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I confess. I have sinned along with the countless cruise
passengers stopping over for a day tour in Juneau. Like them, I
looked at the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure tour as
advertising hype. How can you have an adventure in an ice garden
and for $19.95?
However, while in Juneau, I had a free afternoon, and my friend
and Juneau resident, John Beiler, smiled as we planned the day.
“We’re going to Glacier Gardens,” he said, thinking I’d be
“It’s sunny out, John, which is rare for Juneau,” I replied.
“Let’s see the whales, go fishing or hiking.”
He kept driving, pretending not to hear me. I kept an open mind,
until I walked up to the garden entrance. From that point on, I was
in awe. This was neither an ordinary garden, nor was it iced
Upturned spruce trees stood like Roman columns, each supporting
a mini-amphitheater of flowers. Their wide, flat, sprawling roots
flared in irregular circles that hovered 15 to 20 feet in the air.
Each root tangle was filled with soil from which an abundance of
plants emerged. While a wide trail snakes along the base of the
trees, tourists bumped into each other regularly most looking up at
the floral spectacles.
“It is one of the most popular attractions in the Juneau area,”
said Beiler, “and a popular choice for weddings and other
Steve Bowhay married Cindy in 1988, and the couple expanded his
gardening and greenhouse business into Glacier Gardens.
The flower garden is a small part of a larger tract of 50 acres
of dense Southeast Alaska rainforest, accessible by a meandering
forest trail. While it’s possible to hike the trail to the top of
520-foot Thunder Mountain, most people opt for a leisurely ride in
one of the golf carts.
On the ride up, we leaned back and admired the thick rainforest
beauty. Foxes, mink, otters, bears and eagles are often seen on the
forest portion of the tour, as well as spectacular views of Chilkat
Mountains, Gastineau Channel and the Mendenhall Valley. We stopped
often to view flower-decorated ponds and waterfalls.
After I made the roundtrip, I wanted to make the journey again,
only this time on foot, and perhaps even volunteer to plant a few
Glacier Gardens is wheelchair accessible great for cruise
passengers who can’t handle traditional Alaska day tours. Buses
leave downtown Juneau every 30 minutes and stop at Glacier
Season: May 1-Sept. 30. Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost is $19.95 for adults. Agent commission is 20 percent.