could see the light blue ice, which marks her timeless journey that began on the Fairweather Range on the eastern slope of the Lituya Mountains. John Hopkins Glacier, like many others in Alaska takes a journey that requires several hundred years to complete. Also, during our dreamlike cruise, we were filled with the wonders of hundreds of smaller glacial formations and picturesque waterfalls.

Alaskan Mountain Goats in Glacier Bay

Alaskan Mountain Goats in Glacier Bay

We spotted, with our high-powered binoculars, many cream colored mountain goats that are living very happily on the rugged slopes of the snowy mountains. They are actually very easy to spot, high up on the mountainside due to their cream color. The cream color contrasts with the white snow and the green vegetation of the mountain side.

This very picturesque journey through the seemingly narrow channels of this unchallenged and vast ice wilderness will leave any traveler with perhaps the best memories of a lifetime. Glacier Bay National Park will live in our hearts. It was a glorious day.

Tracy Arm Fjord– During our day of sailing through the majestic Tracy Arm Fjord, the weather was more typically Alaskan. We were bundled in layers, as the cold drizzly rain fell from the overcast sky. Fog engulfed the ship at each turn along the fjord and gave us more unexpected surprises with it.

7935 Near Tracy arm fjord, Alaska

Tracy Arm Fjord

We sailed on this cruise with Disney Cruise Line on the Disney Wonder. As the Wonder turned into the vast entrance to the breathtaking Fjord, we were immediately taken in with her heavenly beauty. The vastness of her incredible size was unfathomable as we slowly sailed through her still waters.

The mountains appeared to be only one quarter mile high from the cruise ship deck even though we were told they were 4-6 miles high. Slowly sailing along, we saw more cream colored mountain goats walking on the sides of mountains and bald eagles soaring majestically above. Sea otters and seals were also plentiful. Seals were lying on the floating, blue ice chunks from the calving glaciers.

Seals on Glacial Ice

Seals on Glacial Ice

While standing on the cruise deck we felt as though we were experiencing another world.  A world that was untouched by man and by man measurements. Objects appeared a half mile away but were actually seven or eight miles away.  Alaska is so big. It’s vastness is something one must experience from a cruise deck or other means to understand.

We began to see large chunks of blue glacial ice, from a calving glacier, floating by in the calm water. Often times we could spot a seal lying on the floating ice, watching us curiously as we sailed by. With each turn of the fjord, we could feel that we were going to experience something very special.

While approaching Sawyer Glacier, we noticed that the ship was sailing even slower. As we were now approaching a large field of floating blue ice, we began to see more seals, moms and their pups. To determine safe passage, the captain had to very slowly navigate around these large chunks of blue ice. This is there home. We’re the intruders. The captain was very slow and cautious.

Sawyer Glacier

Sawyer Glacier With Humpback Whale Fluke

Reaching Sawyer Glacier at last, our cruise ship remained a safe distance, as to not disturb the hundreds of seals sunning themselves on the solid blue ice bergs that were calved from the glacier. As we viewed the awe inspiring creation of nature, we were captivated by the vast splendor of this famous glacier. We were stunned when we were informed that the face of Sawyer Glacier was over six miles wide, and 300 to 400 feet tall. To us, it seemed only a fraction of that size. This was a further testimony to the vastness of these incredible Fjords. We watched as Sawyer Glacier slowly calves many small and large pieces. We heard the crack, like thunder, and down the ice crashes into the freezing waters below. I remember standing there in awe as the calving continued. The journey these glaciers make down from high in the Alaskan mountains takes several hundred years concluding by slowly calving in the fjords.

The cold rain was still coming down. I had a coffee mug in my hands. But this moment was not to be missed. We realized that time and distance have no meaning to a glacier. One hundred years is merely an instant, and for this vast untamed wilderness, several feet can equal many miles. Our senses are rendered useless as we span this heavenly, unimaginable land. We were standing on the deck  watching, while taking it all in for about 45 minutes.  Our ship was just quiet. People were quietly captivated and immersed in their own reflective experiences.

Disney Wonder in Tracy Arm Fjord

Disney Wonder in Tracy Arm Fjord

Slowly, one by one, people started leaving the deck. The ship slowly swirled around and began the slow, still awe inspiring, journey back through the Tracy Arm Fjord. Even though the deck was practically empty, we stayed top side to enjoy the magnificent splendor even more. This is when life long memories are created. The deck was all but deserted when we finally went in to warm up. And regrettably. Sailing the Tracy Arm Fjord was truly another world that we sailed through. We remember staying on deck to soak in every possible moment of this heavenly, magical, mesmerizing sight. It too, was a glorious day that will live in our hearts.

Is a cruise inside Glacier Bay National Park or Tracy Arm Fjord in your future? Often times the decision of which fjord is decided by which cruise company a person chooses. If you shop Alaska Cruises you’ll see what I mean.

If you want my opinion, from the perspective of a Disney Castaway Cay Gold Club Member, experienced traveler, fantasy / fiction / spiritual author, chef, blogger, with a family. In my opinion, either choice will provide you with a heavenly vacation and fill your minds with awe and wonder. Alaska is a world of it’s own; it’s a place you can visit over and over again. As we have. If you are planning an Alaskan Cruise, and I hope you are, you will leave this Yukon paradise with memories that will last a lifetime. Guess what? Just as we have, you can always ad more. Thanks for stopping by. Ja