Apologies for the hiatus! I know I took a little break from the Alaska posts, but they’re back!
Right from the start, I knew a flight in a bush plane was on the itinerary for Alaska. Much of the Alaskan wilderness is completely wild. No roads or modern conveniences. Completely untouched – just the way we like it. As a result, it’s only accessible by small bush planes, and once they drop you off, you’re on your own!
The first half of our trip to Alaska was very much like a normal vacation. We had our suitcases, we ate out regularly, and we slept in real beds (despite the endless daylight). Once we returned from Denali to Anchorage, we knew we’d be leaving all of that behind. It was time to trade in the suitcases for backpacks, restaurants for freeze-dried meals, and beds for sleeping bags.
This is what I had prepared and trained for; I was ready!
We had some time to kill the morning of our departure, so we wandered over to the small airport and shot the planes coming in and landing on the water. As there were six of us, we had to go in two trips, with the plane taking an hour each way. I was anxious for bears, and the waiting was killing me (I don’t know how to sit around and do nothing).
Finally, our plane returned for us, and we set off.
The prospect of boarding a tiny plane and flying for an hour over open water and pristine wilderness had me a tad nervous. I’m not afraid of heights, and I’ve flown in small planes before.. but not this small. We took a small commercial flight from Portland to Vancouver B.C. on our way to Japan, but that still sat at least 50 people. Even the tiny puddle-hopper we took into Woomera, South Australia for my Dad’s two-year assignment – which I distinctly remember remarking on its seats that were “both aisle- and window-seats” – transported at least a dozen.
These bush planes, when loaded with all of our bulging backpacks, fit three passengers, in addition to the pilot. There are plenty of Disney park rides larger than these planes.. and they’re usually tethered or confined to a track.
Tiny planes like that respond strongly to any subtle movement. The take-off was swift, and even the merest of breezes pushed the plane unexpectedly. Fortunately, the initial apprehension faded as I grew used to the movements, gained some trust, and became distracted by the stunning scenery.
Our pilot took us down the coast we’d be hiking, and we caught a glimpse of a crystal clear lake we aspired to reach on a day hike. I was blown away by everything around me. Alaska truly is a beautiful place, and nothing can prepare you for the wonder of that perfect wilderness.
I was also amazed to see vast deltas stretching out into the ocean. The rivers continued far out past the shore, spidering through the mud lurking just below the surface of the water. It was quite the sight!
Finally, we reached our destination – or rather our starting point.
We landed right on the beach, we met up with the first group who had been waiting for us, and we bid our pilot farewell. I survived the tiny plane, and next, I knew, came bears.
The journey had only just begun.
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