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Mendenhall Glacier with the town in the foreground.

Mendenhall GlacierView All Sizes

Mendenhall Valley, Auke Bay, Stephens Passage and Mansfield Peninsula

Mendenhall ValleyView All Sizes

JOURNAL : August 21, 2010

To Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter

Juneau > Alaska > United States

Series To Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter

Excursions in Juneau

During our stop in Juneau I tried to pack in as much as possible. Among the more popular excursions in town are whale watching, taking the tramway to Mount Roberts, seaplane flights around the surrounding mountains, and hiking and/or flying to Mendenhall Glacier.

For the more grounded visitors the town of Juneau also offers a plethora of jewelry and clothing shops that seem to be the foundation of modern Alaskan tourist towns. For grub and grog folks recommend the Red Dog Saloon.

But here we are in the sky...

Green Surrounding Mountains

Green Surrounding Mountains

Upper Mendenhall Glacier heading towards the Juneau Icefield.

Upper Mendenhall GlacierView All Sizes

Kanoa trekking about on the Glacier

Trekking on the Glacier

Up to the Glacier

To my knowledge there are no glaciers in Hawaii, Southern California or Mexico, the main places I've resided, so trekking about on a glacier was a new experience. In hindsight I would have passed had I known how boring this would be. The walkabout was actually confined to a small area near the landing zone, which contained very few interesting geographical features. We observed and tasted a crystal-clear icemelt stream that rushed down the center of the glacier bound for Mendenhall Lake, and a striking but shallow crevasse. Whoop-dee-doo.

Refreshing Icemelt Stream

Refreshing Icemelt StreamView All Sizes

When I attempted to stroll off looking for some shred of adventure one of the guides promptly ushered me back. Possibly a liability issue, or perhaps stragglers tend to leave yellow stains that last for a millennium. Either way it was a buzzkill. In all we spent an hour on the surface and that was enough.

Worthington Glacier a few miles outside of Valdez on Richardson Highway.

Worthington GlacierView All Sizes

In the future I would prefer to go on a glacier hike or explore ice caves with friends on our own time.

While driving to Valdez a series of exciting glaciers rolled by, notably Worthington Glacier. My dad and I hiked to its foot, but were unaware at the time that there were ice caves nearby.

Helicopter Landing Area on Mendenhall Glacier

Helicopter Landing AreaView All Sizes

The Helicopter Ride

At least the ride there and back was interesting. Departing from a private field near Juneau International Airport, we flew over Mendenhall Valley and its town, then over the glacier itself and up towards the vast Juneau Icefield that gives birth to numerous glaciers like Taku and Herbert. Helicopter rides are easy booked from various places in Juneau, or from the cruise ship excursion desk.

Bullard Mountain adjacent to the Glacier

Bullard Mountain adjacent to the GlacierView All Sizes

Dirty, yet Clean?

From the air Mendenhall Glacier looks dirty and desolate. However it's actually quite clean; glaciers are inhospitable to life, including bacteria. The dirty appearance is due to rocky sediment from the surrounding mountains. This sediment is regularly washed clean by rain and icemelt. Perhaps in winter the glacier takes on a fresh white appearance after a snowfall.

A crevasse on Mendehall Glacier

Glacier CrevasseView All Sizes

That Deep Blue Color

The vivid blue color of the underlying ice is a result of the water molecules (and other minerals) becoming extremely compressed from the weight of new ice packed on over the course of hundreds and even many thousands of years. This thick, compressed ice absorbs more red and green from the spectrum and we see blue. Fresh snow reflects most light and we see white. A clean cube of ice is clear because the light passes through and very little is absorbed or reflected.

One of the highlights were the bright green mountains adjacent, and the view of the town. If you've been around Daily Venture a bit then you know I'll jump at the opportunity to see the land from the sky. You may also be interested in similar helicopter rides over the spectacular Na Pali Coast, and through Waimea Valley of Kaua'i and the red rocks canyons north of Sedona.

The town of Mendenhall Valley

Mendenhall Valley and TownView All Sizes

After Mendenhall Glacier

This was just the first jaunt of the day. Upon returning to town I took the tramway up to Mount Roberts where my grandma, dad, sister and her two kids were having lunch. Then I rushed down to meet up with a group going whale-watching out in Stephens Passage and Lynn Canal north of Juneau.

Whale Tail

Whale TailView All Sizes

Mendenhall Glacier

The Ruins of Daniel Barringer’s Mining Operation

Meteor Crater

Clouds in the western sky over Cancun, taken from Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Clouds over Cancun

Coastal San Pedro towards Rancho Palos Verdes

Coastal San Pedro

Jiuzhaigou Valley Colorful Pool

Jiuzhaigou Valley

Paku’i & Ahiki Peaks of Olomana, with Waimanalo in the background

Paku’i & Ahiki

Worthington Glacier a few miles outside of Valdez on Richardson Highway.

Worthington Glacier

Pavilion near Peak, Victoria Peak Garden


The warm afternoon sun on Bridalveil Falls.

Bridalveil Falls

Strange-Looking Columns

Reed Flute Cave

Random Adventures!

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Boboli Gardens

Hoodoos, fins and plateaus of Bryce National Park

Bryce Nat’l Park

Packing Up Balloon Envelope

Hot Air balloon

Upper Manhattan, 5th Avenue, Central Park from the Empire State Building

Upper Manhattan

Roman Baths, Bath, UK

Roman Baths

Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon

The first platform of the Haiku Stairs.

The First Platform