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Saturday, 27 December 2014

Alaska’s Inside Passage: Glaciers, Tlingit Culture, and Crab & Salmon - Page 2

Written by Maureen C. Bruschi
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But not the day we visited. We weaved and zigzagged around icebergs of all shapes and sizes.  The glacier nearly blocks the mouth of the Russell Fjord, to the right of the glacier.  As we crawled to approximately a half mile from Hubbard Glacier, we were face to face with North America’s largest tide-water glacier.  The mass of ice was breathtaking, magically growing in size as we approached.  We felt like a speck of sand as we stood on the ship’s deck memorized by Hubbard Glacier’s 600-foot tall wall of blue ice.  Passengers were silent, listening as ice cracked and popped as the glacier slowly moved.  We were fortunate to witness a chunk of 400 to 500 year-old ice break away with a roaring crash into the sea (called calving).  First we saw a spray or mist-like sleet followed by a violent deafening sound when the massive piece of ice fell into the water.  We could have easily stayed hours longer staring at Hubbard Glacier, but it was time to move on and our next stop was Juneau, Alaska’s capital. 

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In Juneau, passenger excursions included dog sledding adventures, gold panning and helicopter glacier explorations.  Our excursion took us first to the Chez Alaska Cooking School where the chef demonstrated how to make an Alaskan favorite, zucchini basil wrapped wild Alaska salmon, followed by sautéed strawberries in wine-pepper sauce with vanilla ice cream.  Nothing like a delicious snack before moving on to the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest.  

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The Mendenhall Glacier is quite a bit different than Hubbard Glacier.  While Hubbard Glacier’s river of ice flows for 76 miles down to the sea from its vast ice fields in Mt. Logan and Mt. Hubbard, the Mendenhall Glacier flows 13.5 miles from the Juneau Ice field to Mendenhall Lake.  The Mendenhall Glacier is retreating as opposed to Hubbard Glacier which has continued to advance for about a century.

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To the right of the Mendenhall Glacier is Nuggett Falls, a waterfall that drops in two tiers of 99 feet and 278 feet onto a sandbar in Mendenhall Lake.  If you visit the Mendenhall Glacier and have extra time, the area has several trails worth exploring. In addition, don’t miss the opportunity to touch the Mendenhall Glacier ice in the Visitor Center

Our last stop on our Juneau excursion was a relaxing one as we headed to the Alaskan Brewery for a tour of the facility and the brewery process.  We sampled several of the beers brewed in Juneau, including our favorites, Alaskan Amber beer and Alaskan White Ale.  Unfortunately it’s hard to get Alaskan beers east of Michigan, one more reason for a return trip to Alaska.    

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Last modified on Wednesday, 31 December 2014

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