We’ve really enjoyed traveling on the Alaska State Ferries. The experience is totally pleasant, from boarding with the van, to the hot showers, to the spectacular 360-degree moving scenery. Not to mention having someone else doing the driving.
We weren’t thrilled about the cold rain beginning in Juneau on day 2 of the Inside Passage, until we met 3 local women who were very grateful their drought might have ended. We also heard there were fires and smoke near Anchorage and Wasilla just after we left.
In the rain we explored the city of about 31k, where the main attraction may be the Mendenhall Glacier. About 14 miles long, it’s fed by the Mendenhall Icefield above it, but retreats 400 - 500 feet per year.
We took the MV LeConte, another state ferry boat, northwest to the town of Gustavus, population 532. It’s the gateway community for Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and seems to exist solely for that purpose. If you ever wanted to live in a small and remote place, Gustavus might fit the bill. (Remember that TV show Northern Exposure?) Without exception everyone waves to each other in passing.
Generally, 90% of the 500k annual visitors to Glacier Bay NP see it from the deck of a cruise ship. The other 10% of visitors are land-based and access it from the park’s day boat. We spent all day aboard the Baranof Wind, traveling to the furthest reaches of the 3.3 million acre park and back, a distance of about 100 miles.
Back in Juneau we were very grateful when sunshine returned. We stayed near the Mendenhall Glacier while waiting to catch the MV Malispina south to Prince Rupert, B.C.