Next Stop: SE Alaska

Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier, Tracy Arm Fjord, Salmon Hatchery, Mining Museum, Taku Glacier Lodge, Alaska String Band

00:00 JON: Hi, I’m Jon Olson, welcome to Next Stop, from the only US State capitol bordering a foreign country.
00:05 Next Stop Logo rolls
00:20 JON: Welcome to Next Stop from Picturesque Southeast Alaska, home to some of the most beautiful fjords and icebergs you will find anywhere in the world. We will base our camp in Juneau, the only US state capitol bordering a foreign country; Canada to the north, and the icefields. This show has lots of action and adventure, we will take you dog sledding on a glacier, we’ll pan for gold and we’ll talk salmon. All this and more on Next Stop from SE Alaska. The fun starts now.
00:41 Next Stop Logo rolls
00:44 JON Today we get to do something that you can pretty much do any day of the year, if you live on a glacier-we’re going dog sledding! Of course we didn’t walk up here, it’s just a short helicopter ride with Temsco helicopters and viola, here we are standing on the Mendenhall Glacier.
01:05 DALE: I’d like to welcome all of you to the Mendenhall Glacier, and to dog camp. The dogs we have here we call Alaskan huskies, these dogs are considered the fastest land animals over distance on the planet. They can cover one thousand miles in about 8 to 9 days, a typical training run is about 50 miles, and they can do up to 150 in a single 24 hour period, so pretty amazing animals.
01:30 JON So you must be the captain?
MATTHEW: Yes sir, how ya doing?
JON: Good, I’m Jon.
MATTHEW: Nice to meet you Jon, my name is Matthew.
JON: Hey Matthew.
MATTHEW: I’m going to be taking you out today.
JON Awesome, I’m excited.
MATTHEW: Yes. This is our team over here, we have got 12 alaskan huskies for you. This is gigabyte.
JON: Hi, gigabyte.
MATTHEW: And this in Fione.
JON: Hi Fione, you are a pretty dog, pretty eyes.
MATTHEW: Fione is going to be one of your lead dogs, she’s 5 years old. This guy is Michael Phelps.
JON: Michael Phelps? He’s gotta be fast then!
MATTHEW: He’s a good swimmer, huh? Right buddy? We’ll go about 2 miles around the glacier, I’ll tell you a little bit about the area here, and I’ll tell you all about the dogs if you like. So you can sit here, I’ll hook up.
02:15: MATTHEW Alright!
JON: Hahaha, woo hoo! This is so cool!
02:30 MATTHEW: So the dogs are designed to kind of follow a trail system. Even if there isn’t one available, if it is blown away from wind or mother nature, the dogs will just kind of go straight until I tell them otherwise. So we don’t use reins, like with horses, so they need to feel my brake and listen to my voice. So we’ll demonstrate a left hand turn. It’s just, you can indicate the dogs by stepping on the brake, and then you just tell them where you want them to go, hup, hup, there you go.
03:21 MATTHEW So if you look over to your left, this is the Herbert Glacier, and the Mendenhall Glacier, where they connect, it’s called H & M pass and we are kind of pointed toward the Mendenhall towers now, those mountains sit about 3 ½ thousand feet.
JON: Those are magical.
MATTHEW: Yeah, they kind of remind me of Lord of the Rings or something.
JON Yeah, totally
03:48 MATTHEW: Whoa, alright.
JON: Alright.
MATTHEW: Very cool.
JON: Nice tour Matt!
JON Thanks buddy.
MATTHEW: No problem. You’re welcome.
JON Great time.
MATTHEW: I always like to pet the dogs after a run, just let them know they did a good job, so you are more than welcome to.
JON: Let’s pet them. Good job!
MATTHEW: Good job you guys.
04:09 Next Stop Logo rolls
04:11 JON: Comin up, we learn about salmon, and tour the stunning Tracy Arm Fjord.
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04:22 JON: The weather is SE Alaska might surprise you, it’s actually quite moderate. Temps in the summer range in the 60’s, and in the winter time they are in the 30’s. I’m wearing this jacket not because it is cold today, it’s actually not, but we have got some liquid sunshine coming down. They get about 54 inches of rain a year, which is the same that Birmingham Alabama gets. Not so bad compared to other US cities, like Hilo, on the Big Island, gets about 124 inches a year. You just got to plan your wardrobe accordingly, which you can do at Alaska Airlines award winning website, See, a little rain never hurt anybody!
04:56 JON: We are at the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery for a little salmon 101. Emily, take it away.
EMILY: Sure, so these are chum salmon, also called the ketas, or the dogs, and basically, what all of these tens of thousands of salmon that we have onsite are doing right now is fighting up this fish ladder that is behind this window. This is one of the last legs, one of the last segments of their journey up a river or a fresh water creek, in our case it’s a fish ladder. This fish ladder is 450 feet long and these chum salmon have been fighting up it for a couple of hours or a couple of weeks.
05:29 JON We were just up at the river and there were thousands of salmon swimming upstream.
EMILY: Sure. What’s happening in a natural spawning situation what you saw, it that these salmon will stir up a gravel bed, and with about a 5 percent chance of fertility, those eggs are going to be fertilized. So that is a natural spawning environment, so it’s quite challenging, you can see why that salmon has thousands of eggs inside her, in hopes that one gets fertilized.
JON: There is so many. In looking at all the thousands, we are at a hatchery here so conservation is important, you are educating us now. But, what is the fine line between conservation and food?
EMILY: Uh, in Alaska, you really don’t have to worry about that because these hatcheries are supplying the commercial demand.
06:10 EMILY: So this is an incubation tray. This is where these baby salmon, once those eggs have been fertilized are going to live for that one winter. So, we have a room, and there are 650 of these trays all stacked up on one another, fresh water continuously flowing throughout.
06:28 JON: And now for the hooky spooky part of the tour.
EMILY: The creepy crawly part!
JON: No, this is cool, this is where all the eggs are.
EMILY: This is where all of the eggs are, so…
JON: What is the purpose of having it be so dark?
EMILY: So, the reason that this room has to be dark is that light affects their growth rate.
JON: How many salmon will make it out of the room into the pacific?
EMILY: About 125 million.
JON: Whoa!
EMILY: We are in the baby making business.
JON: Yes you are, and you do it well.
EMILY We do it well, yep.
06:58 JON: This is pretty intense.
EMILY: It is a lot of fish, huh? Almost 200,000 to be exact.
JON: Wow. I noticed they are gathering in that corner and then shooting out.
EMILY: Well, they are reacting to us. so I just saw your hand go that way.
JON Oh wow. I feel like I am directing and orchestra.
EMILY: I know, laughs
07:23 JON: Emily I love it. I have learned more about salmon than I ever thought I would, in an amazing setting, and here we are where they come, basically these guys are coming home to die.
EMILY: They are coming home. They are coming home to die, so this is basically the starting point of our fish ladder. This fish ladder is 450 feet long and they are going to fight their way up it, changing, dying the entire time. Pacific salmon both male and female, regardless of which of the 5 species it is, only has one life cycle, naturally. So yep, they are coming home to die.
JON: I’m still amazed, I can’t get it in my head, how they come from all over the world to come back here, to this spot.
EMILY: They come back here, I know, it’s amazing.
08:04 Next Stop Logo rolls
08:07 JON: Juneau has been the state capitol of Alaska since 1906 and has an area almost as large as the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. There are many places to stay and eat in Juneau, we recommend the Goldbelt Hotel, located right on the waterfront, boasting an amazing restaurant right in the lobby. And for something a little more quaint, check out the Silverbow Inn, which also has a cafe with the best bagels in Juneau. For more information on Juneau and the surrounding areas, visit
08:31 Next Stop Logo rolls
08:34 JON: Today we venture into one of the worlds great fjords, the Tracy Arm, with the Captain Cook.
08:46: STEVEN: Well here, we’re headed into Tracy Arm. Tracy Arm, a fjord. A fjord is an ocean waterway, carved out by glaciers. Oh, got a little bear here. They come down to the shore to eat mussels and barnacles at low tide, sometime the kelp there. They are kind of used to us, so we keep enough distance to where we don’t bother them too much. Give everyone a chance to have a look there, to take some pictures. This one here, they can at least check that little box that says bear.
09:32 STEVEN: Rule number one is you go around problems, so you find the path with the least amount of ice, so rule number one, go around it. Rule number two is go slow, and slow can be defined in a lot of different ways, again, that depends on how much ice is here.
JON: So besides the obvious Steve, describe what we are looking at here.
STEVEN: This is South Sawyer Glacier, and it is part of the Stikine Icefield. It’s a big area that goes from just south of Juneau down to the Stikine river from the Taku river down to the Stikine river. The icefield itself really is all the mountains and the glaciers that are collected upon them. This is, this is one of the most substantial pieces of ice you will find anywhere.
JON: Yeah.
10:21 STEVEN: Check this out, this is really gorgeous. This is the kind of ice that we are well known for here in Tracy Arm, just look at this color.
10:37 STEVEN: You gotta be careful going around them because they can fan out, you know. You think about sonar, radar, GPS and all that. I do it more simply, I simply look out the window.
11:01 STEVEN: So coming up here, we’ve got a spot you’ve got to step outside to enjoy the view. Look up to the heights, the rock walls way above us, little trickle of a waterfall here too.
JON: This is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with a waterfall. The water is really warm. Come on. Takers?
11:29 JON: That waterfall you took us to, you got so close to it man, you know how to maneuver this boat. You’re good.
STEVEN: Well yeah. I’ve got the knack.
JON: How many waterfalls? Hundreds of thousands of waterfalls?
STEVEN: You lose tracks, you can’t count them there are so many.
JON: But that one you took us to I thought was very cool.
STEVEN: Yeah, we like that maneuver. You get in there and people, everyone enjoys it, I get I get within about an inch of the rocks.
11:54 JON: The Tracy Arm excursion is billed as one of Juneau’s must do attractions, and after spending the day on the boat with Captain Steve and his crew, I’d say myself and the other 44 passengers would definitely agree, wow.
12:11 Next Stop Logo rolls
12:15 JON: Up next, panning for gold, and a float plane ride to a glacier lodge.
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12:23 JON: The Last Chance Mining Museum is the only historic mining building open to the public from Juneau’s gold rush era. An era that ushered in the population boom to Alaska.
12:36 RENEE: The gold rush started, gold was first discovered in 1861 in the Cassiar region, down in Canada, then it just migrated north. We’ve had about 6 anniversaries of Gold Rush, Juneau, then Skagway going up into the Klondike, and then Fairbanks, and then over to Nome. My favorite place is when somebody says “We’re going to Chicken’.
JON: Chicken!
RENEE: Chicken Alaska, it’s like, what a place to live.
JON: Now there is some really interesting pieces in here, especially the map. They didn’t have computers back then, but they have this map that goes down several dimensions.
RENEE: The fact that they were able to draw on glass, all the tunnels, and they knew where they were going. And the fact that it is very accurate is amazing to me, that you can look at it, and I like the fact that I can turn it off, I can turn it on, and I can read it.
JON: Because you’ve got the lights. You’ve also lights from back in the 1800’s hanging from the ceiling here. What other pieces of the museum are of interest?
RENEE: Well, obviously I love the compressor, the waterwheel gets a lot of interest. The big huge safe over there I guess is another one of mine. It is the safe they used to store the gold in and it weighs about 800 pounds.
13:55 JON: You must be Rocker Box Randy.
RANDY: Yep, you must be Jon.
JON: I’m Jon, good to meet you.
RANDY: Nice meeting you.
JON: Renee taught us the history, the local mining history this morning, now it is time to find some gold my friend.
RANDY: You want to find gold?
JON: I want to find gold.
RANDY: Ok, let me get some pans here, we’ll get you all set and find you some gold, okay? Okay, the whole trick to panning for gold, you get to remember gold is heavy metal, gold settles a lot on your pan, then you want to have a lot of action, tap it, shake it, best way is to tap it. Jar all the heavy gold down to the bottom, then you want to get all of your sand or overburden on the top. Angle it just about like this, what happens is these pans have a nice little lip or edge in the bottom, and gold being heavy now will come down, hang in the bottom edge of that pan. Gently rinse it off, we have a lot of iron, the black you see is iron. Now here’s the neat thing about an old pan, you want it old and rusty for a reason, I’ll show you, the gold is going to be down here.
14:48 JON: Oh yeah.
RANDY: And there is your gold.
JON: A couple of gold flakes. Sweet!
RANDY: And here is the nice thing about an old rusty pan, hold your hand out.
JON: The gold stays.
RANDY: You want an old rusty pan if you’re going to go with metal. Because gold is really kind of coarse and rough, and they rub with those rusty old pans and they cling onto each other.
JON: Randy, it’s been a pleasure.
RANDY: Well, come up anytime, we like to show people how to find gold, just don’t give our secrets out where we are at now, ok?
JON: I’m not going to give any of the secrets out.
RANDY: Have fun getting your gold.
JON: We love to bring out personalities, local personalities on Next Stop, and you are definitely on of the local personalities on the Juneau show, and you are kind of like Santa Claus, I mean people are going to believe you. What do you do in the winter? What do you do around Christmas time? Tell the truth.
RANDY: I cut my beard way back. I’m one of the few people that grow a beard in the summer and trim it way back in the winter. I grow it for the summer.
JON: Well, you look the part.
15:39 Next Stop Logo rolls
15:45 JON: The Taku Glacier Lodge flight and feast combines two memorable tours into one. Next Stop, Taku Glacier Lodge.
16:07 JON: So this is pretty cool, after you get off the float plane, which is a beautiful ride, they give you a little time before meal time to walk about the area. You really feel like you’re in the Alaskan wilderness.
16:20 MIKE: This is a wild Taku River king salmon you folks are eating today, these fish are caught just about 12 miles away from us, just upstream, we have them delivered about every other day, some of the best salmon you can get, and Wes does a darn good job cooking it over the alder fire out there, so I am glad you guys are enjoying that stuff, you should be very thankful that I had absolutely nothing to do with your meals today. It would be a pretty sore outcome if that was the case. I would like to welcome you all to Taku Lodge, it’s a pleasure having you with us here today. This lodge was originally built in 1923 by a guy named Dr. Harry Devine. He was a physician at the Ageait gold mine there in Juneau before he decided he wanted a change in lifestyle. He headed up the river here and he homesteaded this property, he chopped down all the timber in the yard, and with that timber, he built this very lodge.
17:11 RYAN: You ready to go on a trail walk?
JON: Yeah.
RYAN: Now we will get going in this direction over here. On you guy’s right and left sides here, we have wild blueberries and wild huckleberries, and they are actually in season right now, and you guys are welcome to eat them before the dogs get to them. Also along the trail here, you are going to see this really nice pink flower here, it’s actually called fireweed, it’s a really cool plant, actually turns totally pink, and it’s usually the first thing that’s actually going to grow back after a wildfire. These bigger trees you see here with all the moss growing on them? These are Sitka Spruce,, Alaska’s state tree. These are hundreds and hundreds of years old, this is an old growth forest, this tree is probably about 150 years old, and it’s actually covered in this moss, it’s called spagnum moss.
18:03 JON: What is it that people say about this tour?
MIKE: Um, well I think that really it is just authentic, you know. There is a lot of history to the building here, it’s real Alaska. You take a float plane up here, people are just in awe of the glaciers, you fly over five glaciers before you get here. There is history to it, there is a story that comes with the lodge, and there is just an authentic feel about the building and the grounds.
JON What is it like to work for a family business that brings in all these people from all over the world that puts smiles on their faces?
MIKE: I couldn’t be more blessed you know. It’s just nice to work so closely with my family. I started working in the kitchen officially when I was 12, 12 years old. Pretty much just haven’t left ever since.
18:45 Next Stop Logo
18:49 JON: Alaska’s own version of the von Trapp family band, coming up on Next Stopp.
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19:21 JON: I have been searching my whole life for the American version of the von Trapp family singers, and I think I have found it here in Juneau, Alaska. This is the Zahasky Family, the Zahasky Family string band. Welcome to Next Stop, and wow, what a sound you guys put out. Let’s start with you two, how did you guys meet?
PAUL: We met playing music. We had a common friend who asked us to play at a Christmas event, and we played at that together, and started dating, and fell in love shortly thereafter, and music has always been a part since day one.
19:51 Music
20:27 JON: Guys and girls come on now. Is there any conflict? Of course there is conflicts. How do you get through it when you have rehearsal and you just like want to get at each others throats?
BOY: Yell a lot.
GIRL: No, we have conflicts but it usually, they resolve. If we play we end up feeling better after we play it.
PAUL: Bands that tour without family, it is really hard on them, you know to tour as a family is great, we get to spend time and go on adventures together, you know I feel blessed because I get to work with my kids as they are working and train them into a professional skill.
20:58 Music
21:27 Next Stop Logo rolls
21:30 JON: Thanks for sharing our adventures and cultural experiences with us on Next Stop picturesque SE Alaska. Thanks also to the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Goldbelt Hotel for your partnership in helping us make a great show. Thanks to Alaska Airlines, and the Alaska Airlines VISA signature card for your partnership. We will see you next time on Next Stop, where will we take you next? Make good memories everybody.
21:51 Next Stop Logo rolls
21:54 Credits roll