We made it back to Juneau last night after four nights in the Alaskan backcountry filled with significant adventure. Or, perhaps, more accurately, significant weather. We spent the first two days and nights near the Gilkey Glacier about 25 miles from Juneau. It was awesome. The helicopters dropped us off at about 3500 ft above sea level on a ridge that overlooks the Gilkey. What a spectacular spot to camp! But before our drop off, we toured the Herbert and Thiel Glaciers from the air. I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures from that flight. I hope they turned out. Using a helicopter as a tripod is exhilarating, but also challenging!
The last two nights is where the weather got significant. We moved locations (by helicopter, of course!), and settled in a canyon near some ice caves. We landed, made camp, and then the rain started. And it rained and rained. And then rained some more. I figure it rained for about 40 of our last 48 hours in the back country. And it was often quite heavy, giving us no option but to hunker in our tents and wait it out. On the last night, the wind gusts were quite strong, maybe topping out over 30 mph. And the rain was biblical. I have an app on my phone that measures sound levels. The noise from the rain hitting my tent topped out at 82 decibels! Just for reference, you can’t carry on a conversation without shouting in a situation like that! In the middle of the downpour, one of my companions returned from a hike to find that his tent had come lose and blown about 200 yards away. He had some camera gear, sleeping bag, etc. inside the tent. Fortunately, nothing was damaged, and he was able to re-secure his tent in the driving rain. He was also fine, but I don’t think he’ll soon forget that night in the Alaskan backcountry. I also think he’ll take the time to properly pitch his tent the next time!
After all the rain, the moisture in the canyon the next day created some beautiful atmospheric scenes with fog and clouds dancing up the canyon and around the surrounding peaks. Later in the afternoon, the helicopters returned to bring us back to Juneau. Let me tell you, the distant sound of a helicopter takes on a whole new meaning after an adventure like that!
So, today the second half of Steve’s Excellent Alaska adventure kicks off with a flight to Petersburg where we’ll do some more helicopter touring and some kayaking among ice from the LeConte Glacier. So many glaciers, so little time!