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During my "weekend" trip in April, 2000, I ventured into the air with a Bush pilot named "Bird-Dog" (aka Dennis Safranek of Bush Air). At first it looked like I would be hitching a ride on one of his flight training classes — he happened to be training some deaf students from the lower 48. Some other tourists showed up, however, and we managed a bonafide ride over the Chugatch to the Prince William Sound and all its fjord feeding glaciers. 

Random Chugatch Mountainside
Snow, Snow, Snow

I've seen nearly every mountain range there is to see in the lower 48, but when the plane peeked over the tips of the Chugatch to the endless mountains beyond, I was taken a'back by the color: pure white as far as the eye could see; not a hint of rock other than the texture found in shades of white. It was as if the earth itself was white.  

Despite it being April, the countryside was still quite frozen. In this picture you can see two glacier fed lakes frozen and snow capped. 

Frozen Glacial Lakes
First glacier

After we decended into the Prince William Sound, we dove down for a flyby of the nearest exiting glacier. We passed over its exiting edge, banking sharply, then pick up and fly over the surrounding mountain to the next valley and repeat the whole process all over again. As we went, Bird-Dog recited names of various glaciers (Harvard, Princeton, etc.), but they all ran together eventually. Along the way, a few of the glaciers calved from the roar of our engine. 

With the water too cold for most sea kayakers, and the season too early for the onslaught of cruise ships and their ilk, the waters of the Sound were at their pristine state. Our pilot throttled the engine down for a low pass run over the perfectly smooth water's edge. Below us, we could see tens of sea otters resting on calved glacier chunks floating out to sea. All the while, the glaciers just kept getting bigger and bigger. 

Crystal clear waters
A Bigger Glacier
Can I make it?

Bird-Dog flew like his namesake, true to the long-skilled profession of Alaskan Bush Pilots — lots of flare, of which about 90% of the drama was simply for the passenger's enjoyment. The remaining dramatic 10% is a little more muddy in assessment — perhaps even to Bird-Dog. 

The blue in a glacier is a most dazzling sight. Here, we were banking around a glacier that showed its colors most decisively. 

Glacier Blue
Glacial Edging More Glacial Edging

Towards the end of the flight, we landed on a glacial moraine. With the exception of my companions, there was unlikely any human within miles of where we stood — perhaps the most isolated I've ever been on soil. All-in-all, it was a great trip. I would strongly recommend the opportunity to anyone, regardless of how much they fear flying or small places. 

Me and Tig and Bird-Dog's plane

(c) Geoffrey Peters,, 2002. For more information regarding this web page, please contact
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