I had waited 28 years to visit Glacier National Park. 28 years and I lived only 4 hours away. It’s a pretty embarrassing fact if you ask me. Another fact is that the glaciers in Glacier NP are melting at a pretty rapid rate. There is a prediction out there that all the glaciers will be gone by 2030…. that’s only 15 years away!
When I planned my first trip to Glacier it was in May. May was not necessarily the best time to visit but it is what worked out for my visit. Weather is usually unpredictable at that time of year, meaning it could still be snowing. Although I did not experience any snow on this trip, there were a few slushy days. Or as our weatherman calls it “snain”. Which I’m sure whoever coined that term thinks they’re pretty clever 🙂
My May trip was not solo and I ended up going with Drama Papa (back when I use to go places with him). I had planned the usual Glacier NP excursions but The Going To The Sun Road was closed, so that limited what we could see and do. I was desperate to see a glacier… so desperate that I requested an unplanned stop at Glacier Helitours.
In addition to it being my first trip to Glacier it would also be my first time on a helicopter ride. While we spoke with the woman at the information desk I was taken back by the price. For just Drama Papa and I to go up would be $500 USD for both of us. I didn’t need to see a glacier that bad. Luckily neither did another group of 2, who were hoping someone would show up and share a ride along with them. We agreed to share the ride which brought our cost down to $250 USD each for a 30 minute ride.
As we prepared for the ride we were asked to get on a scale so the staff could place us accordingly based on our weight. I got the golden ticket and was placed up front! I had the prime spot for visibility and photography. Drama Papa was unfortunately stuck in the back between our “new friends”.
The pilot loaded in and we took off. As this was my first time in a helicopter I did not know what to expect, but assumed it would be similar to a plane. Uh, yeah, no – It was nothing like that. The weather was not the best that day either, so we had some bouts with snain. I can only guess the snain contributed to our slightly bumpy ride.
We zipped around checking out the views of Lake McDonald, Lake Harrison and Harrison Glacier. I was doing fine, even with the hard banking, which I am sure was not that hard to someone who knew what he was doing… you know like the pilot.
But given my experience in riding around in a helicopter it was hard banking. In fact I was no longer doing fine. I was tense and nervous.
The pilot continued on showing us the sites of Glacier but I was more distracted with what he was doing to fly the machine and safely return me to the ground. There seemed to be a lot of levers and pulleys – stuff that I’ll never understand and of course because I was in a crazy state of mind I was questioning everything. Then the pilot closed his small side window, looked up at the blades and then looked over at my small side window that was open, which shot me to a 10 on the panic scale.
Should I close my window?
Why was he looking up at the blades?
Was there something wrong?
Was there too much snain on the blades?
I looked back at Drama Papa for support and all I got back was a goofy grin and a wave. A WAVE – ARE YOU KIDDING ME??! I turned back around in disgust – how could he wave at a time like this?
My behavior must have noticeably changed because the pilot started chatting with me. Sure go ahead and try and talk me down from a 10 on the panic scale. Luckily for me we were nearing the end of our flight and I could return back to the ground where obviously I felt safe.
The pilot landed the helicopter and we unloaded. I was happy to be back on the ground and apparently was the only one who had a stressful time. It’s my own fault for the freak out – the pilot was experienced and the ride – aside from a few bumps – was safe. I now know I can’t take myself anywhere.
There are a few helicopter tour operators near Glacier National Park and we used Glacier Helitours – which I do recommend. The staff was helpful, the pilot was skilled in both flying and dealing with a spastic weirdo. Glacier Helitours is located just outside of the park at 12205 Highway 2 East.