Weather: High 57, low 54, rain again
Steps walked: Shaun - 8,539 steps, 8 floors climbed; Shannon - 8,128 steps, 11 floors climbed
Critter count: lots of red salmon, duckies, and one black bear (see below for more on that)
When we arrived at the gardens, we were able to get on a tour for just four of us. They take the group up a mountain in a golf cart(!), telling us about the plants and animals in the rainforest and about what they did to prevent landslides from occurring again. Going up some of the hills at 45-degree angles, we could totally understand how a landslide could happen.
From the hotel, we took a shuttle to the airport, where we met up with the group of Lindblad/National Geographic cruisers who were flying in together from Seattle today. Once on the bus with them, that was the official start of our cruise, but rather than heading straight for the ship, we went to the Mendenhall Glacier, right in Juneau's backyard.
And you should have seen all the mega mondo cameras people had! Our cruise is specifically for people interested in photography, so everyone had these ginormous cameras with all the super long lenses, and they were just snapping away like paparazzi. And I thought my mom was bad! Now I know better (which doesn't mean I still won't make fun of her). A side comment from Shaun here...thank you again Grandma Dar for the wonderful 42 times zoom camera. It is awesome!
Anyway, we watched the bear in the tree for awhile (I took a video, which I'll post soon), and then we went to watch the red salmon that were furiously trying to swim upstream. Every once in awhile they would cause a ruckus with another fish, so I took some video of them as well. They were actually very beautiful with their red bodies, though their little snout thing kind of freaks me out.
After an hour at the glacier, we had to leave to go to the Alaska State Museum in downtown Juneau. It was about a 15-minute drive from "the valley", where the glacier is, to the downtown area, so the bus driver told us facts about Juneau, some of the history, and what it's like to live there. It was pretty interesting, especially since he moved here 30 years ago, so he's seen it change quite a bit. Juneau is inaccessible by land and only has 40 miles of road surrounding it. Can you imagine living somewhere that you have to either fly into or take a boat to? Especially since it's the capital of the largest state in the nation! Incredible!!!
The Alaska State Museum has a lot on native Alaskan culture and art, as well as exhibits on the Russians in Alaska, the gold rush, and the wildlife, but it's a very small museum. We were able to see everything to our satisfaction in just an hour. Apparently they received a grant to expand the space, so it's going to be closed for the next two years while they triple the size of the building. Right now they are only able to show about 1% of their total collection. They will be able to do a lot more with their new building.
We'll travel overnight to Tracy Arm Fjord to the south of Juneau, where we'll get to go by zodiac right up to a glacier and maybe even see it calving! Wish us luck!