Ethereal mists shrouded the high hilltops surrounding the entrance to Juneau, Alaska’s harbor. Our ship glided across smooth water. Ribbon-like waterfalls wound their way down the steep hillsides. Clouds veiled the top of the waterfalls, adding to the otherworldly feeling.
Hemmed in by mountains and water, Juneau can only be reached by ship or plane. No other U.S. capitol has that distinction. If you hope to access it by road—you can’t get there from here.
Once our ship had safely docked we made our way to the debarkation area. We were scheduled for an early bus tour.
Mark, our bus-tour-driver-guide, pointed out sandy fields fenced in with chain link as we drove past. “It’s hard to keep grass on our ball fields. So we have sand fields instead.”
The colorless fields blended with the skies on the dreary day. It made me sad to think of children playing baseball on sand instead of lush grass. But why should it? Children play on sand all the time—at the beach, in backyard sandboxes, and at playgrounds.
Our next stop was the Mendenhall Glacier. Notice how dirty the ice looks in places? As the glacier passes over the rocks, it grinds them into pumice finer than baby powder. The glacier carries the silt along with it.
The deep aqua-blue color in the depth of the ice is caused by years of compression. You’ll have a chance to see more of these colors in an upcoming post about Glacier Bay.
If you look close in these photos, you can see a black bear. If you look very close you might be able to tell that she’s a mother bear. (So sorry about the photo quality. Lots of rain.)
The Forest Rangers saw her as she tried to bring her large babies down the hillside. With all the tourists gathered at the glacier and on the trails around it, that would not have been a wise encounter.
By chance, my husband happened to be going down the path at that moment. He watched as three rangers dealt with the situation.
To make himself appear broad, the first ranger crouched. He stretched his arms wide with hands extended outward. His unzipped jacket flared out to fill the space between his arms and body. He forced a deep grunt. The resulting sound was like a cross between a bark and a growl.
The mother bear hid behind a tree.
A second ranger carried a can of bear spray. The third ranger blocked the path from below so tourists couldn’t reach the spot. The first ranger growled again.
Mama bear peeked around the tree.
Her kids ambled away—they had more sense than she did. She wanted so much to come down the hillside, but couldn’t figure out what creature blocked her path. She scratched the bark and grunted her frustration. Finally accepting she couldn’t get there from here, she followed her babies into the woods.
Travel Light Tip & Humor
Stay near the forest service rangers when around Alaskan wildlife and take your directions from them. Mother bears can be quite ferocious if someone gets near their babies.
By the way, what in the world could you put in a spray can that would scare a bear?
Until next time…Travel Light,
©2015 SuZan Klassen