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As we were turning around at the Johnson River to head back to the lodge and our pick-up spot, our early pilot spotted us and touched down in the soft sand.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Good news: we didn’t have to hike anymore.  Bad news: that sand was really soft.  So much so that the plane got stuck.  It was a team effort to work the wheels back out on top of the loose ground in order to take off, but before long, we were on our way.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Like our trip out, only half of us could ride at a time, so we had to take two trips.  I was in the first plane, and I chose to ride shotgun this time.  I wanted the other side of the plane for varying photo opportunities, and that side didn’t disappoint.  The bay is simply littered with little islands, swiss-cheesed with hundreds of lakes.  The islands were almost more water than land mass; it was quite the sight!

Our plane ride also came with a pooch.  Most of you know I’m more of a cat person, so I was glad to be in the front seat where I wouldn’t get a tongue behind my ear.

However, it was entertaining to periodically glance back and see this dog oozing its way into the laps of the nearest passengers.  They didn’t seem to mind, though.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Upon landing back in civilization, I found it surprising that more than a shower or nap or food, what I wanted more than anything else was good, clear water.  Fortunately, there were ample bottles at the hangar, so I gladly drank my fill.  Water never tasted so good.

After that, it was a waiting game.  It was about an hour each way, and our pilot had to return to pick up our remaining crew.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We dropped off our rented bear spray and cans, caught a quick meal at the airport, and reflected on our journey.

All in all, we hiked 28 miles.  And those miles changed us.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Most folks simply take a bush plane out to the lodge for the day, hop in a wagon to be hauled out to the bears in the field, then hauled back to sip hot drinks in the lodge and review their awesome photos before hopping a bush plane back to Anchorage in time for dinner.

Sounds kinda nice, eh?

We obviously didn’t do any of that.

Nope.  We were the only loons who deliberately got dropped almost 30 miles away so we could take the (really) long way to the bears!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

But at the same time, we were something of local celebrities.  Word had spread about our trek, and those who opted for the luxurious day-trip thought we were crazy (but let’s face it, we were).  The pilots who saw us on the coastline commended our perseverance, and those at the lodge anxiously awaited word of successful completion of the journey.

We found this all out when we bumped into a gentleman on the beach on his daily rounds just before Silver Salmon Creek Lodge.  Who would have thought we would have drawn so much attention by simply being a tad overzealous?

Needless to say, I was proud of our accomplishment.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017
Photo taken by our awesome pilot!

I was almost disappointed to rejoin society.  True, I appreciated having a real bathroom, and I couldn’t complain about freshly-cooked food.  But life is simpler in the wilderness.  Gone are the pressures to perform, to impress, to earn, to spend.  Instead, it’s basic survival and simple living.  Add to that the fresh air and untouched landscapes – perfectly photogenic – and it was an explorer’s heaven.

It was an adventure unlike any I had ever experienced before.  I can’t believe I ever considered turning it down.  And I can’t wait for the next one.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Did you miss any part of my Alaskan journey?  Find all my posts on it here.

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