I haven’t posted anything about Alaska yet this season. This is the 3rd season I’ve done in Alaska and it’s been a busy one. I’ve just stepped back down to sideman status after a little over 2 months of being the Musical Director and after a week of doing relatively little I now have the desire to sit in front of a computer screen again.
While this itinerary hasn’t been as great as the ones I’ve done in the past, (no Skagway) we still go to some pretty incredible places. For those who haven’t been to Alaska, you see eagles, whales, glaciers, snowcapped mountains, and other delights on a daily basis. There is great hiking, incredible salmon, and always the hope of bumping into Sarah Palin while strolling the streets of downtown Juneau.
First things first, let’s get into some eye candy. One of the biggest attractions on this itinerary is Hubbard Glacier. We’ve been really lucky this year with great weather that has allowed us to actually see the glacier really well. In fact almost every time we’ve been able to get the ship up to the legally allowed limit of a ½ mile away from the face of the Glacier.
This photo is not enhanced. On cloudy days, the glacier is actually this blue. The ice is so dense from thousands of years of compression that it works like a prism, allowing the light at the blue end of the spectrum to be seen. Sound scientific?
The ship plows its way through the ice that is floating in the water and makes its way up to the glacier face. As the ice hits the side of the ship you can hear it thump…and scrape along the outside. I assume there is some procedure on the bridge for figuring out which pieces are too big to crash into but no one ever says anything about it.
By the way, floating ice is classified according to size in the following categories; brash, growlers, bergy bits, and icebergs.
When the ship is near to the face of the glacier we can see huge chunks of it calving off into the water. This action is accompanied by a thunderous cracking sound and an avalanche of snow and ice into the water.
Hubbard Glacier is not the only glacier available on this itinerary. Located just behind the city of Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, which is an enormous frozen river slowing carving its way through the valley. I’ve been to this glacier many times before but it has been about two years since I was there last and I was really surprised by how much it had changed. Any climate change skeptics should come to Alaska and see how obvious the changes are from year to year. At Hubbard Glacier, rocks that are typically not visible until the end of the season were about a ¼ of a mile in front of the ice the first time we arrived in May this season.
The thriving metropolis of Juneau is the only US state capital that is not reachable by road from the lower 48. The only way to get to Juneau is by boat or plane. Seaplanes are constantly buzzing in and out of the channel here.
A view of the city from the Mt. Roberts hiking trail above the city…
There is really great hiking in Juneau just outside the city. Trails wind there way to peaks, through lush green valleys that look like broccoli mountains, (most of southeast Alaska is considered rainforest) and past rivers and waterfalls.
Atop Mt. Roberts with the city of Juneau far below…
The gig here has been great this season. We’ve played very few guest entertainers and no production shows. Each night has been jazz or big band sets, which have been much more challenging and satisfying than the usual, Con Te Partiro theater stuff. While I was musical director I created a latin night set with some mambos, meringues, and other stuff we don’t usually get a chance to do. During the jazz sets we’ve been able to dig a little deeper into the rep since we are doing so many sets and play some Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter tunes.
More to come about Ketchikan, Icy Straight Point, Celine Dion shows, Vancouver, Bandmastering, and other delights…