Imagine trying to sleep inside of a tent while the ice-and-snow covered earth is slighty moving and shifting beneath you. That's what Laura Lupin experienced this summer, as she spent two months 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 the glacier, where they are led on guided tours by experienced tour guides, including Lupin.
A forensic chemistry major with a minor in biology, Lupin learned about the opportunity to spend part of her summer as a glacier tour guide, from a friend who had done the same the previous year. Once accepted into the program, she made her way to Alaska where along with the other 14 guides, she held various jobs including glacier tours, working in the gift shop, making sure unguided groups were safe while exploring the glaciers, and 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."
In addition to living in a tent, when not working, Lupin's free time was spent doing all kinds of outdoor activities, including hiking a variety of trails, fishing for silver salmon, and visiting both Denali National Park, which is located on the highest mountain in North America, and the Idiatarod Headquarters in Wasilla, home to the annual long-distance sled dog race which spans over 1,000 miles and is one of the most popular sporting events in Alaska. 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 breath taking," 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