Adventure travel Alaska style: Glacier flying

If you’ve ever wanted to see Alaska’s beauty, but had no interest in hunting or fishing or if you think a cruise just isn’t thrilling enough, maybe you should consider a little glacier flying.

Having grown up in Alaska, I’ve always told my visiting friends that the airplane was the only way to unlock the most spectacular sights in the state. Sure, you can drive less than fifty miles from Anchorage to view the Portage glacier from a distance, but a helicopter or airplane tour is something you’ll never forget.

To get an idea what glacier flying is all about, just take a quick ride with Jerry Kallam, a pilot out of Palmer who’s about to take off from the Knik glacier. Strap into his Piper Super Cub by hitting play below. He’ll give you just enough time to fasten your seatbelt before starting the engine:

If simply landing on a glacier isn’t exciting enough, Matthew Keller of Blue Ice Aviation will fly you out for some glacier biking. Matthew claims it’s like mountain biking in Moab, Utah, even though the mountain you’re crossing is actually a glacier. He’ll provide the bikes and the experience includes much of the same views that Jerry captured above.

The other option might be a bit more tame and family friendly. Take the Alaska Railroad up to Talkeetna, where you’ll have an assortment of air taxis willing to land you and a few friends on a glacier, with some even offering a dog sled trip.

My wife and I did this years ago with Era Helicopters, and they even provided a crab lunch right next to the glacier. Think of it as adventure travel without the ice picks and crampons.

For those of you committed to a cruise up the inside passage, you can still get a bit of fresh air as well. Era and Temsco Helicopters both fly glacier tours out of Juneau and Skagway that are often offered through the cruise lines.

Afterward, you can rest assured that you’ve gone above and beyond what the average Alaska tourist or resident has experienced. To really see 99% of Alaska, you’ll absolutely need to leave the roads behind.

Kent Wien writes The Cockpit Chronicles for Gadling. If flying between glaciers isn’t for you, then come along with Kent as he takes you behind the scenes of airline travel, as seen from the pointy-end.

The best video of rafting trip crash and burns

When picking a rafting trip like one down the Grand Canyon, whether it’s the day long or several days version, make sure that the trip is a good fit for you. How much excitement are you after? How does the thought of dumping out of the raft grab you? Are you up for a crash and burn experience or is a leisurely float more your style?

For a rollicking look at what dumping out of a raft in white water rapids looks like, check out this video. The footage is strung together vignettes over eight years of rafting trips. Amazingly, according to what I’ve read in the comments, no one was hurt with any of these dump and tumbles. If you have never figured out why a life vest is important even if you know how to swim, here’s your answer. Plus, a helmet is your friend.

The rivers featured are: Gauley River in West Virginia, Zambezi River in Africa, the Moose River in New York and the Black River, also in New York. Click on each river for a link to a raft company that runs trips down it. The music for this video is a perfect fit.

The Drifter documentary now on DVD

Drifter Trailer from Poor Specimen on Vimeo.

The Drifter film just finished it’s autumn tour around the United States and is officially making its way around the adventure and surf circuit. The film centers around the writings of legendary surfer Rob Machado and his time spent in the South China Sea, exploring, learning and well, drifting. More potently, however, the topic strikes home for any long term traveler or lover of the Pacific Island culture, and having been there myself I find the film engaging.

With what appears to be a limited tour and release, tracking the film down to see in theaters may be a bit of a challenge, but if you’re inspired enough by the trailer to order the DVD, it looks like a solid documentary.

[Via The Cleanest Line]

The Global Scavenger Hunt is looking for competitors

Ever watched “The Amazing Race” and longed to run around the world, racing through airports, darting in and out of countries and competing challenges? Well, if you’ve got about $10,000 to spare, you can, as a competitor in the 2010 Global Scavenger Hunt.

The event, which is described as being “like Survivor, The Amazing Race and the Eco-Challenge all rolled into one except with much more cultural interaction” is limited to 25 teams and takes place over three weeks in April. The teams will visit ten countries while traveling west around the world from Los Angeles to New York and competing in challenges in order to win the title of “World’s Greatest Traveler”.

Contestants must apply and go through a screening process and pay an entry fee of $9,900 per person, which covers accommodations, all flights, and 40% of meals. The event kicks off on April 9, 2010.

The event isn’t all airport mad-dashes and physical feats though. According to the website, the goal isn’t to race through each country as fast as you can, performing outlandish stunts as you go, but to connect with each culture (though with only 2-3 days in the country, that may be difficult) through the challenges. Each team is also asked to raise $1 per kilometer (which equals the daunting figure of $40,000 per couple) for a total of $1 million raised per event for the Great Escape Foundation, a nonprofit that funds long-term projects and micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

SkyMall Monday: Transparent Canoe

You wouldn’t suspect that the world’s preeminent authority on all things SkyMall would be an adventure travel enthusiast. You probably assumed that I just sit in the SkyMall Monday headquarters in a lab coat kick-ass sweatshirt looking in the mirror and calling myself the preeminent authority on all things SkyMall. But, I do get out into the world and attack it with more vim and vigor than a 14-year-old girl at a screening of “Twilight.” I’ve raced camels in the Moroccan desert, jumped out of airplanes and eaten at a Waffle House at 3:30am. I’ve risked my life. I like staring death in the eye and waiting to see who blinks first (Hint: It’s me, but only because my contact lenses get dry). In other words, I’m not one to shy away from danger. In fact, I like to see the perils that surround me so that I can flip them off and disparage their mothers as I conquer them with ease. That’s why I’ve always been frustrated by the opaque nature of my adventure vehicles. Planes, cars and boats only have windows. How can I moon danger through a tiny window? Leave it to SkMall to understand this very specific problem. They understand that I must envelop myself in danger. That’s why I am thrilled that I can finally taunt all the risks that await me when I’m on the water in my new Transparent Canoe.Sure, canoes are small vessels and seeing 360-degrees around you involves little more than minimal neck movements. But, if you crane your neck too much while attempting to sleep with danger, you could wind up treating massive spinal cord injuries. Save yourself the anguish and just look down. No, not at your junk, perve. At the menagerie of sea creatures that would love to eat your junk. You can see them all through the hull of your transparent canoe.

Think you can see right through my attempts to sell you on this amazing product? Well, it’s so clever that it’s more than just a transparent canoe. Just take a look at the product description:

This canoe-kayak hybrid has a transparent polymer hull that offers paddlers an underwater vista unavailable in conventional boats.

What makes this canoe a kayak? I assume the kayak part is invisible, so we can’t tell. Isn’t that amazing? If you can’t see how much you need this boat, it’s because its amazingness is also transparent. Did I just blow your mind? Good!

So, the next time you see me out on the water, don’t be surprised when I’m gesturing wildly towards my crotch and yelling, “I don’t care how big you are, sea snake! I own you!” I’m just yelling at the wildlife below my transparent canoe. Because I dominate danger.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.