Remember how in Juneau we had an excursion planned to fly up and land on the Mendenhall Glacier? Well we still wanted to try and land on a glacier or at least fly near one. Thus, one of the things that we did on that long nine hour train ride was to set up a glacier flight and landing with a company called K2 Aviation out of Talkeetna.
Fast forward a couple of days and we are on the bus from the Denali Princess Lodge to the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge when we get the call that we can still go up in the plane to see the glaciers but due to cloud cover we will be unable to land on them. I will admit that as we got off the bus we were a little disappointed. There was no time to mope around however, because the shuttled that we needed to catch to Talkeetna was scheduled to leave about an hour after we arrived. After a quick freshening up we were off again.
Originally we had two separate reservation because there were ten of us. However, when we arrived there had been a cancellation and all ten of us were able to get onto the same plane. This plane seated eleven people total, that includes the pilot. Up to that point in time that was the smallest plane I’d ever been in. My uncle sat in the co-pilot spot and the rest of us piled into the rest of the seats. We all had our own headsets and even though it was warm out I had my jacket across my legs as a blanket. I had a feeling that high up it was going to get cold and I wasn’t wrong.
That flight, that hour, was one of the most breath taking adventures of my life. The pilot flew us over the mountains of the Alaska Range with its green and glacial valleys. I was in awe at the sheer majesty before me. Words and pictures can only do so much. Before the mountain range started there were forests and open fields with bright ponds and lakes while nearby ran a river, opaque with glacial silt. The foothills of the mountains opened up to bright green valleys and then we were in the middle of the range. Beneath us were giant rivers of ice.
I’m pretty sure I stared with my mouth open the whole time. One time there was an ice water fall and the plane was 1000 feet above it but the sheer size of it made it appear as if we were close enough to touch. We took a ton of pictures and they simply serve as beautiful reminders of the majesty. The pilot told us about glacial moraines, the edge of a glacier,and about medial moraines, where the edges of two glaciers meet.
There are no words to describe the beauty of that flight. The rivers of ice are massive and beautiful as they run between the mountains, filling all the valley floor. Full of shades of blue, whites with deep gray along the moraines. I loved every minute. My heartstrings were wrenched as the plane turned away from the sight of the mountains and glaciers. The flight back to Talkeetna was beautiful in varying shades of green and the pilot helped us look for moose and bear. We spotted several moose but sadly, the bears did not show themselves.
Upon landing back in Talkeetna we went to explore and find food. Our pilot had told us of an ice cream shop that sold fireweed ice cream, so being me I went on a scavenger hunt. To say I was sad to see the place was closed for the day when I found it is an understatement. But I persevered and found a place that sold pizza by the slice with your choice of toppings and a place that had homemade blueberry cheesecake ice cream. I got it as a milkshake because I already had pizza in the other hand. If we had had more time before the last shuttle back to the lodge I would have actually sat down for dinner and tried the local beer.
Back at the lodge we took pictures of the sunset and wandered around a bit. It was too bright too sleep. We were getting close to the end of this part of the journey. We had one more excursions in the morning before heading to Anchorage. For my aunt, uncle, and cousins this was their last evening close to the wilderness of Alaska. It was late before we went to bed.**Photos by Brooke and Laci McGee.