Days 66-72: Auke Bay, Taku Harbor, Juneau

August 1-August 7, 2022 Monday-Sunday Days 66-72

August 1, 2022 Monday Day 66: Today was a slow day. The McBrides got back from Skagway. Before they got back I took the rental car to Fred Meyer’s to get some snacks for the boat trip home. While we were grocery shopping they called letting me know they were back. We finished up at the grocery store and went and picked them up at Statter Harbor. They dropped me and the kids off at our place, and then they went downtown for some shopping. They did invite us, but I thought quiet time was a smarter move for the kids than shopping. That night we cooked up more of our halibut and had fish tacos.

August 2, 2022 Tuesday Day 67:  Today we were supposed to do the helicopter ride to the glacier where we’d go to a dog sled camp. Sadly we got the call about an hour before we were supposed to leave that it was canceled due to weather. Chris and I spent about an hour trying to find another tour we could do with McBrides. Sadly, they had nothing before August 4, which is when the McBrides were leaving early in the morning. Chris and I did find a helicopter ride to a glacier that had room on it for our family, but it wasn’t until after the McBrides left. We booked it for us. We then found a dog sled camp that wasn’t on a glacier, but on dirt, and we booked that too. Again it wasn’t until after the McBrides left that we could do these things. I found one helicopter tour the McBrides could do before they left, but they decided they’d rather spend their last night with us instead, so they didn’t book anything. 

This tour was the thing that my kids were most excited to do and we had a very sad afternoon. Luckily Grandma had the idea to go to get pizza at Bullwinkles, which is also an arcade. That seemed to cheer the kids up. The kids loved playing games with Grandma, especially Pac Man. Ellen loved that Grandpa would walk around and show her all the games she wanted to see. 

Even though the early afternoon wasn’t ideal weather, this evening was beautiful. We decided to drive to the end of the road after dinner. (The end of the road that is on the downtown side of Juneau.) While we were driving Chris noticed there was a low tide river full of salmon. After we drove to the end of the road we went back to that spot on the beach and we all got out to walk around. There were salmon everywhere! The water was really shallow so it was easy to see all the salmon. Some of the salmon were dead on the beaches and others were stuck on sandbars. Others were working hard to get up stream through the swift current. The sun had come out, and with it the mountains. It was so fun watching the salmon and enjoying nature, and each other’s company. 

Bullwinkle’s Pizza
Sheep Creek Beach
On the way back we passed the whale statue/fountain and we had to stop for a quick picture.

August 3, 2022 Wednesday Day 68: Auke Bay to Taku Harbor to Harris Harbor 64 miles- 2988 total miles.

We needed to be out of our Airbnb on Wednesday morning. Chris needed to still work until Friday so we decided to get a hotel. Since I would be in charge of moving out, taking our stuff and the kids somewhere while Chris worked, and checking into the hotel, we decided that we would get a hotel with one night overlap as our Airbnb so I could just move straight into the hotel when we moved out. We were able to pack up and clean our Airbnb so we could play all afternoon/evening. 

Since we had really nice weather and the McBrides still hadn’t seen a bear, we decided to take them on a boat ride to Taku Harbor. We thought this might be our best chance at finding a bear.

We thought about moving the boat to Harris Harbor before this outing, but we ran out of time. Harris Harbor is the harbor that is close to downtown, and it cuts off about 15 miles to Taku Harbor. We were lucky that we never moved the boat because on the trip around Douglas Island we saw a huge male orca! This guy was just off our port side. He was going about the same pace as us. We would slow down to watch him/give space, and then he would dive down. We would keep going slow for a couple minutes and when he still didn’t come up we would speed up. As soon as we sped up he would pop up again and swim along us for a bit, and then dive back down. We watched him for about 45 minutes.

The sun was out this whole outing and we were able to see the mountains. There were some clouds out, but they only added to the scenery. We finally made it to Taku Harbor and we hiked around a bit. We went to Tiger’s Cabin and to a swing that was set up in the pine trees. When we were making our way back to the boat, across the bay on the beach on the other side we saw a bear. We were really excited because we really wanted the McBrides to see a bear. We got in the boat and boated over to that side of the bay. We were able to get close enough to watch it meander along the beach. We could watch it really well through the binoculars. We watched the Brown Bear four about 20 minutes, it disappeared and we needed to get back. 

Watching the orca and the bear got us back a little later than we planned. We left Taku Harbor around 9:30 PM and we still had over an hour to go. Luckily it stays light a long time here, but we were still cutting it a bit close. 

As we got closer to Harris Harbor there were several fishing boats out using gill nets. We had to go really slow and watch very closely to make sure we wouldn’t run any of the nets over. Keep in mind it was near dark. I was happy to have Bryan being an extra set of eyes as I tended to Ellen. 

As we got even closer to Harris harbor, it got darker, and the ship traffic picked up. We were following a Disney Cruise ship in from Taku Harbor, and as we got closer to Harris Harbor we caught up with it. Along with the Disney Cruise ship we had 4 other cruise ships we had to navigate around as well as a few more fishing boats. It did get pretty stressful there. (Again it was almost dark at this point.)

When we headed into Gastineau Channel it was dark. Bryan again was great to have on board being extra eyes for Chris. As we pulled in Bryan shone a flashlight/spotlight off the bow for Chris to see a little better. Of course Harris Harbor transient docks were pretty full that night. We did find a spot luckily. We were all happy to be back. 

By the time we docked and were off the boat it was just after 11:00 PM. We did not think we would get back that late. Our car was still at Statter Harbor. We thought we’d take a Lyft over, or even the bus. When we got in the buses were no longer running and neither was Lyft or Uber. We spent a few minutes trying to find a taxi and luckily we were successful. Our hotel was downtown and we decided we would just sleep there that night instead of going back to the AirBnB. The McBrides got the taxi to take them to Statter Harbor and we walked to our hotel room. By the time they got in the taxi it was midnight. The McBrides were leaving early the next morning so the kids wanted to wait until midnight to say our goodbyes. It’s always hard for my kids saying goodbye to family, and being so tired made it even more difficult. 

Bear count: Today: 1     Total: 34

Boating from Auke Bay to Taku Harbor
Taku Harbor
This is a little cabin on Taku Harbor that is available to use.
We hate boating in the dark. Luckily we had extra eyes on board. Seeing the orca and the bear did make it worth it.

August 4, 2022 Thursday Day 69: Chris woke up early to drop his parents off at the airport. They came and picked him up in their rental car, but since they didn’t have to return the rental car until 10:00 AM we figured we would use it the last few hours. Chris dropped them off and then headed to the AirBnb to clean out the fridge and take the food to the boat’s ice chest. 

Chris came back to the hotel to work. I took the kids on the bus to do laundry and get food at Auke Bay Cafe. When we came back from doing laundry we got ready for our helicopter tour.

The helicopter people picked us up at our hotel and took us to where the helicopter was by the airport. When we checked in they told us due to group sizes we would be split up. I would ride with Ellen and Chris would ride with the big kids. I was a bit bummed about that. I also have some separation anxiety and having us do something that is safe, but could potentially end badly, having us split up stressed me out a bit. If something bad happens, at least we will all be together no longer applied here. I realized that there was only so much we could do and I wanted to keep it a fun experience so I kept a good attitude about it. The helicopter people realized that it was a bummer for us and they arranged for us to have the best seats in the helicopter. We also would load at the same time, get to the glacier at the same time, and walk around together. Then we would take off and land together when we were done. 

Our helicopters arrived from another tour and it was time to load up. Ryan got to sit behind the pilot next to a door. The doors were all glass so he got great views out his window. He had strangers sitting next to him, a family of 3. He was a bit nervous about that, but he did great. Lillian sat upfront next to the pilot, and Chris sat up front next to her. In my helicopter Ellen sat next to the pilot and I sat up front next to her. We had four adults behind us in the helicopter. 

The back seat belts were like a car. The front seatbelts had two straps going over the shoulders (one on each side), they connected in the middle in a buckle that went across our waist. Ellen’s seat belt was wonky so the pilot moved one shoulder strap over the other side. She felt it was safer for Ellen that way.

Chris and the big kids’ helicopter took off and then it was our turn. It felt a lot like a simulation or ride at Disneyland. It was a pretty smooth lift off, maybe a bit shaky. Up and up we went. Then we ascended while going forward. The helicopter had windows everywhere, even at our feet so the views were incredible. I was really glad we were given the best seats. Ryan said he had great views as well! We flew over Statter Harbor, passed Nugget Falls and the Mendenhall Glacier, up and up to the mountain peaks. We could see valleys on the mountains, and where the vegetation started thinning out. It was incredible. The pilot gave us a good view of the huge glacier, and pointed out a few things of interest. We did a huge turn where our side of the helicopter dipped lower and we got great views. Ellen did great. She did slump down a bit in her seat, and she didn’t like that, but once I pulled her up she was a happy girl. The sun was also in her face a bit, but once we turned she was enjoying it. Ellen has always been good at enjoying the scenery, and animals we’ve seen along the trip, and this was no exception. I did have eyes on the other helicopter at all times, so that did seem to help my anxiety a bit. We watched them land, then it was our turn.

We got a brief safety lesson before getting out of the helicopter and walking on the glacier. Once we were out Chris and the kids came over to us and we got to walk around with them. 

We walked around on Reid Glacier earlier on our trip, but we didn’t go on the top of it. We did get to walk on top of Herbert Glacier though it was awesome. There were patches of blue, small streams running over the top of the glacier and just under some ice of the glacier. There were crevices full of clear water. We filled up our water bottles and got to drink the crisp, freezing glacier water. Lillian said it tasted a bit like snow. Ellen loved munching on the ice, and the kids liked throwing rocks into some of the crevices. 

Before we knew it, it was time to load up and head back. Chris and the big kids’ helicopter took off, and then it was our turn. On the way back Ryan said his pilot pointed out places to look for bears or moose. Ryan said he saw an animal, he thinks a moose, due to its size, walk along and go behind some trees. Everyone else was on the wrong side of the helicopter to see. It was a highlight for Ryan.

After a bit I lost sight of their helicopter. Luckily I didn’t see a crashed helicopter so I could at least reassure myself with that. But then I saw it, they had landed safely. Soon Ellen and I landed as well. Landing was super easy and light. Maybe a little shaking as we were about to touch down, and maybe a tiny bounce. It was so different from an airplane. Helicopters are really amazing to me. My grandpa was a helicopter pilot in the Navy, so I feel I have a little more connection to him, of course his helicopters were vastly different from this. 

We all thought it was well worth it. Lillian especially was very into it. It was also cool that both our pilots were females. 

Our driver dropped us off and recommended a few restaurants we could try for dinner. One of them was Pel Meni’s, a Russian dumpling place. We decided to give it a try. Chris and I liked it, the kids weren’t that into it, so we picked up Domino’s Pizza  for them. (Ellen liked the dumplings). 

Ellen has refused sleeping alone, so she’s been in with Chris and me.
Chris, Ryan, and Lillian taking off form Herbert Glacier
Ellen and me taking off from Herbert Glacier
Landing back in Juneau

August 5, 2022 Friday Day 70: Chris still had some work to finish up, and we were checking out of the hotel. I decided that I would pack up the hotel and take the kids to the boat to unload while Chris worked. It worked out pretty well except it was pouring rain, and the wind was picking up. It didn’t look like we’d get to leave Juneau today, tomorrow, or possibly even Sunday. We haven’t even started our trip home and we are already delayed due to the weather.

I loaded up the boat and organized it, then the Kids and I walked back towards the hotel. I decided to wait for a table at Sandpiper Cafe, a restaurant that is right next to our hotel. I texted Chris we were there and to just meet us there when he was done. We were still waiting for our table when Chris showed up. I think they were really busy, and were short staffed, so getting seated took longer than normal. We had our sled dogs scheduled and we had less than an hour to get there. We were getting a little nervous, but a table opened up. (We decided that we would just hold Ellen and we could be a table for 4 instead of 5 and that did help speed things up.) Luckily we ordered right away and then our food came out really fast. Chris held Ellen the whole time, which was great for me. We paid and we left to go to the sled dogs.

We waited right where our tickets told us to for the sled dog tour, but it was time to go and we still couldn’t see our group. Finally they called us asking where we were, we walked over to the buses. I feel bad being “late”, but I guess they hid out of the rain under the awnings instead of being where they showed us they would be. (There is a nice picture on our ticket where we should go, Oh well.) We did get soaking wet walking over, and then waiting. 

We loaded up in the vans and we went up the mining road, where we did the mining tour earlier. We went up past that, we were now in the mountains, but stopped at a nice little valley. We pulled into camp, and could see the dogs right away. The dogs weren’t in a fenced in area, instead they were tethered and each had a small dog house. We were told they were tethered to cut down on fighting, and unwanted babies.

These dogs are Alaskan Huskies, so they are very different from Siberian Huskies or even Alaskan Malamutes. Alaskan Huskies are a mixed breed dog, they are bred for specific qualities. I had a hard time getting the answer I wanted from our tour. I wanted to know if there was a distinct breed that was needed to make in an Alaskan Husky. I was told that the double coat made it an Alaskan Husky, but that didn’t really answer what I wanted to know. So I looked it up. Here is what I got from Wikipedia:


“Genetic studies indicate that the Alaskan Husky originates from pre-Colonial North American Arctic village dogs (including precursors to the Alaskan Malamute) and Siberian imports (precursors to the Siberian Husky), crossbred with European breeds such as Pointers, German Shepherd Dogs, and Salukis to improve its performance.[8][7]

In 2015, a DNA study indicated that the Alaskan husky, the Siberian Husky, and the Alaskan Malamute share a close genetic relationship between each other and were related to Chukotka sled dogs from Siberia. They were separate to the two Inuit dogs: the Canadian Eskimo Dog and the Greenland Dog. The Siberian Husky and the Malamute both had maintained their Siberian lineage and had contributed significantly to the Alaskan husky, which was developed through crossing with European breeds.[7]

Other breeds identified as having contributed to the Alaskan husky sled dog gene pool include Pointers, and a number of other non-arctic breeds by breed and type group. Genetic variation in the Alaskan husky has been analyzed based on the groupings of two purpose-driven distinct populations within the Alaskan sled dog gene pool: A distance group, and a sprint group:[8]

  • The distance group showed a higher contribution from the Arctic/Asian group, mainly the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute, and the Mastiff/Terrier group consisting primarily of Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepard.[8] The distance group also showed to be more genetically distinct from one another across kennel-based populations and at the individual level, than the sprint group.[8]
  • The sprint group displayed a higher contribution from Pointer-type dogs and Salukis, and the lowest contribution from Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, as well as the extreme-sprint specialists displaying the highest contribution from already long-bred Alaskan husky lineage.[8]
  • A sub-group chosen for analysis due to its overlap between distance and sprint types displayed the most Saluki contribution, more than the extreme sprint or extreme distance specialists.[8]


I suppose the link is the Siberian Husky or the Alaskan Malamute (or at least from the same lineage.) It also looks like they look for specific breeds to mix it with, and look for specific results.

Some other interesting things I learned is that Alaskan Huskies prefer temperatures that are cold, like 0 degrees to -20 degrees. The dogs here were dogs that live in the lower 48 states. During the summer it gets too hot for them. Their owners/mushers send them to Alaska where it is much cooler in the summer, so they can train and not overheat. 

We also learned that during the summer the dogs weight train. They run loads around 2,000 lbs., but they go shorter distances, around 2 miles. In the winter they run with lighter loads around 600 lbs., but go farther, around 100 miles. Alaskan Huskies are also smaller dogs, they normally weigh around 35-50 lbs, but they can pull around 100 lbs. 

After we learned more about Huskies, and sled dogs it was our turn to spend time with the dogs that were going to pull us. We got to pet them and get to know them. There was one Ellen really wanted to pet. I set her down where I thought it was out of reach of the dog. The dog was so excited to see Ellen it jumped up and booped Ellen’s nose. (More like the dog head butted Ellen.) It scared Ellen and probably hurt her a bit, so there were some tears, but she was OK. Ellen communicates mostly by ASL, just a few words here and there, but she would sign “dog”, “hurt”, “cry”. Lillian was really into petting the dogs as was Ryan.

Now it was time to ride! They have these cool carts that have three rows of stadium style seating. The tourists sit in this section, then the mushers stand in the back. It looks like the mushers can steer in the back. They hooked the dogs to the sled and dogs started yelping, barking, and howling. The rest of the dogs at the camp that weren’t going with us were also going nuts. Finally the musher gave the command to go and off we went. Since it is summer and hot in Alaska for the huskies we took breaks every ½ mile or so. (Keep in mind it was a very cold and wet day for us humans, but still only in the 50s. Remember these dogs like it in the negatives.) There was a little squabble between some dogs, but the musher went and untangled them. (They listened really well and when they were told to knock it off, they did.) The lead dogs would get a little curious on their breaks and would break formation. The musher would tell them to get in line, and they would. I was very impressed. We went on about a 1 ½ miles-2 mile track. We were told that they make sure not to run the dogs too much because it is too hot for them. 

Once we were back we got to see the puppies and the kids got to hold and pet a one month puppy named Gannon. Both big kids said that the dogs were the highlight of the trip and the favorite thing they got to do. 

After the dogs we were soaking wet and freezing cold. Going on the boat and just hanging out in the boat didn’t sound that fun, so we booked another night in the hotel. Chris took the kids back to the hotel while I went to the boat to get a few things. (I did forget a lot of stuff though, oops.) After that we all showered and dried off. No one wanted to go out again in the weather. Chris did run to the store for a few things and picked up pizza for the kids. I got Chinese delivered for Chris and I. 

This yellow dog was Lillian’s favorite.

August 6, 2022 Saturday Day 71: We are still stuck in Juneau. The weather is terrible, the worst it’s been our whole trip. Rain, wind, cold. We got another night in the hotel. We walked to get lunch, came back for quiet time and naps, and walked to the boat for a few things. The rest of the time we have just been hiding out in our hotel room. We had left over pizza for dinner and we got Chinese again delivered. 

August 7, 2022 Sunday Day 72: Harris Harbor to Tracy Arm Cove 52 miles- 3040 total miles

Today the Ironman Triathlon is going on in Juneau. We don’t know anyone participating and we aren’t watching, but there are a lot of people here for it.

We are checking out of the hotel today and will just move into the boat and hopefully leave early in the morning or best case scenario this evening.  At least the rain has stopped for the most part today and its actually a decent day outside.

We are bummed we lost two whole days, but we expected to lose days due to weather. It’s just frustrating that it happened before we even started. At least we had a hotel and Juneau is a nice place to be stuck.

We finally made it out of Juneau and had pretty great weather! I was surprised how sad everyone was to leave.We made it to Tracy Arm Cove for the night. Along the way we got permits to Anan Wildlife Observatory for Tuesday. They had 5 spots open for the day we needed to go. We are excited about that!

Ryan’s Thoughts: We went on a helicopter to a glacier and we did sled dogs on dirt. It rained a ton. We left Juneau and saw a double rainbow!

Lillian’s Thoughts: We checked out of our AirBnB and grandma and grandpa left. Then we went to fly in a helicopter! Then we did sled dogs and the puppy there that we pet was named Gannon! My Favorite sled dog that we pet was named Buzz! It rained a lot now we are here, bye! Today we left Juneau and ate at the Sandpiper Cafe!

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