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Kenneth Jones Jun 13th, 2019

Hiking one of Alaska’s State Treasures: The Mendenhall Glacier

Helicopters flying over Mendenhall Glacier, Alasksa.

Back in September of 2018, we were brainstorming where to travel in 2019; pretty quickly Alaska and Iceland came to mind. After weighing the pros and cons, Alaska was chosen as the ideal destination. Alaska has always been a place that I wanted to visit, and luckily my fiancée agreed. As someone who is obsessed with being outdoors and exploring, how could I go wrong visiting a place nicknamed “the last frontier”? 

The trip was planned to take place around the 2019 May long weekend. Our third stop along the southern Alaskan coast would be Juneau. Juneau is the capital of Alaska, the second largest city, and happens to only be accessible by boat! While researching Juneau, we came across the Mendenhall Glacier. The Mendenhall Glacier is classified as a retreating glacier, which means it’s slowly shrinking. The glacier is currently just under 22 kilometers is length. A quick image search on Google revealed the stunning landscape and we knew we had to go. We decided to book a helicopter tour to take us to the glacier.

We arrived at the airport early in the morning and spotted a Canadian Military plane, reminding us of home. We were greeted by the sounds of the fleet of helicopters as they took off and landed on the helipads. Several staff members from the helicopter company ushered us in to the lobby for a safety briefing and video. After the briefing we were each given a pair of glacier boots. The boots slipped easily over our shoes and had screws on the bottom for traction, since we’d be walking on ice. 

Seating on the helicopters is assigned for the group so luckily my fiancée, friends and I were all able to stay together. We headed out and made our way single file to our awaiting helicopter. I have never flown in a helicopter before, so I was pretty excited to finally get the chance. The pilot gave us an introduction and we began our ascent, my ears popped almost immediately. 

None of us could put our cameras or phones away for the 15-minute ride to the glacier. The helicopter gave us a new perspective of Alaska. The pilot was quick to point out some points of interest (including a few mountain goats), as we made our way past the greenery and into the snow covered mountains. The views were breathtaking as the glacier came into view. Like clockwork, the helicopters circled the landing spot set out on the glacier, and took their turns landing in a semi-circle. 

We disembarked and took in the view. We were walking around the section of the glacier that was receding and could see the towering ice wall behind us. The ice we walked on looked dirty but we learned that it was due to the rock silt, rocks that had been crushed by the sheer power of the ice. Streams of glacier water were seen scattered throughout the area cutting into the ice, heading down to feed a lake at the base of the glacier. The water was crystal clear and we took the time to crouch down and drink from the stream. It was probably the cleanest water we’ll ever taste. We walked around and listened to the guide as he provided interesting information on the glacier.

Our time on the glacier was far too short, and we were restricted on where we could go. The restrictions were understandable as they are trying to preserve this beautiful landscape. The convoy of helicopters arrived and we boarded again. I didn’t take any photos or video on the ride back, as I wanted to be in the moment. We landed, thanked the pilot and then headed back into Juneau to explore and find sushi. What a great morning on the glacier. 

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