I woke up fairly early for an exciting day of helicopter rides and glacier dog sledding in Juneau, except our ship didn’t dock until 10am! I headed to the gym for a quick turn on the treadmill before Mr. BFT and I went to breakfast in the main dining room. We had very slow service but luckily we weren’t in a rush. I had pancakes with a bananas foster topping. We headed back to the room with lots of time to kill still. We packed up our backpacks and watched float planes from our balcony before hearing the announcement that we could depart the ship.
Right off the ship we found out it was about a mile walk into town. We wandered around for a bit but there’s not much to see in the port area. We didn’t have time to walk to town and walk back before our 11:15 excursion so we simply hung out in the waiting area of the port. Eventually it was our tour time; we located our guide from Coastal Helicopters (among a great sea of people with clipboards and walkie talkies!) and we were off to the airfield which was a 15-20 minute drive from port. Once at the Coastal Helicopters headquarters (trailers) we got fitted for snow boots and watched a safety video, then waited for our names to be called for a helicopter. There were six passengers in our helicopter, which meant we had one of the big birds. The flight was 10-15 minutes over snow capped mountains. Now, I have a fear of flying and this was my first time in a helicopter, so to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I was just shy of freaking out. But with the assistance of a Xanax and my husband holding my hand, I began to relax and become more comfortable up in the air. It also helped I was seated next to a young girl who was about 8 or 9 years old, and SHE wasn’t freaking out, so I couldn’t either. Seeing Juneau from above was something I will never forget. The scenery is just stunning beyond words. Soon we landed on Herbert Glacier and got off the helicopter where we were introduced to our musher. I regrettably did not make note of his name but he was a really great guy, who obviously enjoys his job. He took the time to chat with us and answer all of our (probably dumb) questions about living in a tent on a glacier.
For the actual dog sledding, there were two sleds with a team of 10-12 dogs each already lined up when we got off the helicopter. We were assigned to the second one. There were actually two sleds in the back. One sat two people and the musher stood behind them and “controlled” everything. Then there was a one standing one sitting sled tethered behind that one, which is what we were assigned to. Our guide said one of us would have to sit and the other would have to stand behind and brake. Guess which one I did? I was happy to sit and look pretty while Mr. BFT stood and balanced himself and applied the break. I kept asking if he was okay with all that and I would switch with him if he really wanted to, and he kept saying he loved it. We did two dog sled runs, about 10 minutes each. We ultimately did a loop around the glacier (really weird to say that) but between the two runs we stood up and had a chance to take photos of the scenery and pet the dogs. For the most part the dogs were friendly and if any were not friendly, we were given fair warning. The guides knew all of the dogs names and could recognize when they needed to be switched out. Most of the dogs were friendly and some were VERY friendly. After our second run we had a few minutes to say good bye to the dogs and our wonderful guides, and it was back on the helicopter to the airfield, and then shuttled back to the pier. We loved our experience with Coastal Helicopters and I don’t hesitate to recommend them for what we consider a once in a lifetime experience. To say I’ve been dog sledding on a glacier is pretty awesome.
Once back at the pier we made the mile walk to the main part of Juneau and we were ready for lunch. After walking around for a while we stumbled upon the perfect spot, a restaurant right on the water called The Hangar. The only seats they had available were two bar style seats outside on the patio, overlooking the water where float planes took off and landed. Perfect for us! We ended up seated next to a local and chatted with him about the unseasonably warm weather, the impact of cruise ships on the environment (whoops), and how we should spend the rest of our day. We were going to skip the Red Dog Saloon since we thought it was your basic tourist trap and we prefer to visit places that are under the radar, but our new friend said it was worth checking out. So, after lunch we headed just a couple blocks away to Red Dog Saloon, which was packed! We found two seats at the bar and ordered wine and beer and enjoyed the funny performer on the piano. Our new friend was right, it was REALLY fun. I highly recommended stopping in even though it’s a tourist trap. We didn’t try any food so can’t comment on the quality, but worth stopping in for a drink at the very least.
(Our ship is the lone one there on the right in the distance.)
After leaving Red Dog Saloon we found ourselves with a couple hours left before All Aboard at 8pm. We decided to try to get to Mendenhall Glacier, a well known glacier in Juneau that’s easy to get to (aka no helicopter needed) from the main town area. We walked to the Mt. Roberts tram and asked them for directions, but all the buses and trams had stopped running for the day. A taxi would cost about $40 each way – not worth it, considering we just walked on a glacier a few hours earlier! So we wandered around town, climbed stairs, and walked through residential streets admiring the cute houses and gorgeous views. We ended up walking back to ship early, and had a drink at the Champagne Bar with Jonas before dinner.
Our dinner this evening was a special treat. On the first day we had put our names in for “dinner with an officer” and we were selected! We had dinner with second engineer Fermin from Venezuela and two other lovely couples at a reserved table in the main dining room. We talked a lot about Fermin’s career and life on a cruise ship, as well as going around the table and talking about where everyone was from and what we did for work. It ended up being a long dinner because we were all so chatty! It was really fun and I’m glad we were selected. It was pretty late by the time we were done, so after dinner we went back to the room and loafed around until we were sleepy, which didn’t take long. Our towel animal tonight was an elephant! We also had a nice surprise of chocolate dipped strawberries and a bottle of red wine in our room as an apology for the poor service at the steakhouse a couple nights earlier.
Next up, a very long and adventurous day in Skagway!