Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Glacial Landing and Mt McKinley Air Tour

Today is Travel Tuesday

Just want to say Thank You to all of my followers who enjoy my Travel Tuesday posts, also welcome to my new blogger friends visiting from the Grow Your Blog, Hop. 
Originally for today I was going to showcase something entirely new.  But then I started thinking about it, and since today is my Spotlight Day in the Hop, I realized I would like to show you one of my all time favorite adventures.  Since I showcased this on my blog a couple of years ago, I figured it has been long enough my current followers might not be annoyed with a little throwback post:)



If you're thinking about following me, every Tuesday I showcase a great place I have visited, hike I have taken, adventure.  Most are in the United States, but occasionally sometimes in another country.  I give you a few details in case it's something you want to add to your bucket list:)  Sometimes I go for great sights and other times I like to fulfill my adventure junkie need:)  
In short I truly believe the world is meant to be explored, and even if you never leave the United States there is so much adventure it would take a lifetime to even make a dent!

This glacial landing tour trip will probably be in my top 10 most amazing things I have ever done in my entire life. The thing is, it almost didn't happen.  It was a last minute idea on one of my last days in Alaska.


This was the best view of our trip of Mt. McKinley before we took the Glacial Landing Trip

They say only 30% of the people who go to Alaska have the opportunity to see Mt. McKinley, from the distance in the picture you see above.  
Even if you are standing right in front of it inside Denali National Park, looking right at it, 70% of the people who visit never see anything.  

The reason for this is, the mountain has it's own weather system and is very unpredictable.
When I was touring Denali NP, I was not able to see the beautiful mountain.  But on one of my last day's I was traveling the area of Talkeenta, Alaska.  Which might I add, is a hikers paradise in it'self:)  
We had no plans that day, so when we saw the signs to book the Airplane tour of Mt. McKinley we decided, what the heck.  Just in case we never made it back there again.



Right from the start as the small plane takes its time touring the mountain range as
it works its way up in elevation.
We assumed it would be a fun, but had no idea we were about to be amazed and experience some of the most amazing breathtaking views and have an experience of a lifetime.

We departed late afternoon, early evening (However; June in Alaska it doesn't matter, since the sun doesn't really go down there in the summer. You can take these tours almost whenever the air companies are offering them.)  



Once you arrive, and sign the waivers and stuff, they fit you with good boots that fit right over our other shoes, so you can get out and walk around on the glacier.  A glacier landing was part of the tour deal we purchased.  You can actually take the air tour and see only small sections, or skip the glacial landing.  But if you're going to go, as you will see it is definitely worth the extra bucks!



Then we were off, right from the start you flew over the beautiful Alaskan Wilderness, massive forests, mountain and glacial lakes, and beautiful rivers.  Amazing views, that you can only see by air.  Not only that, but you really get an idea of how big Alaska is.

In this picture you can see a moving melting glacier, 
it is several miles long and over a thousand feet deep.
Our tour guide a.k.a pilot was amazing, he told us lots of history and fun facts about the mountains and all the different names of all the peaks we were passing.  (I love that in a tour guide!)  We were in a small plane, and I took the back seat since it was a single ride seat, and this gave me plenty of room to take pictures out both sides of the windows.  Which is why you see the plane wing in some of these pictures.  It is also why the pictures are not exactly the highest quality because I some are taken through the window:)


Not only do you see Mt. McKinley, but you also will get up close and personal views with many glaciers and peaks (pilot chooses your exact flight) We lucked out and were able to get up and close to them all.  Including Mount Foraker 17,400 peak.  Our pilot was in a great mood, and he threw in several extra peak and view flyovers.  So when I say we lucked out, we really did, because he took us to see what would have normally cost us almost a hundred more to see.


The pilot explained that several of these glaciers move quite a bit each day some 1-3 feet a day.  When you think about how big some of them are, like Ruth Glacier which is more than 10 miles long, and several thousand feet deep of ice with amazing cliffs shooting over 5,000 feet on the sides of this massive moving glacier it's really quite awe aspiring when you think about how massive and huge these glaciers are. 
Sure some glaciers are melting, but opposed to what a lot of people believe when they are thinking on the term "global warming", they are not all melting, some are even building each year.  


Just imagine there is around 2,000 feet of ice under this massive glacier
it may look kind of like a road, but it's not its just the long path of the moving ice.
I show you this next picture just to give you an idea of the magnitude and size of things.  Yes you'll see several big glacial lakes and cracks.  But what you don't realize is how big these lakes and cracks on this mountain are.  Some of these cracks can open up one day and close the next, although this picture was taken from high up in the air.  I can tell you as we were coming in for a landing, those cracks could fit the entire plane into them and then some.  That is how big some of those open up.




Could you imagine being out hiking on this terrain?  Out exploring and experiencing these glaciers from the ground.  Seeing the hanging glaciers above you from the mountains above?  All I can say is, oh my gosh I loved it!!!



Well that is exactly what people do every year.  They take up to a month out of their lives to go up here and climb to the top of Mount McKinley and some of the other peaks.
I have to be honest, if ever given the opportunity I would SO BE THERE!!


Hard to see in this picture unless you know what you're looking for, but you can actually see the trails these
adventurist take to scale these mountains.
People climb to the top of this peak (below picture), Mount McKinley 20,237 feet, the Highest Peak in North America.
An interesting fact, because the base of this mountain is only a few thousand feet above sea level.  When you look up at this mountain from base to top you are looking at an 18,000 foot rise.  This is actually the largest mountain in the world situated above sea level.  Yes, you read that right.  Mount Everest is the highest in elevation, but this mountain is taller from top to bottom.  So as your looking up at it, you're seeing the highest mountain rise in the world.


This is a close up view of Mount McKinley - 
They climb to the top of that tip top peak you see in the picture.
This is a view from further back.  
Compare this to the first picture I put up in this post - amazing isn't it!
The views from the plane alone are spectacular!  On my particular tour our pilot was in a great mood and he decided to take us around and show us the entire loop of the range instead of just one side of it.  At the Mount McKinley base camp when we looked down and saw all the tents and people, the pilot said it looked too crowded, and he wanted us to experience the true beauty of these mountains.  - Thank you Pilot!!
So he took us onto another spot to land.


I loved the views of these amazing hanging glaciers affixed to the sides of the beautiful granite mountains

Well if you pay a little extra, okay so quite a bit extra.  I think it cost us $80 more per person.  The pilot will land the plane on a glacier, and you can get out and hike around a little.  We figured, why not!  We may never get to do this again, so why leave with any regrets.
SOOOO WORTH IT!!!!!  The HIGHLIGHT of our Alaska Trip.  We had decided to do this before we even got into the plane.


Yeah, ignore the fact that I decided not to wear make-up this day!

Now to be honest, you may not have this exact experience.  Our pilot picked a glacial landing at a little over 12,500 feet for us to get out.  He picked this area because the weather was great on this side of the mountain at the time.  Plus, the ice looked good to land on.  He also picked it because he loves to show people what it means to experience the saying "It was so quiet it was loud".

The other plane was leaving just as we got there, 
so we were able to be the only ones up on the glacier at the time!
We landed up against these massive granite mountains, it was like being in a glacial bowl, mountains all around us except for the snow in the picture that you came in on.  After we got out of the plane and walked around a bit (we knew why they gave us the snow boots - so we could keep our feet/shoes dry).  
At a point, the pilot said, okay now just stand still and don't speak just listen.



It was an amazing experience.  It seriously was so absolutely quiet, that the quiet was loud. I can't really describe it, its nothing I have ever experienced before.  Not even in a cave, the quiet alone was amazing!
Not a bird, or bug or sound of wind or water in the air.  You just looked around and it was absolutely beautifully peaceful!  Occasionally you'd hear in the distance a loud long crack as the ground opened up somewhere.  A few times in the distance the loud rumbling cracking sound of a large hanging glacier breaking off and falling to the ground.  But for the most part, you heard absolutely nothing, and it really was the loudest quiet I have ever had the amazing experience to listen to.



Seriously an amazing experience!  I may have been wearing my jacket when I landed, but I quickly threw it into the plane.  The jacket was really only needed for the cool plane ride. The temperatures up on the glacier that day were t-shirt weather for the most part. 
Honestly, if I had the money I would have paid to have the pilot drop me off with a tent and come and pick me up the next day.  I would love to spend the night in such a magnificent peacefully awe inspiring place!  Of course, there is a chance where I am standing could be a giant crack the next day:)  But still...  
If I ever do it again, I am so going up to camp over night!

Me and the parents - 
I took them to Alaska for their Christmas and Birthday Presents that year
Yeah, I know, I'm an awesome daughter:)
Words can't describe how magnificent this all is, and the scale of it all.  This is one thing IF you can in your lifetime, you'll want to add to your bucket list!!!  
It was worth it more than I can say, and once I stepped foot on that glacier, the cost to do it pretty much left my mind.  I can't imagine visiting Alaska and not doing this, at least once in my life!


I hated having to leave the fun of walking around in parts of Alaska that most people don't even realize exists, and only a few ever get to see.  But we couldn't stay there forever.
The plus side, when you leave you still have a beautiful flight ahead of you as you make your way back to Talkeenta.  I loved our pilot, I know I said that before, but he really was awesome!  We took a different way back so we were able to see entirely new views than before, nothing was the same!






Slowly as you fly back down and around, the color of the ice starts changing again.  The picture below, is a moving glacier, but this is part of the first few miles of it, at a lower elevation.  So the dirt covers it, which is why it doesn't look like a white ice flowing river:)





Eventually, you begin to leave the massive mountain range in Denali Alaska



And the ice begins to melt back down to those massive glacial rivers and streams that flow through the beautiful state.



After our tour, we headed back to this beautiful cabin I rented.  I have to say this was one of the nicest places we stayed during the entire trip.  
We stayed in a nice cabin for a week in Denali, but it didn't even compare to this!  This cabin had a wrap around porch so you could sit out and enjoy the evening and midnight sun:) Also right in front of us was a massive river so you could just relax and enjoy the river flow, watch for bears and other wildlife!  The perfect way, to end the perfect day!  




I highly recommend this trip to anyone who loves Adventure and the chance to see what most people can't even imagine!!!!  I showed the pictures in a bit of a progression on how the trip went, but to be honest I only showed you about 2% of all the things we saw and the photo's I took on this trip.  They don't really do it justice, but they do give you a bit of an idea:)  Hopefully!

IF YOU GO:
*  I took my tour out of Talkeenta Alaska, we took the Talkeenta Air Taxi Tours
*  Tip - We were able to secure a bit of a discount on our flight thanks to using my parents Military Discount
*  Tip - If you aren't military, you can still find a discount by booking a last minute tour.  However if you do this your risking availability.  However, if you are flexible with your dates you might be able to save a few $$.
*  We flew into Anchorage and rented a car.  But you could also take a scenic train ride to the area.  Or fly into Fairbanks.

*  There is lots of hiking, fishing and animal sight seeing opportunities in the area.
*  Denali National Park is just down the road from Talkeenta, I believe it was a 2 hour drive for us.
*  Bring a camera!!!!  I took hundreds of pictures on this trip, I only selected a few above to show:)  
*  It is a hefty price tag, it cost more than our flight from Utah to Alaska.  But honestly it was worth it, I promise!!!  I'd share the costs, but the flight companies probably change rates frequently, so I would just suggest checking their sites first to get a current price quote.

If you like adventure, I have spotlighted over 50+ different awesome places to see. You can always take a browse by visiting my Travel page HERE.

So tell me, what has been one of your greatest adventures you have taken to date?


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