Mendenhall Glacier: More Than Just Another Glacier

No matter where you’re traveling, it’s so easy to become jaded. Often you’re surrounded by a certain kind of beauty, and you can find yourself saturated and uninterested in taking more in. Should you push yourself to see one more ruined temple in Greece? One more castle in Wales?

One more beach in Antigua
? You feel like you’ve seen it all, even before you have. So during my trip to Alaska, I almost made the mistake thinking that Mendenhall was just one more glacier…


When the Coral Princess arrived at her second port, Juneau, it was pouring rain. I had an excursion scheduled that would involve a helicopter ride to a glacier and then a one-hour walk on it — similar to one I had done a few days earlier in Denali but with much more time on a different glacier. I was really excited, until I saw the rainy weather. The excursion had been canceled and I had to choose another one, fast.

There weren’t that many choices left because of the rain. Juneau is known for great whale-watching, but I wasn’t looking to get right on another boat. Somewhat reluctantly, I chose the Mendenhall Glacier excursion, in which I would take a bus to the glacier’s visitor center with no opportunity to walk on the icy surface or anything. I wasn’t too thrilled. I had already experienced Yanert Glacier near Denali and had cruised through the incredible Glacier Bay National Park. Why did I need to see another glacier?

Blue_iceberg Well, I’m glad I went. I’d correctly assumed that it was the last glacier that I’d see on the trip. And now that I’m back in NYC, who knows the next time that I’ll get to see one. From the visitor’s center (and other nearby vantage points), you still have a great view of an impressive glacier. Years ago, you’d have had an even better view — the glacier is rapidly retreating.

As I had said, it was pouring rain. I hid out in the visitor’s center for a little while, hoping that the rain would let up. But the sky had other plans, and I got bored of the educational exhibits inside. I decided I would walk to Nugget Falls, which as you can see in the photo to your left, was really raging. The sign said that the trail wasn’t paved, and it was much rougher than I expected. There was a lot of crossing streams back and forth, which made a wet walk even wetter.

It would have been a wonderful walk in nicer weather. But in nicer weather, I would have been doing the helicopter glacier trek. And on a sunnier day, the glaciers and icebergs might not have looked as blue.

Comped but never compromised: I went on an Alaska Twitter Press Trip with Princess Cruises, but I’m free to write whatever I want.

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3 Responses to Mendenhall Glacier: More Than Just Another Glacier

  1. Finjak July 16, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    The Mendenhall Glacier was awesome. I did the rainforest hike and learned so much about glaciers and their surrounding ecosystems.

  2. Nancy D. Brown July 16, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    Funny, I was supposed to go up in a helicopter September 2009 in Juneau and the weather didn’t cooperate. I opted to go out and see the whales and was very happy with my choice.
    Next time you find yourself in Juneau here are some Insider Tips:


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