Naknek to Soldotna

Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Naknek to Soldotna


As we awoke and glanced outside the tents, it was obvious we were not going anywhere soon as the ceiling was only around 200 feet. We took our time getting started with the day, and decided to walk into Naknek for breakfast at the Red Dog Inn. We met Andy, the cook, who after a slow start, told us stories of life in Naknek. He also fixed a great breakfast which we took our time consuming. On the way to the Red Dog, we passed a group of folks putting up a large handmade sign in front of the local car repair facility announcing that mechanic services were unavailable. After visiting with Andy, we found out the mechanic had been arrested for a DUI on a four wheeler and was beginning a 14 day jail sentence. Hence the sign.

After catching up on all the Naknek gossip, we returned to the airport and struck camp in preparation for flying out. We taxiied to the fuel pumps where we checked weather. Mike and Lou are heading further south then planning to loop around to Nome, Kobuk sand dunes, Unakaleet and back to Fairbanks. I am heading back to the northeast towards Soldotna and the Anchorage area to meet Judy on Saturday. So, once again, our group is splitting apart for awhile.

The weather looks okay towards my first planned stop in Iliamna so I takeoff and fly for an hour, land and visit with the FSS briefer from the day before. We check the Weather Cams through Lake Clark Pass and they show some marginal conditions in the beginning of the pass, with improving conditions further on. The advent of Weather Cams has made a huge improvement in flight safety throughout the state. Being able to see an up to the minute view of the routes allows the pilot to make a far better decision.


As I pass Pt. Alsworth, the visibility and ceiling are dropping again, and the possibility of a divert increases. I decide to fly up Lake Clark to the beginning of the pass and see if things improve. It is a bit disconcerting to be flying over water with few or no landing choices, and have the ridgelines be hidden in cloud. Visibility underneath is good, and as I reach the end of the lake, the conditions are definitely improving. I climb to 1000 AGL and visit with a floatplane pilot coming out of the pass, who assures me things are definitely better ahead. Both Merrill Pass and Lake Clark Pass have claimed many lives as pilots make a mistake in navigation and turn up the wrong canyon. There are many side canyons that appear to offer routes through the mountains but only lead to cul de sacs filled with high terrain. The task is much easier today with GPS and terrain displays, but it is still a challenge. The scenery is breathtaking with hanging glaciers and tumbling waterfalls that rush to the river below. There is not much time for pictures, with the opposite direction traffic and the need to navigate precisely. After about 30 minutes, with the weather steadily improving, I exit the pass onto the flatlands around Cook Inlet.


Across the Inlet lies the Kenai Peninsula. I descend and land at Soldotna for the evening. Buying gas at the self serve pump, I see the Pilot Lounge and inquire about staying here for the night. This seems like it will work out so I tie the plane down and move some gear inside. The small building houses a bathroom and shower so I have all the amenities necessary.

During the evening, several pilots stop in to use the facilities. I visit with Dave, a retired teacher and school administrator who is going to move his Super Cub from a tiedown into an open hangar. He is tired of the hassles of wing covers in the winter. I also listen as an air ambulance pilot describes how they just finished a flight in a King Air. During the flight they discovered a bat flying around the cabin and cockpit with them so the co-pilot is out there on a bat removal mission while we visit.

Things quiet down afterwards and I am finally getting some time to catch up the blog entries. I am a bit anxious about Lou and Mike in the desolate country with poor weather. I am also looking forward to having my bride join me on Saturday as the adventure continues.

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