After a day of relaxed scenic cruising, I was excited to explore more of Alaska and next up on my Alaska adventure was Juneau. Juneau is a small cruise port town and the capital city of Alaska since 1906, when the government of the Alaska was moved from Sitka.
FUN FACT: Juneau can only be accessed via air or sea; there is no road access due to its mountainous terrain.
Our day in Juneau started with a quick walk around the shops, near the docking area. Passing by the Red Dog Saloon – an extremely famous Alaskan drinking hole, we settled for a quick ice-cream nearby (Who can say no to ice-cream?)
Then, we headed to the top of Mount Roberts on the tramway. The rest of the group decided to take a hike on the mountain, while my cousin and I indulged in some hot beverages. Once they returned, they called us over to see the captive eagle – a once-injured American Bald Eagle, the national bird of USA. It even flew in its enclosure, showing off its beautiful, chiseled wings.
Then, we proceeded to the viewpoint and took in a spectacular aerial view of the port below.
Back at the bottom, next on our agenda was a glacier excursion. We met up with representatives of Era Helicopters Inc. After a short coach ride, we arrived at the Era base headquarters, where we got a safety briefing on the flying experience. Everyone had to wear ice boots – to avoid falling on the slippery ice on the glacier.
I was transferred to a chair lift as my sister took my electric wheelchair to park it inside. Then my dad helped me on to the helicopter.
Once everyone was saddled in and comfortable in the six-seater helicopter, we took off – the moment I had been waiting for! As the pilot maneuvered the chopper whilst communicating with the air control, we listened to a pre-recorded audio set that highlighted the route of the circuit. As we soared the sky, we flew over stunning fjords, snow-covered mountains and rich green forests.
After fifteen minutes, we flew above the majestic Mendenhall Glacier and then landed shortly. While the rest of our group hopped out, I couldn’t because there was no easy way out, plus I had nowhere to seat. But that didn’t matter to me – I was literally on top of a giant mound of ice!
For half hour, we explored the glacier. The Mendenhall Glacier is the only expanding glacier in Alaska, which is tremendous due to the current global warming situation. The glacier wasn’t a glaring white that we had expected. Instead it had a layer of brown silt settled on top of the ice as a result of the glacier movement. There were crevices running through the glacier, and water running through. The water looked blue, due to an illusion created by the sun’s reflection of the ice.
The pilot kindly brought me some ice to hold. I immediately exclaimed “I am never washing my hands again.”(TRUE STORY!) Then it was back to the Era headquarters, flying over the picturesque snow-covered mountains. Once we landed it began drizzling, and we were so glad that the rain or wind did not deter our excursion.
After a short coach ride, we were back to the cruise dock area. We immediately spotted a couple of Alaskan huskies. Many glacier excursions offer dog-sledding on the Alaskan glaciers. Though it is not quite wheelchair friendly, I’m sure it is those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
HINT: If you intend to go for the glacier excursion, book early because it is a popular activity.
Since we were starving, we found a little café where we had an incredibly cheesy pizza. We then shopped around in the gift stores picking up souvenirs to remember this unforgettable day.
Now my tired phrase comes in at this point. Okay, maybe you find it cliché, but hey! Here goes… Mendenhall Glacier had stolen my heart and it was probably the “happiest day of my life!”
Pictures for this blog are provided by Diva Shah Photography and Hitesh Shah.