Visiting the Alaskan Glaciers

Glacier: noun <gley-sher>

- an extended mass of ice formed from snow falling and accumulating over the years and moving very slowly, either descending from high mountains, as in valley glaciers, or moving outward from centers of accumulation, as in continental glaciers.

Note: A glacier is not an ice burg!

I was desperate for an outdoor tour. I wanted to see Alaska up-close, I wanted water, I wanted mountains, I wanted animals, but it was mid-September and most tours were closed for the year.

I was in the Alaska visitor center in downtown Anchorage, flipping through pamphlets when the lady who worked there remembered one tour that was possibly still operating. After a phone call to confirm, she gave me an offer, a four-hour glacier adventure. Glacier adventure I considered, envisioning icebergs and the crystal ocean, polar bears and the experience of a lifetime. I was sold. No questions were asked. Two tickets were purchased. The tour operator would be at my hotel lobby at noon.


"We're going to see icebergs! The man will be here to pick us up in an hour."

I delivered this news with enthusiasm as I charged my SONY. I couldn't wait to take pictures.

"Wow, we're going to see icebergs?"

Mark began to glow with enthusiasm as well. After all we'd never seen icebergs, we live in Brooklyn.

In the lobby of the hotel, we were approached by a man.

"Are you the Williams'?"


"I'm Sheldon, your guide."

Mark and I exchanged grins. It was go time.

Sheldon led us to a minivan parked outside of the hotel. Like a kid being lured with a lollypop, I hopped right in, buckled my seat belt, and situated my camera on my lap.

Mark, a Brooklyn native, looked nervous and after questioning Sheldon in hushed tones,  joined me in the van.

"I can't believe you just got into this guy's van. We don't know him. I don't see a company logo. He has no id. You're as bad as a kid. He could drive us out in the middle of the wilderness, rob us and leave us. I don't trust this."

Before I could respond Sheldon took his place behind the steering wheel and off we went. All was well, Sheldon was a professional certified independent tour guide. My paranoid New Yorker husband began to relax. We were off, we were heading to the icebergs and we were going to have a wonderful time.

We wound through mountain chains and down narrow slippery roads until without warning Sheldon pulled over.

"Okay, here is our first stop."

Mark and I exchanged worried glances. Perhaps my jaded New Yorker husband was on to something. Perhaps we were going to be robbed and left on the side of the road right here in the middle of nowhere.

"But we're on the side of the road."

My voice was shaky.

"Yep, and that over there is your first glacier."

Sheldon pointed in the distance to an icy mountain.

"That's our glacier?"

My eyes strained in an effort to understand what I was looking at.

"Yep, that's it."

"Where is this glacier?" Mark asked suspiciously

"Right there. Can't you see it." Sheldon pointed. "It's right on the side of the mountain."

"Wait. What is a glacier?"

"A glacier is a solid mas of ice."

My heart sank.

"Oh. So what is an iceberg?"

"An iceberg starts off as a glacier but then it detaches and floats on the water."

"Oh. Are we going to see icebergs?"


"Can we see icebergs?"

"Oh, no miss, this is a glacier tour."

"I see."

And I could also see my husband narrowing his eyes at me.

"We paid this man two hundred dollars to show us ice sliding down mountains?" he whispered incredulously once Sheldon's back was turned.

And so it was.

Once we got over the initial disappointment we had a great time. The glaciers were beautiful. The mountains were majestic.



Salmon swimming upstream.

And most importantly I learned something, a glacier is not an iceberg!