Mendenhall Glacier | Juneau, Alaska
When we were planning our cruise and knew that we were going to be visiting Juneau, I knew that I wanted to visit Mendenhall Glacier. And at first I thought we would just figure out a way to get there on our own. Later when booking our tours, Chris found a whale watching tour with a side stop to the glacier. It wasn’t going to be for as long as I wanted to stay at the park but it would suffice.
I had vague ideas about the glacier from a former co-worker in Florida who had visited when he went to AK for a work trip. I recalled the photos and that prompted me to be very interested in the glacier. And after some Googling it was quite easy to come across a lot of photos showing changes to the glacier over the last century and decades.
With about an hour or so to linger at the glacier we made our way from the bus drop off at the visitors center and walked the paved pathway down to the viewing platform. There was a side trail that was a bit longer that would allow a slightly closer view but with Forest tagging along we didn’t think we had the time to get there and back.
The scenery was gorgeous no matter where you looked.
And Forest was far more interested in the rock slabs to climb on than he was in the glacier, which at this point is quite far away.
Back in the summer before we left for our cruise Chris’ mom had dug out a photo album from a cruise she took in the late 60s or early 70s with her family. There were photos of her at the glacier as well and it is a drastic difference in how close the glacier is to her in the photos to how close it is to us in 2019! Pretty dramatic for an approximately 50 year difference.
I was impressed by the glacier but not super impressed, mostly because of how far away it seemed. You didn’t get that ‘oomph’ that I was expecting. I would get that in a few days time when we went to Glacier Bay—which is still one of the highlights of the trip. That said, if you get the chance to visit the glacier don’t turn up the chance. It is still pretty impressive! And I would say I was probably more impressed when we were out Auke Bay on the whale watching boat and could see further up the glacier into the mountains.
I really love this photo Forest and I got together but we had no idea someone was photobombing us in the background! All of the photos that were snapped in that series had her in it and I will have to see if I can edit her out at some point. I attempted to when editing photos to share here but didn’t have the patience with the amount of cloning I was going to have to do to fix it.
We made a brief stop into the visitors center and gift shop for a few items and to see what their educational display was like but then ducked back outside to see what the small trails near the parking area were like. Again, we had very little time to really explore.
Gone to seed, fireweed. Chamaenerion angustifolium
Down by the parking area was a small creek filled with salmon both dead and alive. Chris wanted to spend some time looking at the salmon and Forest and I wanted to explore a small boardwalk that went into the woods a bit so we took off down that trail.
Several piles of fresh bear scat were down below in the grass next to the boardwalk. Based on observations on iNaturalist the general population of bears in the area seem to be black bears.
The boardwalk wound around to a dirt trail and this really gorgeous scene. Several other people were standing there watching something and we paused. An animal skittered across and at first my brain thought “Otter!” and then, whoa, “NO! Mink!” I had no time to get my camera ready to even take an ‘I saw it’ shot so we just watched for a few seconds as the animal bounced around the edge of the creek and darted off into the vegetation. Apparently the people who had been standing there had been watching it for a few minutes before it sauntered off. High on a pretty uncommon sighting, at least in the Lower 48*, we returned to where Chris was, excited to share what we saw. And it turns out he saw a mink, too! There had to be a den somewhere very nearby. And I just checked iNaturalist—no one has logged a mink in that vicinity.
*We know of a mink that lives around the boat docks at Lake Livingston State Park here in Texas—I think Chris has seen it. And Chris and I have seen a roadkill Everglades Mink on Alligator Alley and saw its potential family member run across right after. We saved the roadkill and turned it into the state wildlife officials. And we had the opportunity to watch a live mink in Fakahatchee Strand several years back. And I guess I should say uncommon in the south—iNaturalist has a lot of sightings in the NE US but not as much in the south.
Our short time at the glacier was lovely! I hope the next time I visit the glacier isn’t another .5 mile up the hill.
Patrice La Vigne
I’m getting all caught up today on your posts from December. Holy cow, you are a good blogger!!! Anyway, we visited the Mendenhall Glacier on our cruise in 2006. I swear it seemed closer!! Even when we’ve returned to different spots in our 20-year history of visiting Alaska, I’m amazed how many differences we see.