I don't like to fly. The irony of this does not escape me, a travel writer, who finds flying in general as pleasant as visiting the dentist. Or the tax man. I changed my mind today.
Invited by the Matanuska-Susitna Convention and Visitor's Bureau to be a "model" (hahaha, model, that's pretty funny) in their 2011 Visitor Guide, Bear and I were chosen for one of the more interesting Alaskan activities.
Normally 'helicopter' and 'Erin' are not mentioned in the same breath, much less the same sentence unless it refers to an emergency situation and my life is in peril. Actually, 'airplane' is not used much, either, come to think of it. I don't like to fly because my life is in someone else's hands, and those of you who know me know my issues with control. Ahem. Anyway...
Bear and I were scheduled to fly from Knik River Lodge to a 6,000 ft glacier atop the famous Knik Glacier, a fifteen-minute ride, tomorrow. I had not yet appropriately psyched myself up for this adventure when my phone rang (btw, my ring tone is National Lampoon's 'Holiday Roads', yeah, so funny). "Hey Erin, this is Mr. Bureau. The weather is great today, any chance you can make it by four?" Um, yeah. Sort of.
We gave Yukon a heads up, packed some warm clothes and our own camera, and made the trip up north about an hour from our home, and made it to the lodge in time to see the small helicopter settle down on an even smaller gravel pad. This couldn't be good.
But it was. Bear received his safety briefing, since there are no child locks on helicopter doors and air awash with rotors at every turn, then in no time (a good thing) at all we were up and soaring across the Great Gorge of the Knik and one our way to country most people only see on television.
We saw mountain goats, we saw water so blue it looks not of this world, we saw glacial ice calving into Lake George, and we soared above mountains so craggy and steep my imagination got the better of me.
The little helo touched down on a glacier at 6,000 feet and were were met by Sven the Musher (I'm not making this up). He has his little operation up on the glacier and swings tourists around the icy flanks with his Iditarod dog teams. Living up there for up to two weeks at a time, Sven enjoys his work and loves to talk about it, especially since this is his first summer as a tour business.
Tom the Photographer took pictures, Bear and I smiled a lot as we swooshed around the glacier amid sunny skies and bright white snow. It was sublime and wild and absolutely crazy all at the same time. When we left, our pilot swooped around the valley and as close as he could to the glacier and mountains, where we saw a mountain goat startle and hide behind a rock, but not before we saw clearly his shaggy coat and long horns.
Bear whispered through his headphones "I think this is amazing." And gave me two thumbs up.