Upon stepping out of the airport terminal in Juneau, Alaska, my best?friend, Eric, immediately whisks me away towards the Mendenhall Glacier. No dropping off the luggage or relaxing with a bite to eat ? we go straight to the iconic scenery that makes Juneau great for adventure.?
I pull on some running shorts in the parking lot and grab a granola bar from my duffel?bag to ease the hunger pains. Although once starting down the path, no hunger or fatigue has any power. The vastness and vibrance of the glacier is mesmerizing. I came to Alaska seeking novel experiences and this is it! Mendenhall Glacier is far too much to take in at once. I beg to slow down to a hike and then to a slower walk. Not to catch my breath, but to have a moment to really look around at each one of the mountain peaks that towers in every direction.
The air has the beautiful smell of rain that has ceased and starts to mix with sunlight. Bald eagles are easily seen across the horizon. I realize at that moment that I have stepped into an adventure. This little hiking tour guided by my friend is destined to become one I will remember for a lifetime.
The excursion towards Mendenhall Glacier climaxes after about ? of a mile with a breathless vista of Nugget Falls. The year round waterfall drops 377 feet (1.25 football fields) and a sandbar leads right to the spray zone for an optimal experience.
The sun continues to dip below the horizon and we need to return to the vehicle. The trek back to the car goes by quick. It is phenomenal to realize how much nature is easily accessible around Juneau. We drove to the beginning of the glacier in less than ten minutes from the airport! I’ve spent time in other cities, such as Missoula, Asheville, and Seattle, with very accessible scenery, but none quite match the scenic things to do in Juneau.
Hiking trailheads are only a few minutes drive from anywhere in the city and many are literally a short walk from your front door. Streams, lakes, and the ocean caress all of the land and fish abound in these waters. You can kayak in Mendenhall Lake and float next to the behemoth glacier or stand above it when trekking up West Glacier Trail.
Continue out-the-road and find more trails that separate thick blueberry bushes to Herbert or Eagle Glacier. Or watch dozens (counted 80 last time I was there) bald eagles play on Eagle Beach while combing the sand for shells and vibrant sea glass. From the beach you can photograph the Chilkat mountain range on the horizon. The vista emits so many emotions…perhaps they are better captured with a brush and canvas.
It takes more than a day to take in all the beauty of Juneau. Don?t let that discourage you. No matter what you choose, the experience is one you will tell stories on for many years to come. Sooner or later the adventure bug will hit and you can continue wandering this land right where you left off.