Of all the places on earth, Alaska holds the most intrigue for me. I’m not alone, either. The tourism industry in Alaska provides for roughly 40,000 jobs or roughly 14% of all employment there. In 2010, 1.5 million people visited Alaska. It’s beauty in the natural resources of glaciers, and wildlife are a draw for so many outdoor enthusiasts and cruise goers.
I have ties to Alaska as well. My paternal grandfather homesteaded there well before my parents were even married. My father spent his summers in Alaska, an avid outdoor fisherman. My maternal grandfather spent his youth there, well before my paternal grandfather even thought of going there, working in the industry of road building by cutting roads through the mountains with high pressure water hoses.
I never seemed to make it there however. So when the boys expressed a desire to go to Denali, we decided the time was right to see the beauty of Alaska. It’s not an easy trip to plan. The wilderness is vast, covering some 6,075,029 acres in Denali alone, the total square mileage count including all of the wilderness that is Alaska at 586,400. So planning such an adventure was a daunting task.
My boys, lovers of the outdoors wanted to fish, so cruising was probably not the best choice. We spoke to people who said Denali is crowded and wildlife hides during the summer. What’s a mom to do? We visited triple A and searched google. After months of talking to people we cobbled out a rough plan that actually did not get finalized until a few days before we came. And it was a tremendous learning experience, but we ended up with a week in Alaska with a couple of days of fishing for salmon, a flight tour of Mt. McKinley, and a Kenai Fjords tour, and a tentative scenic float trip down the Kenai river.
The Flight tour of Mt. McKinley was fantastic and amazing. We were very lucky to go on a day where the actual top of K2 was visible. This is rarely the case, so to get to see it was a treat. We used a company called FlyK2 and they were very professional, and organized. The guide was knowledgeable about ice flows, glaciers and the mountains and their climbers. My only complaint was that when you sign up for a tour, you don’t necessarily get that tour. Changing conditions dictate where and how they fly above the glaciers. I get that, but feel they should really tell you when you aren’t getting the tour you think you are. In spite of that, it was an excellent flight, and very educational. I would highly recommend a flight tour when visiting Alaska.
The scenery is breathtaking, and landing on a glacier is an add on that we were glad we did. It’s thrilling to touchdown on the glaciers, and get out to walk around and shoot some pictures. The flight lasted about an hour and 45 minutes and we felt better educated about the aspects of glaciers and how they form and flow. One of the most surprising facts we were told was that even in summer when much of the snow is melted, the ice layer is still 600 feet thick. It can be very unsafe and unstable however because the melting results in crevices that are dangerous and hidden out of sight on a thin layer of ice and snow.
This was an amazing experience that I would do again in a heartbeat.