Climbing Alaska

When the rain finally decides to take a break and the sun comes out,  you will be sure to find the locals of Juneau enjoying the outdoors. With such scenery and landscape, Juneau offers an unlimited amoDSC_0570unt of things to do. As most people expect hiking, fishing or skiing, some are surprised theres also a small amount rock climbing in Juneau.

Located on the opposite end of downtown, you can find the “Sea Cliffs”, a hidden gem to the rock climbers of Juneau. Based right on the water, this location is frequently sought out by those who know about it.While climbing these routes, it is more than an excellent rock climbing adventure as it typically doubles as a whale watching tour. With such beauty and unique surroundings, many who climb the Sea Cliffs are regulars who have the routes memorized.

 

If you are into rock climbing and have enough time here in Juneau, be sure to ask the locals about the Sea Cliffs. The views and climbing routes will not disappoint.

 

 

 

Walking on Ice

Many have walked the trails around the visitor center at the Mendenhall Glacier but few have actually walked on the ice. Located weScreen Shot 2017-04-26 at 1.20.31 PM.pngst of the glacier, the West Glacier trailhead can lead close enough to the glacier’s face to touch!  Although, as exciting as it seems, walking on ice is not for everyone.

When considering making this trek you must consider your hiking and ice climbing experience. If you have little to none, it might be best to stay on the established trail however, you can continue on and the path will eventually open up to an amazing lookout over the glacier. These views are stunning and gives a cool perspective of the ice field crevasses. FoScreen Shot 2017-04-26 at 1.21.31 PM.pngr those of you who wish to explore the glacier it is best to read up about the gear and equipment  may need to prepare for your trip and get tips about what to expect from the US Forest Service. If you have little experience but would still like to make the trek there are guided tours here in Juneau offered by companies such as Alaska Shore Excursions or Above and Beyond.

To access the infamous ice caves the trail will break off and venture down a slippery bedrock to the edge of the glacier. As the massive ice melts and shifts the glacier exposes passageways into walls of pristine crystal blue. Walk through the caves and discover this natural occurring wonder. Feel a cool chill from underneath the glacier as you scoop a handful of refreshing water from a rushing stream or pool.

Please note that this trail is considered strenuous and can be dangerous depending on the weather or time of year you go. The glacier is constantly changing and as new ice caves form some collapse due to the glacier moving and melting.

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All photos taken by Kelsey Jensen, view her website here.

 

 

Treasures of the Tidepools

When walking along the rocky beaches of Juneau, the scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful. 025033_51b1935767d44786b3e330398979f13b-mv1.pngWhere the mountains meet the water, there are few views like that  anywhere in the world. However, if you can take your gaze away the surrounding peaks you will find that the beaches are just as magnificent. When the tide is low, the ocean slips from the shore uncovering  tide pools filled with marine wildlife and wonders. Scientists and researchers in Southeast Alaska have noted that there are over 170 invertebrates located in these tide pools. Some of invertebrates include starfish, hermit carbs, anemones, sea cucumbers and much more! There is just one trick: you really have know the tides and look. Here are some steps to help you find these hidden treasures:

1. Find out when it is Low Tide

When trying to find a tide pool be sure that the tide is low. Juneau has one of the most dramatic tidal swings and the levels of the ocean change throughout the day.  The easiest way to find out the schedule is by searching on the internet, calling Fish and Game or asking a local fisherman or resident. Here is a tide chart found on the internet but remember to search for the most current information and that sometimes the best time for a low tide can be super early in the morning. So make a plan and know where to go!

2. Find the Perfect Beach

You will typically find tide pools filled with starfish and marine animals on rocky beaches and areas that contain perched pools of water. Take time to walk down stretches of beach looking for those characteristics. 025033_283b49129559411c9a22a6fff0ff9c4a-mv1.png

3.Be Gentle

Once you have found a tide pool be extremely careful and watch your step so you don’t walk on any of the fragile creatures living there. As you search you will find colorful and vibrant marine animals and you may be tempted to keep them or poke them. However, it is best to leave them where they are. If you can’t resist picking up a cool starfish, do so with great care and caution. Handling them too harsh or dropping them could easily be their demise.

 

As you go out and search for your own tide pools with family and friends, be sure to have fun and really enjoy all that Southeast Alaska has to offer!

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All photos taken by Kelsey Jensen, view her website here.

Traveling to Tracy Arm

Whether you’re a local resident or visiting Southeast Alaska for the first time, taking a trip to Tracy Arm is a must!  The narrow and deep fjords are located south of Juneau, through Stevens Passage, stretching  653,179 acres of towering mountains, lush rainforest, amazing wildlife and abudant icebergs and glaciers.

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Take an early morning boat ride, cruising through the steep fjords for a couple hours before reaching the massive Sawyer Glaciers at the end of Tracy Arm. Your vessel will  navigate through iceberg dotted waters, circling toward areas to explore the wilderness in hopes of catching a glimpse of some wildlife.

11935591_10207793064610171_6092320549272313216_oWith scenic waterfalls tumbling down jagged rocks, large ice structures floating by, surrounding misty mountains and foggy skies, you will truly feel as if you are experiencing something magical.

The entire excursion can last about 5 to 6 hours. Lunch is available or pack your own picnic lunch! Warm up with a hot chocolate out on the deck of the boat provided by the friendly crew or sit in the bridge next to the captain to get the prime views. On your way back, keep your eyes open as the trip doubles as a whale watching and sea lion tour too.

If you do decide to book a tour to Tracy Arm, remember it will be an all day affair and even though your boat ride through the fjords is extremely beautiful you might want to bring something to do, just in case.

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Tips for the Travel:

  • Bring binoculars to see the wildlife or catch ice caving from the glacier.
  • Bring snacks – you’ll be gone the entire day!
  • Bring a rain jacket in case the weather is rainy and windy.
  • Bring a book or card game just in case if need some entertainment on your way in or out to the fjords.

If you’re still hesitant to book due to the long voyage, price or perhaps the experience will be like, take some time to read reviews on Trip Advisor and you will be convinced!

Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area

We recently attended a presentation by John Neary, director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, detailing proposed changes to Juneau’s most-visited attraction. A long-time resident of Juneau, Neary is clearly passionate about preserving our backyard glacier and the wilderness surrounding it. His talk inspired us to learn a little more about the Mendenhall, so here are a few facts that you might not know about this natural wonder just down the road from downtown Juneau.

Mendenhall Glacier in 2010

Mendenhall Glacier in 2010 (source)

The Mendenhall Glacier is about 12 miles long. It originates at the Juneau Icefield, a mass of ice covering an area the size of Rhode Island and nearly a mile deep in places.

Visitor center in the 1960's

Visitor center in the 1960’s (source)

Built in 1962, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center was the first US Forest Service visitor center in the country. The building once featured a restaurant serving pie and coffee, but that service was discontinued to keep the local bears from becoming habituated.

Mendenhall Glacier was originally named Auke Glacier after the Auk Kwaan clan of Tlingit Indians who were the area’s original inhabitants. The Tlingit called the glacier Aak’wtaaksit or “the Glacier Behind the Little Lake”. The glacier was later renamed in honor of Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, a noted scientist who was instrumental in defining the boundary between the United States and Canada.

The Mendenhall Glacier was featured in the documentary Chasing Ice, which sought to capture the effects of climate change through long term time-lapse photography of retreating glaciers. While locals lament the glacier’s retreat, this constant change makes the Mendenhall an ideal place to examine the effects of glaciers on the local environment. Looking down the valley from the glacier’s terminus, visitors can follow the timeline of plant succession as bare rock is colonized by alder and cottonwood trees. These plants in turn provide nitrogen and more organic matter to the soil, eventually allowing towering spruce and hemlock trees to take root and transform the once-barren land into an old-growth forest. If this sounds complicated, just come visit the Mendenhall Glacier yourself and you can see this process in action!

Mendenhall Valley is home to a wide range of wildlife including songbirds, eagles, salmon, beavers, coyotes, squirrels, porcupines, and of course, black bears. The Visitor Center and its nearby trails are designed to provide ample opportunity to encounter these animals with minimal interference with their daily routines.

Mendenhall Glacier in the 1940's

Mendenhall Glacier in the 1940’s (source)

While most people visit the Mendenhall Glacier in the summer, it is an equally amazing attraction in the winter. With enough cold weather in the winter months, the lake in front of the glacier freezes over and becomes a playground for Juneau locals. When the lake is frozen solid and has no snow on it, it turns into a giant natural ice rink for ice skaters to enjoy. Once enough snow falls to cover the lake, cross country skiers can ski a loop all the way around the lake. Another popular winter pastime is to walk a mile across the frozen lake to (cautiously) peer into one of the many deep ice caves at the glacier’s face.

Mendenhall Glacier from Skater's Cabin

Mendenhall Glacier from Skater’s Cabin

We hope you get the chance to come and experience this majestic sight in person!

Wildlife of Juneau

Most people come to Alaska with the hope of seeing a bear or an eagle however, if you go searching or just get lucky, you will find that Juneau hIMG_20160731_180702 copy.jpgas so many more animals to see.

High on the slopes is where you will spot a mountain goat. This alpine species prefer to live climbing the cliffs and peaks of the mountains. In the winter these wild goats will travel to lower elevations to escape the harsh weather. You will often see mountain goats traversing above tree line or near glaciers where they can get rich nutrients from minerals deposited called salt licks. Keep your eyes open for these animals as you hike around Juneau!

A more common animal to jump out from hiding are the Sitka black-tailed deer. These 13975534_638978922938156_1652956319304843126_ofriendly creatures roam along the roadways of Juneau or can be found bounding into the brush around homes. During the summer their coat will turn a reddish-brown in exchange of their dark brown winter fur.  Fawns are typically born in early June so keep a look out for the newly born deers hopping into the forest during your visit!

Along the shores of Juneau, you can find many Glaucous-winged Gulls or better known as Seagulls. Juneau’s coastal habitats make a perfect home for these gulls, providing a plentiful food source of salmon and other small fish. But that won’t stop them from stealing your lunch so keep your snacks close!! The rainforest of Southeast Alaska is alive with the chirps of over 300 species of birds. Other well-known birds are the Stellar Jay, Raven, Puffin and lastly, Alaska’s state bird, the Willow Ptarmigan.

Screenshot_2016-07-07-00-29-30-1The Ptarmigan is a little harder to locate because they typically do not nest in wooded areas but rather in the shrubby muskeg in the hills and mountains. One of the amazing characteristics of this beautiful bird is that it changes color with the season. This special effect acts as camouflage for protection. As seen in the picture below, the Ptarmigan has brown and black flecked feathers during the summer and white bodies during the winter months to blend into the snow. You can find Ptarmigans all across the region and even as far as the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. You have to look close to see these birds as they just may be blending in!

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All photos taken by Kelsey Jensen, view her website here.

A Taste of Alaska

It’s no secret that the best salmon in the world comes from Alaskan waters. Fishing is a core industry for most of coastal Alaska, and during the summer months our waters can yield up to 5 billion pounds of fresh fish and shellfish! Wild Alaskan salmon is jam packed with omegas and B vitamins (but make sure it’s wild–never farmed!), and if cooked properly its some of the tastiest food around. Smoked salmon is as popular as it is delicious, and a fresh fillet can take grilling to the next level! But salmon meat is easy to overcook and dry salmon is a huge disappointment. So be sure to get a timer and keep a close watch on your baking salmon! Here is a simple but tasty maple glacier recipe to bring out the flavors of your fish.

Here’s my go-to salmon recipe:

Baked Maple Salmon

2 wild Alaskan salmon fillets

1 clove minced garlic

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix the maple syrup, garlic, soy sauce and a few dashes of salt and pepper into a bowl. Whisk together with a fork. Grease a shallow baking dish and add the salmon. Pour the maple syrup mixture over the salmon and let marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, flipping once. Bake the salmon uncovered for 20-25 minutes. When the salmon begins to flake but is still juicy, pull it out of the oven. Serve fresh and hot! Enjoy!

-McKenzie Dornbirer

Answers for the Zipliners

Hey Adventurers!

Whether you spend your time traveling and looking for the next adrenaline rush or something to check off your bucket list, ziplining is definitely one of the best options. And for those of you who aren’t sure or are trying to convince a loved one to take the leap with you, take a look at this list to get a better feel of what you will be up to!

1. Remember: You’re here to have fun!

10649088_10152340900501510_3394928960589214958_oIt may seem unnatural or terrifying to step off of a platform 100 feet above the ground but remind yourself you are here to have fun and explore the beautiful Alaska rainforest in a cool way. The first zip is always the scariest but take some deep breaths, trust your gear and guides and take the plunge. Your knees may be shaking but the thrill and views will be worth it!  From then on, it will be nothing but fun.

2. Your guides take care of EVERYTHING! 

We get a lot of calls and emails about what to anticipate for your zipline trip and one important detail we would like you to know is: your guides take care of everything! Here at Alaska Zipline Adventures, we have highly trained and skilled guides who could IMG_4220complete the course in their sleep! And they will be with you every step of the way. Our groups are small and there are 2 guides to each tour. During your orientation they will demonstrate how to put your gear one, explain how it works and why you need it. In addition, our zipline is setup where no hand-braking is required by the participants so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride without having to worry about stopping, slowing down or landing yourself. They’ve got you’ve covered! This also let’s your hands free to take a GoPro obe more daring and try zipping backwards or better yet, no hands!

3. Be prepared to have fun in any weather!

Rain or shine, Alaska Zip will be zipping through the trees! When researching your trip to Juneau, you may have found that it rains in Juneau… A LOT. However, that doesn’t mean your trip is ruined or will be cancelled. Juneau locals have learned that there is always fun to be had whether there is sunshine or a sky full of clouds. Learn the local way  – throw on a jacket and enjoy the rain! We’ve got rain jackets for you to bundle up in or add another layer. Read more about preparing for Juneau’s weather  in a previous post found here.

4. Bring your Camera!

Personal cameras and video devices are welcome! There will be stops along the zipline course in the platforms to take tons of pictures of your family and friends zipping away or snap some shots of the beautiful scenery. 11700825_482198535282863_9220346004176258800_nJust be sure to add a strap around your neck or wrist so you don’t lose your camera while having fun! If you forgot your camera, that’s ok! Your guides will be taking pictures throughout the tour and can be available at the end of your journey. Also, GoPros can be rented if you would like to capture all your laughs and screams on video!

If you haven’t already booked call 907-321-0947 today or check out our website for more information. We look forward to seeing you up in the trees!

 

Preparing for Juneau Weather

Juneau is a quaint coastal town in the heart of the Tongas National Rainforest which means it rains quite a bit! On average the annual precipitation is about 100 inches and the wettest months can be July, September and October. All that rainfalls helps keep the timberline surrounding Juneau lush and green! During the summer, temperatures are pleasant but balmy and range from 50 degrees F to 60 degrees F with the occasional hot day of 70 degrees F. Even though that is not scorching compared to places like Arizona or Alabama, to us Alaskans, it is time to break out the sunscreen and box fans (we don’t really have air conditioning here!!!). So when planning what to wear and bring during your visit here are some helpful tips to go by:
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* Bring lots of layers! Plan to pack your suitcase full of clothes for any type of weather and bring lots of layers from t-shirts and shorts to long pants and fleece pullovers. You can alway take off a sweatshirt or tie a jacket around your waist if you work up a sweat hiking or the skies clear in the afternoon. You will definitely be glad to have warmer pieces for if the weather gets cold and windy as you are adventuring around Juneau!

**Note – if you are coming for your Alaskan trip in April or early May, you may want to bring along a warm hat, scarf and gloves especially if you are planning to be on a boat whale watching or fishing or taking part in any outdoor activities.**

* Bring a good rain jacket or coat! With the unpredictable weather it is a good idea to IMG_1986have a quality outer shell to keep you warm on damp, colder days. And always bring a rain jacket, puffer vest or warmer layer when hiking in the spring as the wind often increases as you get higher in elevation.

* Wear comfortable shoes! With the miles and miles of hiking trails and so much to see and do here in Juneau wearing good footwear is key. Hiking boots, running shoes, casual sneakers or galoshes are recommended to keep your toes toasty, dry and comfy. Extra socks might be another item you would want to tuck in your pack or purse if you are going to be kayaking or trekking.

Other accessories may want to throw into your bag might be retractable hiking poles, baseball cap, bug spray, sunscreen, sunglasses, small first aid kit, water bottle and definitely a camera.

What to wear ziplining: 

We go zipping rain or shine! So the same dress code applies to your zipline tour as they do for walking around towDSCF4860 (2)n or going for a hike: dress in layers, bring a jacket and wear comfortable shoes. Long pants are recommended and could be jeans, hiking pants, leggings or running tights. On warmer day, shorts are fine to wear but would remember you will be in a harness so longer shorts are suggested. An extra rain coat is provided when you check in with your guides for your tour. This will add an extra layer and keep your clothes protected from the rain and tree sap if you plan on doing any tree hugging!!! If it ends up being a clear, sunny and warmer day there will be a place to lock up any articles of clothing you wish to peel off and leave behind. Hats, gloves, scarves and sunglasses are all great items to take along OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand should not come off as you fly through the trees.

** Note: The only requirement is that all participants wear closed-toe/closed-heel shoes. No sandals, slip-ons or heels are permitted on the tour. **

No matter the weather, no drizzles or raindrops will get in the way of your adventures!

 

A Hiker’s Paradise

We all have a favorite Juneau hike, sometimes two or three! One for sunny summer days, one good for rainy walks with the dogs, one for winter snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, one for combing the beaches or one for a steep climb and stellar views. There are so many to choose from! With an estimated 100 trails, Juneau is a hikers paradise. While Some trails are short, strolls like the Rainforest Trail or easily accessible, maintained routes such as Treadwell Trail at Sandy Beach. If you are looking to get above tree line and experience the amazing views such trails like Mt. Juneau or Thunder Mountain, are better suited for advanced hikers with a serious set of leg muscles.

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For avid hikers coming off cruise ships or staying at hotels in the downtown area, there are quite a few great day hikes close to the city center. Check these out!

Perseverance Trail
The Perseverance Trail is one of the more popular hikes and you can access other trailheads that fork off from the path such as Mt. Juneau and the ridge trail, Granite Creek Trail, Flume Trail and more. 156613_900047720120_3598133_nThe total length is about 6 miles and aside from moderate-level hiking for the first mile at the beginning, the remainder of the trail is mostly flat.

Nestled in a towering valley, you will cross small 025033_6006286637214f3c82ae38bd80069219-mv2bridges over rushing streams through thickets of blueberry and salmon bushes toward a large waterfall at the end. Perseverance Trail was a historic trail that was used for mining in the Silverbow Basin and the first road built in Juneau!

Mt. Robert’s Trail

There are two ways to connect to the Mt. Roberts Trail, hiking from the base of the mountain located off Basin Creek Road or (the littler easier and shorter way) riding the Tramway up. Taking the tram shaves off a couple miles from the 10 mile total length of this hike and is considered a more strenuous steady climb eventually reaching 3,800 feet 025033_780066349b9a448890cfaf3b5ff5d277-mv2at the peak. With most of the trail out of the trees, enjoy breathtaking views of the city below, ocean channel and surrounding mountain peaks while you work up a sweat! Rest in alpine grasses filled with wildflowers at the top while you snack on a granola bar. Once you’ve descended back toward the Tram, if you wish you can ride the Tram back to town for a quicker option but remember you might have to walk back to Basin Road to get back to your car!

Nugget Creek Falls

This last hike isn’t downtown but because so many travelers visit the Mendenhall Glacier, Nugget Falls is worth the mention. A short gem of a stroll, this easy 1 miler leads you from the National Park’s entrance to an incredible beach and waterfall near the foot of the glacier. Feel the mist from the rushing waterfall and get a closer look of the glacier, be sure stay long enough to snap tons of photos. If you booked a Zip & Glacier tour with Alaska Zipline Adventures you should have time to hike out to the falls, spend about 10 to 15 minutes snapping pictures and trek back in the hour allotted at the glacier. This is a beloved trail because it’s accessible and the perfect quick hike to just get outside and enjoy a sunny afternoon. Also, a little tip, be sure to check in with the Forest Ranger for any bears sightings or if the trail is flooded due to heavy rain and is closed off.

These are just a few of the many extraordinary trails in this hiker’s dream! For more information on these trails, directions to the trailheads and much, much more, check out this great pocket size local Trail Guide, 90 Short Walks Around Juneau.  Don’t let the title fool you, it contains ALL the trails around Juneau and you can pick one up at a downtown book shop.