I rode into Talkeetna this morning with the idea of checking on the price of an airplane ride to a glacier below Denali. I parked Honda and walked to one of the buildings selling air tours and talked with the guy about a flight. I really wasn’t prepared to take a flight today. The weather was pretty hazy with thunderstorms moving in later. I was mainly interested in the price, but you know how it goes, the salesman said he could get me on a flight that left in an hour and he would give me a 10% discount – yeah, right. The price was a little more than I wanted to spend but I would never get a chance like this again.
I checked in at Talkeetna Air Taxi 40 minutes before the flight. The salesman said that I could request the right seat if I got there early. The girl checking me in said I would have to ask the pilot. There were 5 of us on the plane, a family of 3, a young guy from Georgia, and me. The young man asked the pilot first but said he would switch after we landed on the glacier.
The plane we flew was a 6 place Beaver. The company has 9 planes so you can imagine how many people are flying into the mountains everyday. Most of the airplanes are Otters, which carry more passengers. I think our Beaver has a better view than the bigger planes.
We took off and crossed the George Parks Highway and many rivers before we saw the mountains to our north. The pilot called out the names of the rivers and told us about the glaciers where they originated. The pilot said there was about 10 miles visibility but it didn’t seem that good to me.
We soon saw the mountains and followed the Ruth Glacier for several miles. Several granite peaks came into view and at last a look of the South Peak of Denali.
We made a slow turn and landed uphill on Ruth Glacier. There were already two Otters on the snow when we got there. Everyone got out and took thousands of pictures and walked around on the snow.
We got to see the other planes take off. The downhill slope of the glacier helps with the takeoff but I remarked to the pilot that we had a tailwind. He said it is almost always like that.
I sat in the front seat with the pilot on the way back. The view was not any better up there because of the haze and the engine cowling, but I got to watch the instruments and the pilot handle the plane.
We followed the glacier for several miles until the landscape turned to muskeg, rivers and lakes. The glacier we landed on was over 1000 feet thick, but all the glaciers are retreating over the last years.
I’m glad I didn’t save the money and miss all the fun of a glacier landing.