Alaska: Braving the Arctic cold at Mendenhall Glacier



The state of Alaska truly is “The Last Frontier” due to its geographical location from the U.S. mainland.  Accessible only by airplane or boat, Alaska fits the typical statement for being “off the grid” from civilization, with the exception of it’s largest cities Anchorage and Fairbanks.  Located on the panhandle in southern Alaska, the state capitol of Juneau is the only US capitol besides Hawaii that does connect to the rest of the state or the U.S. Mainland.

I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Juneau with a friend.  Early in the morning we boarded a flight in Seattle for a 2 1/2 hour direct flight to Juneau International Airport.  Well aware that the weather for November in Juneau averages in the mid-30’s, packing warmer clothes was the only option.  Growing up I spent many weekends each year camping in cold weather and the occasional snow while I was in Scouts.  Upon departing the aircraft and into the airport terminal, the weather was colder than I had originally anticipated requiring adding additional layers of clothing.  Being a native to California we experience all of the seasons through-out the year but nothing near the drop in temperature that Alaska experiences.  65 degrees in California is extreme cold to a select hand full of locals.


A 10-minute taxi ride North of the airport you will discover Juneau’s most coveted natural landmark, the Mendenhall Glacier.  The 13-mile glacier ends in Mendenhall Lake providing guests picturesque views of the glacier and floating icebergs.  Immediately after stepping foot outside of the taxi, you arrive at the visitor center that provides an introduction to the Mendenhall Valley with a brief history of the area.  It’s common to experience a bear sighting or two while in the area, especially in the Spring season.  What stood out to me were posted signs along the 1.5 mile hike to the glacier regarding bears and what do should you come across one.  The rangers strongly suggested that flavored gum and beverages be disregarded and to speak to the bear in a calm tone.  Never knew that. Anyone see Yogi Bear around or Boo Boo?

The Mendenhall Valley lies within a secluded area of Juneau that blends lush green vegetation and massive trees that could be utilized properly come Christmas time.  During the Winter months, the lake reaches freezing temperatures with build up of ice along land.  As we learned, the ice can be very thing that should be used with extreme caution if walked on.

Before arriving at the glacier Nugget Falls resides a short distance away.  The natural waterfall created from the gradual decline of the glacier is a good opportunity to get in a quick break.  The view from Nugget Falls is the closest and best you will have of the glacier unless you decide to take the hike into the ice caves into the glacier.  Overall this is the best experience to pay a visit to while in Juneau.


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