Travel: Alaskan Glaciers


When we celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary in Alaska a few years ago,  it either drizzled rain or came outright down-pours eleven of the thirteen days. Our seaplane and bush plane adventures were both canceled due to weather. We trudged through the rain and got chilled to the bone every day as we saw a lumber-jack show, a totem pole park, went panning for gold, ate at a salmon bake and took a bus tour through Denali National park. The day we went whale watching the rain came down in sheets. The balcony we'd paid extra for on the cruise ship went unused. That's why by the eleventh day, we didn't feel so happy anymore.

On August 18 we woke up to cloudy skies and drizzle as usual but as we sat in the restaurant eating breakfast, a few patches of blue tore through the clouds. Soon the tour guide found us and said she'd been notified the weather was stable enough to take a helicopter ride up to the glaciers if it was something we were interested in. Are you kidding, lady? We couldn't sign up fast enough, all the while keeping an eye to the sky.

A bus picked us up at the hotel and took us to the site where we were fitted with special boots to walk on the ice. We chatted with others, all of  us excited to get in the air and realize the dream of a lifetime. 

We headed out to the helicopter pad and the pilot directed a woman and her daughter to sit up front beside him. Her husband and James and I sat in the back. I didn't like getting stuck in the middle, but because of weight distribution, it was necessary. The pilot handed us headphones so we could communicate with him during the flight. 

Sun shone on the colorful mountains, their sharp peaks jutted heavenward. Glaciers began dotting the terrain.

As we flew higher, the wind grew fierce, pummeling the helicopter. My heart pounded and my teeth were clenched in fear as I wondered if we'd clear the mountain straight ahead. I think it was a close call, but once we topped it we saw lots more snow with clouds above and below us.

Once we got closer to our destination we saw more detail in the glaciers. An unusual site, they reminded me of light blue roads curving down the mountainside. The ice wasn't one solid sheet. Divisions in it, caused from water flowing, made it look like crookedly wedged slabs.

An Alaskan glacier 

An Alaskan glacier 

The helicopter landed. The pilot got out and as he opened our doors  the wind, laced with ice, whipped through our jackets straight to our bones. We didn't care though. We were on top of the world, or so it felt.  With our first step, we understood the need for the ice cleats. 

We took in a deep breath of the clean air. Snowflakes fell on our shoulders. As we adjusted to our strange footwear, we watched folks mill around on the frozen paradise. A roaring sound in the distance led us to the glacier's highlight, a waterfall. An aqua flow bounded over the frozen mound and plunged into a crevice about twenty feet away.

Much too soon the pilot, a young German man, began gathering his passengers for the flight back.

Our pilot

Our pilot

The clouds were low and heavy as we lifted off. It seemed they could almost swallow us up. A small glacier, compared to the others, looked almost like the aqua pools we'd seen at Yellowstone the year before.

It began to rain again and water streamed down mountain crevices. It didn't matter now. We'd had our mountain-top experience, a frozen land warmed by Gods creativity. I sat back and relaxed, in my mind hearing the sound of water flowing, a life-giving stream, a gentle rush down the mountainside. Another God encounter. Praise Him.  

TravelLinda SawyerComment