Summer’s icy in Alaska

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Photo by Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Photo by Bob & Sandy Nesoff

Helicopters zoom in as though on a military maneuver to retrieve the tourists from the Mendenhall Glacier, going home with great memories.

Some people are content to sit back and play canasta and consider it an exciting evening.  Others get off the rocker and do things…things that they will remember.

Over the years we’ve flown in virtually every type of aircraft you can imagine from antique open cockpit bi-planes of the sort Snoopy and his Red Baron flew in, over the Poconos to single engine puddle jumpers in Haiti and the luxury of Air France and Virgin Atlantic jumbo jets.  We still feel a bit of excitement as we board any plane, knowing that when we land there’s going to be an adventure ahead of us.

Cruising into Alaskan ports gave us a whole new set of options for excitement and adventure.  Juneau was no different.

We were headed for a helicopter with space for about six passengers on our way to the Mendenhall Glacier, a few miles outside of the city.  The view of Juneau as the chopper rose was spectacular.  But the surrounding mountains and forests were even more beautiful.

Below we could see a handful of glaciers that had, over eons, cut their way through the mountains on the way to calving at the Inside Passage.

But the Mendenhall put them all to shame.  It was a huge ice field—make that a river of ice—with jagged ice stalagmites pointing skyward, deep crevasses, some of which appeared to have no bottom.

The chopper landed near a collection of tents used by the guides and surrounding the Alaskan flag, looking much like the camp that Robert Peary or his rival, Frederick Cook might have stayed in at the North Pole.

We hurriedly exited the chopper with the blades blowing up a storm of ice flakes and dirt that had accumulated there over the millennia; bent low because of the whirling blades (they were far enough overhead to be safe, but it was a reflex to duck down) and treading carefully over the pock marked and uneven surface of the glacier.

Portions of the ice were a beautiful, deep blue, indicating that it was dense and filtering out white light.  The ice wall surrounding us had jagged peaks and sheltered the ice river as if in a valley.  But the wind whipped in and the Alaskan flag was flying straight out.

Most of the visitors had only brought light summer clothing; after all, it was mid-August and the rest of the world was warm.  We had the good fortune to have bought a great hooded jacket in Ketchikan and a black fleece on board the Infinity.  We were warm.

After a bit of exploring in Juneau we headed back aboard the Infinity and into a hot shower.  One hint we might suggest is that many people seek to cut costs by going ashore and purchasing their local tours.  That’s almost like the warnings at airports not to take the gypsy cabs that approach and ask if you want a ride.

Check in with the tour desk.  These representatives know the areas and what the tours consist of and can discuss them intelligently with you.  They’ll let you know if there are any restrictions you need to know about and will recommend a tour suitable for your ability.


We always bring a good supply of reading material for both the flight and the downtime on any trip.  We’ll frequently use our NOOK electronic reader but still enjoy the feel of a book and pages in our hands.

Our lives have been anything but conventional, so when we had an opportunity to read a book by Tania Grossinger (of the hotel family) called Memoir of an Independent Woman, we made sure to get a copy.

Tania has led a very unconventional life, from growing up in the Catskills at the famed Grossinger’s Hotel, to mingling with luminaries such as Jackie Robinson.  In Memoir she relates the very interesting facets of her life from working as the publicist for the book, The Feminine Mystique to working seven years as Director of Broadcast Promotions for Playboy Magazine.

She talks about author Ayn Rand and druggie Timothy Leary as well as Hugh Hefner.  Tania delves into the mystery of a travel writer who disappeared in Jamaica and has never been found (we were supposed to be on that trip and canceled.  The young woman took our place).

Published by Skyhorse Publications, the book is a fast and interesting reading about a very interesting life.