A trip to Alaska, our 50th and most sparsely populated state, is not one of looking at history and differing cultures, or unique architecture, but one of wide open spaces and the seeing the beauty of nature. Juneau, the capital of the state, is only accessible by the sea, with the city nestled at the base of a mountain.
There are no roads connecting it to the rest of the state, so everything must come in and out of Juneau by boat or plane. With a population of only 30,000, it’s quite funny to think about the five cruise ships that come in and dock during the high season, putting 15,000 tourists onto their streets for a day. They certainly rely heavily on tourism to help their economy.
One of the most popular things to do when visiting this state is to explore the glaciers. Above Juneau is the largest glacial ice field where you can find over 30 glaciers. There are several places in the state to observe this miracle of nature.
Glaciers are frozen rivers that are slowly moving under it’s own weight. The beautiful blue occurs when snow falls on a glacier and is compressed, then becomes part of the glacier. Air bubbles are squeezed out and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear turquoise blue. It’s hard to tell, but that is 350′ tall wall of ice, with another 250′ of ice below the surface, equivalent to a 35 story tall building under the water. Hubbard Glacier is also 76 miles long, moving it’s length every 400 years. We are looking at the end of the glacier, where it meets the sea.
Glacier calving is a natural process of the breaking off of ice chunks from the end of the glacier. It happens because of expansion of the ice as it is moving. We didn’t see it while we were observing, but I found this compilation of glacier calvings so you could see the marvel of this amazing event. It’s pretty darn exciting. You just have to remember to not be too close to it when it happens. (By the way…everyone survives this first calving episode!)
Since we are in the neighborhood, if you like crab, there is none better than a splurge on Alaskan king crab. It doesn’t get fresher than this, served with hot biscuits, and melted butter with this sweet and decadent meat. It’s a total splurge but definitely worth it!