A paddle through Juneau

Northwest of Juneau

Last night we completed the long foggy crossing.  It was a fun crossing, the fog stayed low but allow us to make our way, and with a surprise visit from a pod of orcas, we went to bed tired but smiling. We woke up to clouds and rain and SLUGS. We got slimed. Last night our entire tent, our shoes, our bags, were invaded by slugs. We even found one inside the tent which Anna had rolled over onto. I think I would have rather had a bear come and wake us up than to be covered in small slugs.  Almost everything we own has their yellow brown streaks on it. We pushed ourselves out of the tent flicked off our new friends laughed, cried and started paddling north to Juneau not to far away.

Paddling into Juneau

As we come upon large buildings and more boats we look for a place to moor our kayaks for a couple of nights. Every time we go into towns we wonder what it will be like. How easy finding a hotel will be and if it will be close. If people cross to the other side of the street because of how bad we smell. Or do we look funny because we are the only ones that are wearing dry bibs with relief zippers and a dry bags over our backs. But every time we arrive we are welcomed in and people are extremely nice. We have been offered dinner, to use their phone and to even use people’s cars to run errands. These are people that we have just met. I love small towns. 

Walking to the food trucks in Juneau

We left Juneau later in the day. The sun was out and we had finally dried our gear out with 2 days in Juneau. We ran around and enjoyed the city and restocked our food and bellies with fried everything. I am not sure what to think about Juneau. An interesting city for the capital of Alaska, larger than most towns we have visited and a little harder to get around. But with the same cruise ships that feed Ketchican its thousands of people it felt more crowded. Most go whale watching or to the Glacier just out of town. Others take a jet boat tours that fling people around in circles. Juneau, like a lot of towns, is pushed up against large mountains and has very few roads with the main road that stretches north to south. One of the problems with Juneau is it has no roads that connect it with the main land and people talk about moving the capital to make government more central, but that has been talked about for years, so who knows.

Not your normal cart of luggage

I was ready to leave the city and the feeling of paddling to Glacier Bay National Park 75  miles away was making me excited. I had been looking forward to this day for some time. To be able to paddle up to a massive glacier, feel the waves from calving ice and see the large peaks that surrounded the inlets that I had seen pictures of for so long. So we paddle with a purpose when we left the harbor.

Red channel markers along
Mendenhall sandbars

We were a little nervous leaving because Anna had read about the 8 mile section that turns to a mud flat at low tide just north of Juneau. Kayakers wrote about skipping that section and getting transported around. We had talked to the harbor master and was told he now recommends all motored boats to go around due to how many boats get stuck in the mud every year. “I recommend you bring a tarp so when you get stuck you can drape the tarp over your head so no one knows who you are,” he says with a laugh. But he checked the tide and said we should just squeak through in our kayaks if we hustle.

We paddle hard and weave our way through the green and red markers that mark the deep water channel and start touching bottom with our paddles. I wondered if I could get our tarp out without getting stuck knee deep in mud. We work are way along, looking across the large grassy mud flats and watching airplanes land at the airport to our left and helicopters fly off on tours like bees out searching for nectar. The waters became harder to see through due to the mud and we do our best to stay in the deepest path. Each time we hit bottom we paddle one direction then the other trying to find deeper waters.  We watched salmon scurry across the mud looking for water like we were. We thought about the 6 hours of waiting for the higher waters if we were going to get stuck and paddled harder.
But the harbor master was correct.  When we reached the end of the mud flats and paddled over the last sandbar, just barely touching bottom we looked back laughing at what we escaped, and thankful the tarp remained in the kayak.

Sunset outside of Juneau


  1. That’s hilarious! I can say that because you made it! How far has the Mendenhall receded? We heard quite aways and wish we were going there to see it. We last saw it in 2000.


  2. Which was better, to be slimed by the slugs or to be stuck in the mud?
    Who knew you would have to compete against mud?


  3. Your pictures are amazing! Thank you for sharing such a hilarious story! It was worth paddling through the fog for the adventure of orca pod, squashed slugs and slime, and a race with the mud!


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