Mt McKinley Flight
In the afternoon we visited the Talkeetna Airport in search of a flightseeing flight to Mount McKinley. We found the office of Talkeeta Air Taxi, which is located in a unique hexagonal building at the airport. They do aerial tours of the area, glacier landings, (and picnics), and drop people off on the higher levels of Mount McKinley for climbing expeditions.
The weather was overcast, but the ceiling was high enough to allow a flight to Mt. McKinley, about 40 miles away. Although we couldn’t see or fly around the summit, we decided to fly anyway, not wanting to risk the next day being worse.
We were with two other people plus our pilot in the large single engine Beaver Aircraft (pictured on their website). Flying northwest and climbing we saw the town of Talkeetna, the rivers, frozen creeks, and soon McKinley came into closer view.
As we arrived near McKinley our pilot skillfully worked the aircraft into a canyon with a glacier as the floor. The color was a muted white due to the murky afternoon skies and overcast cloud layers, but the rocks, snow, and vertical walls were incredible to take in.
Up close the overcast skies added to the lack of depth perception close to the mountain, and at one point it seemed we were flying straight into a cliff wall with no room to turn around, but we quickly banked and I could see it was two large rock faces, with another canyon between. In reality the walls appear closer than they are, which enhanced the thrilling experience.
Back at the lodge we talked with Norio Matsumoto who we had met before our flight. Norio is originally from Japan, and was on a break from living atop Mount McKinley photographing the northern lights. He has spent years traveling around Alaska photographing the spectacular sights.
He shared some of his photographs with us, and we listened in amazement as he described creating a snow cave and living for months at a time on the mountain. It was very cool to meet someone able to live in isolation with only nature as a companion for such lengths of time. His site contains many photos, (and photos of his snow caves), and his photographic talent deserves praise. I recanted my goal of seeing the Northern Lights to him, which was looking less and less likely with the overcast skies.
We spent a second night at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge before heading back to Anchorage, and south to the Kenai Peninsula in the morning.
View from the lodge. McKinley absent in the overcast sky