Imagine sleeping in a tent staked to shifting ice-and-snow covered earth. That's exactly what Laura Lupin did last summer during her stint as a tour guide at the Matanuska Glacier in Southcentral Alaska.
Located along the Glenn Highway, the Matanuska Glacier was chosen by Alaska Magazine as No. 2 in their article "49 Places to Go in the 49th State." At approximately 24-miles long and averaging about two-miles wide, this glacier is the largest one in Alaska that can be reached by vehicle and as a result, is one of the state's most popular tourist destinations. Visitors flock to the area year-round to experience it, where they are led on guided tours by tour guides such as Lupin.
Lupin, a forensic chemistry major with a minor in biology, worked with other 14 other guides. In addition to her guiding duties, she also worked in the gift shop and performed trail maintenance, which at times involved lifting and shifting 60-pound metal grates that were in the mud leading up to the glacier.
"The overall experience was absolutely amazing, a 10-out-of-10," says Lupin. "The daily view alone beat working in an office all summer and I really learned a lot of things which were not limited to glaciers. Meeting people from all over the world, such as Poland, Germany, China and Russia and hearing about their adventures in Alaska was so enjoyable. Not to mention, I couldn't have asked to work with a better group of hardworking people."
Lupin spent her free time hiking a variety of trails, fishing for silver salmon, and visiting Denali National Park, which is located on the highest mountain in North America, and the Idiatarod Headquarters in Wasilla. Lupin also had the unique opportunity to ride in her boss' private plane as he took the guides over the entirety of the 24-mile-long glacier, an experience that she said left her speechless.
"The natural beauty of the glacier was just breathtaking," Lupin says, adding that as an active valley glacier, Matanuska was constantly moving, about one foot per day, and always changing.
"It was fascinating to see how much the glacier changed in just the two short months I was there," she says. "It truly was a sight to be seen."
—Marilee Gallagher ’14