Bonkoski's Alaskan Trip Journal 2008 travel blog

The double engine Cessna!

Early in take off, over the braided Susitna and Talkeetna Rivers

Bob, next to me, with headsets on for the narration from the...

Rob, in the co-pilot seat of the Cessna! Yikes!!!!

Dave, the pilot, explaining the necessary items on his list of emergencies!

Bob, ready for take-off

Oxygen time!

Approaching the mass of clouds encompassing Mt. McKinely

Huge balls of cottom over the "Great One"

The mountain was right there, if only the clouds were'nt!

Time to turn back and check out the Alaskan Range alittle closer!

An area of the range named "Little Switzerland"

Mountains next to us in the valley of the glacier

Double glaciers

Kahiltina Glacier below

More of "Little Switzerland"

Kahiltnas' Glacier floor

Almost looks as we're coming in for a landing on the glacier!...

3 miles wide...44 miles long

Reach out and touch!

Nearing the end of the Kahitna Glacier

Lower...the tree line coming into view!

Looking like a roadway of ice and dirt

I explained to the pilot our trip to the Forks Roadhouse; he...

The top of the Roadhouse and Dollar Creek, with the bridge the...

The Talkeetna River below

Two of the three rivers coming together

The airstrip in sight in Talkeetna

A safe landing!

NT SIZE=3>July 30th…Wednesday. We awoke fairly early, knowing we were to board a ten passenger, 2 engine Cessna plane…at high noon. We prayed for a clear day, as the day before…that would be perfect. I haven’t been in a small plane since I took Jacob to Beaver Island, and that was only a 20 minute ride. I felt all would be well…I had faith.

We arrived in time at the airstrip in Talkeetna, a mile or so away from the park, for our Mt. McKinley take-off, approximately 11:45..just prior to noon. We met Dave, our pilot…nice fella’…about 60 years of age, or so. He soon introduced us to the ins’ and outs’ of flying 18,000 feet in the air to see the mountain. He explained why we needed the oxygen masks, which was a surprise to all of us; went thru the emergency exits dialogue , (as if we would need them at the altitude planned), and why every small plane in Alaska is equipped with emergency ground equipment if we were to land, unexpectedly. Our flight to the mountain, around it, and back would take approximately 1 ½ hours. He started both engines, I crossed myself, and we took off for the “Great One”!

The skies we partly clear, some blue through the clouds. We left Talkeetna and headed for Mt. McKinley. Unfortunately, a large mass of clouds were in the way. We were only 30 miles away from the mountains magnificent peak, and able to reach the height of 17,500 ft., after surrendering to the clouds that clasped the mountains height of 20,320 feet. The skies were still a vivid shade of light blue, the air temp was 20 degrees. I felt like I should be able to reach out and touch the “Great One”….we were so close, but still so far away! The clouds won, they would not let go, they would not allow us a view!

Since the mountain peak would not show its’ face, Dave our pilot took an alternative route with our time to spare. The south face, nor the north face of Mt. McKinley was not visible on this day, or at least not at the time we were there. However, I did get closer than I ever thought my lifetime would bring…and that was ok with me!

We started to descend…in a downward spiral…over a glacier…getting closer to this enormous ice field in the narrows of the mountain peaks. Dave named off the glacier we were closing in on. Kahiltna Glacier; the largest glacier in all of Denali National Park. Kahiltna is 44 miles in length, almost 3 miles wide, and exceeds 1500 feet of ice thickness. We were able to fly low enough to spot what looked like tiny crevasses in the ice formations. The crevasses were ponds of icy cold bluish colored waters; the deeper the blue, the deeper the crevasses. The glaciers in Denali are said to be moving 3 feet per year. What about “global warming”?

We spotted other small planes landing on even snow covered glaciers…safely, with the passengers exiting to take a short and brief walks upon them! We saw hundreds and thousands of years of existence of these massive molded mountains that erupted over fault lines in the plate tectonics of the earths core. We flew over shear beauty that our planet offered us a vision! Even though we weren’t able to observe the peak of the “Great One” we were still in awe of what lied in the shadows of the mountain! We returned safely to Talkeetna, fulfilled with our journey in the sky!

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