November 19, 2019
While looking through the different shore excursions offered by Holland America, the Mendenhall Glacier Native Canoe Adventure was the first to catch my eye. Canoeing is new to me, but I grew up kayaking all over California. It sounded exciting! I was most looking forward to getting up close and personal with the glacier.
When we arrived in Juneau, it was a bit chilly, about 52 degrees, and the sky was cloudy with light rain. We disembarked the ship and waited near the bus stop next to someone holding a sign with the name of our excursion on it. The bus finally arrived to pick us up and we drove around to the other two Holland America ships that were also in port to pick up our other paddlers. I wish I could remember our bus driver’s name because he had a great personality with lots of knowledge of the area. He was born and raised in Juneau, has lived there his whole life, and is now raising his family there. He is a member of one of the Tlingit clans of Southeast Alaska. His insight on the local indigenous culture was really interesting. On our ride to Mendenhall Lake, he pointed out important buildings and told us some fun facts. He also pointed out every time we were passing a bald eagle sitting atop a light post along the highway. After about a 25-minute bus ride, we arrived at Mendenhall Lake.
Our guide, John, met us at the bus, had us sign a waiver and sent us to the bathrooms to prepare for our journey. We were provided rain gear that included big orange waterproof pants and we all used our own rain jackets and gloves. There were about 14 of us total participating. John gave us a walkthrough of what to expect and then asked for 2 of us to volunteer as leads. Since no one jumped at the chance, my boyfriend, Sam, volunteered us. We were in charge of setting the pace of the other paddlers, while staying in-sync ourselves. The only other people on the lake were about 5 kayakers and one other canoe. It made the trip seem very exclusive, since the U.S. Forest Service limits the amount of people allowed each day.
On the ride back, the driver made 3 different stops if people wanted to be left off in town to grab some dinner or do some shopping. Sam and I found a nice restaurant to have a fish dinner and celebrate before stopping at some shops on our way back to the ship. We found a local art gallery where local artists sold their artwork and gifts. We were able to find a hand-painted ornament of the Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls to hang on our tree and remember our engagement this Christmas.
I highly recommend this shore excursion! The weather could have been a bit better and I am sure it would be earlier in the season. But it was such an unforgettable experience, with great guides, phenomenal scenery, some adventure, and memories.