Savvy Traveler: Summer’s icy in Alaska: It’s cold on a glacier

Over the years, we’ve flown in virtually every type of aircraft you can imagine from antique open cockpit bi-planes 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 in Alaska gave us a whole new set of options. Juneau was no different.

We were headed by helicopter with space for about six passengers 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 with jagged ice stalagmites pointing skyward and 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 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 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.

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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 and 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 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.

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