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Archive of our Alaska Trip -

Cordova & Juneau

We arrived in Alaska on June 17th.  As of July 15th, here's where we've been:





Ah Cordova.  Not heard of Cordova?  Well it is a small cannery town now, although before that it was one of the world's foremost clamming locations.  However, the last earthquake raised the clam beds above sea level, so no more clamming.  Before that it was the port through which the Kennecott copper mines shipped their ore.  (More on that in a minute.)  In any event, it is not a tourist hot spot, so we loved it (though it is popular with fisherman).


So what does one do in Cordova?  We went to see Child's glacier.  The guide book said, "Drive to the end of the road..."  (Really - there is only one that leaves town, and 53 miles later this is where it goes.) " see a very impressive calving glacier."  We had seen the glaciers in Glacier Bay, and they were impressive, but of course the boat moved on and we just weren't done yet.  So, we found one where we could stay and watch as long as we wanted to. 

  Us in front of Child's glacier


The glacier is 300 feet tall and about 1200 feet away (across the river).  Maybe this one provides better perspective:

Hiking along the Copper River by Child's glacier


Large chunks of the glacier break off and fall into the water causing waves that often reach our shore and can sometimes reach where we are standing.  (Ten years ago a piece broke off the size of a quarter of a football field and created a 30 foot wave where we are standing.)  When a chunk falls off it makes a thunderous groan followed by a load splash, and there are many thunderous groans that cause no calving - just the glacier flowing.  It's kind of like glacier thunderstorms - really cool at night while we were camping.  The sheer size of the glacier was hard to fathom.  We spotted this eagle soaring along the glacier wall.  When the glacier calves, the fish in the area of the falling ice/debris are momentarily stunned, making them easy prey.  This eagle looked like a speck (without Yannis' paparazzi lens).

An eagle soaring in front of the glacier


Some seals have found this a good place for dinner as well.  Although the glacier is 50 miles from the ocean, there are apparently 500 seals that fish in the Copper River. 

Harbor Seal checking us out.


We basically camped and hung out by the glacier for large chunks (pun intended) of time.  The kids enjoyed playing with the rocks and watching glacier calving.  Tasha was inspired to draw the glacier and the surrounding mountains.

Tasha drawing the peaks behind the glacier


So back to the Kennecott copper mines.  To successfully get the ore to Cordova the copper had to pass over the Copper River.  Easy, right?  Build a bridge.  Well there is another calving glacier just up stream from Childs, and the icebergs coming off that glacier are quite impressive.  (Remember the one off Childs the size of a quarter of a football field?)  This bridge is engineered to divert icebergs from the cement pilings.  This included digging pilings over 90 feet deep.  Several men working on the construction actually got the bends!  When the bridge was built in 1910 it cost a million dollars to construct - thus its name. 


In addition to hanging around, we hiked over to the bridge (about 1 mile from where we were camping) to check it out.  The bridge itself is rather captivating, and the the iceberg deflection is an impressive process, which we watched for quite some time.  (Of course we also tried to land rocks on top of icebergs floating by.  We never succeeded - they were moving too fast and there were none larger than a car while we were there.)

The Million Dollar Bridge




A span of the bridge fell in the 1964 earthquake, and the bridge has not been useable since then - though they had jerry-rigged a way to get across the fallen span. However, after much analysis (and we're sure serious lobbying), they are starting to repair it this year.  For 17 million dollars.  Then the road will go a few more miles, but there is not a road to connect to nor a route over the, it will be a road to some lodges.  Locals fear eventually there will be pressure to build a road connecting Cordova to the rest of Alaska.  The bumper stickers are out, but we're staying away from any referendum on that subject (or any other)! 


Interestingly, even though it was July and warm, there was still a bit of snow on the ground in many patches (they get a lot of snow up here which is what feeds the numerous glaciers).  This was a huge snow patch, although for the life of us we could not figure out why this one hadn't melted.  It wasn't shaded, it wasn't colder, it wasn't high up or on a glacier.  This big patch of snow simply enjoyed defying the laws of physics.  Anyway, we couldn't pass up a chance to play in it. 


Tasha and Anika preparing for a snowball fight in July.



Once we had our fill of the glacier - after two nights of peaceful camping, basically alone with the sound of the thundering glacier and an occasional ground tremor caused by the glacier and a few million mosquitoes - we headed back down the road towards Cordova.  Along the way, we ran across the Cordova "sand dunes."


Time for a race on the sand dune!


Camping was nice, but after 2 days of dealing with some of the worst mosquitoes we've encountered (Anika has a case of "Mosquito Pox" with 22 bite on her forehead!), we were ready for civilization and fewer bugs - so we checked into the Reluctant Fisherman for the night. 

The Reluctant Fisherman


And then we packed up everything into 58K and headed off to the capitol of Alaska...




While flying, Anika likes to play with a variety of things - including the camera.  We have some cute self portraits and scenery pictures, and of course some pictures of her toys:

Anika photography


Here we are on our approach into Juneau (downwind for runway 26).  Beyond the airport is the Mendenhall Glacier.  (We checked out the glacier and discovered that the adjacent lake is a popular swimming hole for the local kids - next time we know to bring our bathing suits to the glacier!)


Juneau was pretty, but the main reason we came was to see the capitol.  We're trying not to miss the capitol of any US state we stop in this summer - so far, we're 2 for 2.

Tasha and Anika in front of the state capitol


To get to the capitol building, you must pass by this bear - we think it's a guard bear.

There we all are!


A "must do" in Juneau is to take the tram up to Mount Roberts.  When we inquired on this, we found out that a round trip costs $23 per person.  But if you hike up (it's only about 1700 feet up and 2-3 miles), you can ride down for $5/person (or free if you buy enough food and gifts up there).  So, being cheap and up for a nice walk, we hiked up and had lunch at the top of the mountain!  The walk was a nice one through a bunch of wooded areas - though the flies got bad at times.  Biggest problem was that mama and daddy had to carry the backpacks the whole time.  So, the kids helped sometimes too.

Tasha and Anika carrying the load for a while.


Once at the top (about 90 minutes of climbing), the views are spectacular, but the thing that really sticks out is the volume of cruise ship traffic that Juneau gets.  (There were only 2 in port at the time of this picture, but it seems like 3-5 is not uncommon - each carrying 1-2000 people!)


In summary, Juneau is a real city - with roads and cars and traffic.  The local bumper sticker here reads:  "Want more roads?  MOVE DOWN SOUTH!"  While pretty to look at, Juneau is too crowded and noisy for us.  We enjoyed our hike and we liked the town, but when 4 big cruise ships park at the wharf and all those tourists come ashore - it is crowded.  Not the quaint, quiet Alaska we have come to know. 


Next stop -  Sitka.


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Last modified: December 14, 2009