August 6: Talkeetna Air Taxi. The weather has been pretty terrible lately. It’s been very cold and rainy here in Alaska. The mountains have been hiding, the trails have been wet, and the bugs have been vicious. That really hasn’t stopped us. We have been doing a lot of work for the parks department: brush clearance, painting bathrooms, etc. Yesterday we woke up to sunshine and blue skies. It was time for an Alaskan tour.
Campground hosting comes with a lot of amazing benefits. Not only do we get a free place to stay and some extra money, but a lot of the local tour companies will allow us to be on standby with heavily reduced tour costs. It’s good for their business. We come into contact with thousands of people and it benefits them to give us cheap tours so we can brag all about how amazing it was to the tourists. We decided that we wanted to try to get on an airplane tour. We choose the Talkeetna Air Taxi. With standby, there is always a chance that we won’t get a flight or that someone could kick us off to other customers. We didn’t care. If we didn’t get a flight that day, we would get a beer and try again another time. We were extremely lucky though. We got right on the next flight. Normally the price is $220-$320/ person. We got on for only $30/ person. So insanely blessed. Wow. The parks department really takes care of their employees/volunteers. I had mentioned in a previous blog post that in order to summit Mt Denali most climbers get an airplane ride out to the base of the mountain. Talkeetna Air Taxi will provide that service. They provide a number of different tours all ranging in price. I believe that we got the Southside Explorer Tour. “Follow the river systems of Talkeetna across the Susitna Valley into an incredible landscape of icefalls, glaciers, and snowy peaks.” —direct quote from the Talkeetna Air Taxi’s website.
The airplane tour that we went on held 10 people and was roughly 2 hours long. We flew through valleys, over glaciers, in between the Alaskan Mountain Range, into Denali National Park, and even landed on a glacier.
That’s right. We landed on a freakin’ glacier! It was just breathtaking. Mount Denali, Hunter, and Foraker were beautiful up in the clouds.
I would even dare to say that it was the best tour or adventure experience that I have ever had. That’s obviously saying a lot since we have been traveling for the past 5 months and have been exploring around for years together. There was just something magical about it. I can’t even really describe it other than saying it was just amazing. Different hues of blue peaked through the glacial cracks. Sheets of ice and snow lined the mountains. It was absolutely outstanding. I think that pictures will be better than me stumbling on my words trying to explain it. Insert pictures now…
Landing on the glacier was kind of intimidating. I am from Florida. I have never landed on snow in an airplane. How deep is the snow? How much would we glide? Will the glacier crack? It went perfectly fine, but all the questions raced through my head. We landed in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. Yes, I guess these crazy Alaskas perform shows on this glacier. I thought that the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, CO was amazing. I can’t even imagine seeing a show on that glacier. It would have ruined any show for the rest of my life. We were given boot covers at the very beginning of the tour so that we could go walk around on the glacier. We stepped out of the airplane to be completely surrounded by glacial- covered mountains, ankle-deep snow, and rumbling and forever shifting rocks. You could watch the dust from the rock debris reforming the mountain sides. Standing on that glacier really reminded me of everything that we have accomplished during this trip. It’s still bizarre that we are living in Alaska. It’s bizarre that we are traveling full time. We truly live such a blessed life and it makes me very honored to share our experiences with other people. On the glacier, we were able to chat with the pilot, Nick. He has been working for the company seasonally for over a year. He lives in Moab, UT during the winter (great spot). Through the conversation, Alec won himself a prized spot right next to him on the plane being his copilot.
All of our headsets come with a microphone, but only the pilot and copilot are able to talk through it. Alec had some amazing questions on the flight back including the size of glaciers, the layers of glaciers, climbing mountains, etc. Alec had mentioned through their conversation that you can’t really understand how big glaciers actually are. There is a serious lack of perspective that we have about the glaciers with an aerial view. A glacier we thought might be 2 miles wide turned out to be 4 miles wide and 40 miles long. Amazing. Another thing that I learned was that only 15% or so of Alaska is accessible via car. Go look at how massive Alaska is. 15% is a shockingly low amount of land that you can get to with a car. Crazy.
The only bad thing that I found about this airplane tour was that towards the end, I felt slightly sick. The older I get, the more that I struggle with motion sickness, boat sickness, car sickness, airplane sickness. I am just very sensitive to lots of motion at times. Be sure to bring water, a snack, and some gum with you. If you don’t struggle with motion sickness at all, still bring water and a snack. It’s a long tour. Besides getting slightly motion sick, it was an AMAZING experience. I would highly highly highly recommend it to anyone coming to the Denali National Park area. Talkeetna Air Taxi was safe, clean, and very fun! Make sure to check those guys out!
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