Dear Intrepid Visitors and Curious-Minded Locals,
After years of researching Southeast Alaska’s tourism industry, it’s my great pleasure to release the 2018 Guide to Lesser Known Tours. The following excursions are not currently sold through the cruise industry, nor are they for the faint of heart. If you want zip-lines, tanzanite and T-shirts these might not be for you. If you want authentic Alaska, consider any and all of the following. Tours are ranked in order of their popularity.
Become a Sourdough in 30 Minutes or Less
Remember that old saying that a Sourdough is someone whose pissed in the Yukon River, shot a grizzly and spooned a wolverine? Well, at Become a Sourdough in 30 Minutes or Less, located in Skagway (the operation moves from one back alley to the next every day), you can become a Sourdough without spending a ton of boring winters frosting your buns. Great for kids and old timers alike — the wolverine is surprisingly gentle. If you want to shoot the bear with a real gun — his name is Geoff and he works as a dolphin in the Caribbean during the winter – it costs a little extra.
The Full Tongass Experience
I have mixed feelings about this tour and can only recommend it during sunny days. That said, Olga Thunders, who owns and runs the tour, is hands down the best dominatrix north of Vegas. Basically — without giving away the best parts of the experience – Olga strips you down and sprays you with cold water while powerful fans blow cold air at you. Spoiler: there’s salmon slime, devil’s club and treble hooks involved. Located in that dark corner behind the Alaskan Hotel in Juneau.
Bear Defense 101
Educational and exciting. Come learn about bear attacks and check out the life-size mannequins that have been disemboweled and had their faces torn off. Snack on some deep-fried brown bear and, then, get ready for Geoff the bear to charge you, not once but twice. The first time you’ll be armed with pepper spray. The second time, with a shotgun that shoots bean bags (you have to pay extra for lead slugs). You be the judge of which puts him down quicker! Located in Skagway wherever Become a Sourdough in 30 Minutes or Less is operating.
Melt Your Own Glacier
There are few things more boring than talking about global warming, but melting your own glacier with a blow torch and a jerry jug of diesel will have you whooping with joy. Who’d have guessed that learning could be so fun? Pick from a variety of miniature glaciers to incinerate — including glaciers that look like the Mendenhall. Located near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. Spoiler: many glaciers have “gold nuggets” and drink coupons for your cruise ship inside of them.
Captain Ahab’s Catch and Release Whaling
It’s a commonly known fact that every healthy red-blooded American wants nothing more than to stand on the bow of a tippy dory and hammer a harpoon into a whale. Captain Ahab’s Catch and Release Whaling, located at the transient dock in Hoonah, offers all the thrill of wildlife viewing and blood sport with maximum comfort and minimal effort. After an hour-long “Southeast Alaskan Ride” Ahab will cut the whale free, so it can happily be caught on another tour. Dollar for dollar the best the whale watching/harpooning tour on the market.
The Alaska Echo Chamber
The tour is crazy cool. Located in some guy named Ike’s house in Ketchikan, prepared to have your mind blown! Ike will lock you in his closest, which acts as an echo chamber. You’ll be deprived of all senses but hearing. For the next hour a multitude of voices exhibiting the spectrum of human emotions will do everything from whisper to scream: “AAAAAALLLLLLLLAAAAAAASSSSSSSKKKKKKKKAAAAAAA.” There’s complimentary pilot bread and peanut butter afterward.
• Bjorn Dihle is a Juneau writer and pens this column, “Off the Beaten Path.” His first book is “Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska.” Contact or follow him at www.facebook.com/BjornDihleauthor.