Alaska in My Rear View Mirror

Posted by on Jul 18, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Alaska in My Rear View Mirror


Although I still have a couple of stories to relate, but they are going to have to wait a bit until I can catch up. I am on the way home now, spending tonight in Red Deer, Canada. Yesterday I made it back to Watson Lake, arriving just in time at around 10:30 PM. This got me under the mandatory time to be on the ground since night VFR is not allowed in Canada. I hooked up with 3 Citabria pilots headed “Outside” on their way to New York. Last night, we landed in the rain, tied the airplanes down and camped in the terminal again.

We launched at 7 AM this morning, flew until 9 PM this evening and just finished dinner.

Two or three more long days should put me close to home if the weather holds.

I am already making notes about the lessons learned and want to share them with you soon. Keep watching for updates as time allows.

. It is a bittersweet time, knowing this adventure is drawing to a close, but what a ride it has been!

Changes in Latitude

Posted by on Jul 13, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Changes in Latitude

This is Judy’s last day in Alaska for this trip as she is scheduled to catch the Red Eye flight at 1:30 AM heading back to Texas, back to work and to deal with the issues and chores waiting at home including a broken AC system. We took advantage of the continuing good weather to make a flight up over the glacier above Little George Lake and into the back side of Prince William Sound. Once again the scenery is beyond my ability to describe with ice filled high mountain valleys, snowfields and sheer rocky ridgelines falling to tundra and forests lining the glacier fed rivers below. Prince William Sound, of course was the site of the Exxon Valdez disaster back in the 1980’s when the super tanker ran into Bligh Reef and spilled crude oil into one of the most pristine wilderness environments on earth. Our view from 5000 feet is majestic with icebergs floating in the fiords, bright sunshine and smooth air. There is a sense that this is no place for an engine failure with very few options to stick the airplane if required. So, we circle around, shooting photos and video, then head back towards Wasilla.

Earlier, we visited the Seward Sealife Center which offers a great opportunity to see any of the creatures that make up this ecosystem. Some, such as the sea lions, puffins and seals are beautiful. Others, such as this guy, are spooky.

Once back in Wasilla, we re-pack everything as I plan to send unneeded camping gear, clothes, etc. back with Judy. We drive down to Anchorage, have dinner at Humpy’s and get to the airport around 8 PM. It is a bittersweet time as Judy settles in for the long wait to catch her flight. We have shared two wonderful weeks of this ongoing adventure and I will miss her terribly.


Sunny Resurrection Bay

Posted by on Jul 10, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Sunny Resurrection Bay

If you script a perfect day in Seward, it would feature clear skies, calm winds, cool temperatures with a bright sun. Add in a sea kayaking tour with folks who have a passion for wild places and you have everything necessary for a great time.

We spent three hours paddling around Fox Island among otters, sea lions, puffins and assorted humans. Our guides, Matt and Andrea, provided a running commentary about the history, geology, zoology and anthropology of this incredibly beautiful bay.


After a salmon lunch, we rejoined the boat for a tour around Resurrection Bay. Steep mountains ring this fiord carved by glaciers, some of which are still visible in the valleys above. The water is pristine and the wildlife is abundant. On top of a couple of bluffs we spot old concrete bunkers used by the U.S. military to watch for Japanese invaders during World War II.


Seward Bound

Posted by on Jul 10, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Seward Bound

We departed Trapper’s Creek this morning and drove past Anchorage along Turnagain Arm to the coastal town of Seward. We’ve checked into Creekside Cabins, owned by Tim, who is a pilot for Kalitta Air when he is not being an innkeeper. Tim has a beautiful set of cabins along a creek just outside of town. We visit for awhile, discussing the possibility of swapping some flight instruction for lodging and/or a salmon fishing trip. Tim’s girlfriend goes to UT so we may be able to work out a float rating as well. He has done a great job with his group of cabins and we are relaxing with a campfire by the creek. The creek murmurs along, the fire snaps and pops, the ducks are calling nearby and we are totally relaxed as the sun makes its way toward the horizon.

Earlier, we walked along the waterfront, visited with a fellow from Maine who had been fishing, nosed around the shops and stopped in for a couple of local beers.

Judy fixed a wonderful supper of pork, salad, potatoes and more. The weather is cool and clear this evening, finally giving us a break from the rain.

Tomorrow, we are scheduled for a sea kayaking trip into Resurrection Bay.






King of Talkeetna

Posted by on Jul 7, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on King of Talkeetna

The alarm went off at 3:30 AM and we stumbled out of bed to make our scheduled appointment with Tri Rivers Guide Service in Talkeetna. Gulping coffee, throwing on several layers of clothes and driving for 30 minutes puts us at the meeting spot by 4:30, in time to purchase licenses, pick up our hip waders and meet Niko who would be our river guide for the day.

We are fishing for King Salmon on the Talkeetna River. It is catch and release only so no fresh fish for us tonight. We run upstream to Clear Creek where we park on a gravel bar and begin casting. The temperature is in the low 50’s and an intermittent rain is falling.

The Kings are moving up the river to spawn. They are not actively feeding but will bite at the lure out of irritation. There is a marked difference in the water where the creek and river join, with the river carrying silt from a glacier making the water an opaque mocha color. The creek water from snowmelt is crystal clear. The fish seek out the clear water to cleanse their gills of the accumulated silt so we fish along the color change. The current is strong and the lure bounces across the bottom, making it difficult to sense a strike.

Soon, however, we start picking up fish and the fight is on. Most of ours weigh around 10 pounds or so, but they put on a show as we wrestle them into the shallows. We are not even supposed to raise them out of the water, so each fish is quickly unhooked and photographed before being sent on its way to complete the journey, spawn and die.

We end up catching around 8 fish during the morning before returning to the dock around 11 AM. Judy and I decide to stop by the Talkeetna Roadhouse for a hot meal then back to the room for a nap. The second run of red salmon begins near the end of July, so hopefully I can get in a day of fishing and send some home before I head south.




Mary Carey’s Inn

Posted by on Jul 6, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Mary Carey’s Inn

We drove a few miles north along the Parks Highway to have breakfast at Mary’s place. The Denali View Lodge was established by Mary Carey who homesteaded this area in the early 1960’s. Today, the lodge is still in the family although Mary died a few years back. Her daughter, Jean Richardson and grandson run the place today providing a place to stay, hot meals and amazing views of Denali when the weather allows.


Mary led an amazing life, first in Texas where she took on the governor to force prison reform before driving herself to Alaska following the death of her husband. Now widowed, she became a homesteader, teacher, author and advocate. She waged and won a seven year battle to force the state to complete the Parks Highway linking Anchorage and Fairbanks. She flew often with legendary bush pilot Don Sheldon, climbed Denali, wrote several books about her life and travelled the world. A Google search will reveal much more about this Alaska legend.

Her daughter, Jean Richardson winters in the Houston area and drives the 7-8 day trip from Texas each spring. She shared some wonderful stories about her mom and her life here. She explained that the cost of diesel fuel for the generator and heating oil makes it impractical to keep the lodge open in the winter.


We are staying at Trapper Creek Inn, a classic Alaska Roadhouse offering hot meals, fuel, lodging, showers and laundry to travelers. This area has been a crossroads for miners, hunters, fishermen and adventurers since the first gold discoveries in the late 1800’s.



Posted by on Jul 5, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Denali

Judy and I have been spending a few days in and around Denali National Park, hiking the trails, enjoying the scenery and visiting with folks from around the world. We’ve even seen some wildlife. The weather is better up here compared to Talkeetna where they continue to deal with steady rain and lots of bugs. Judy bonded with a couple of the park sled dogs.

We are camping near Healy alongside a beautiful lake. We will hang out in this area today before heading south tomorrow. The forecast is for better weather so we have plans to visit Whittier, Seward and Talkeetna in the next few days.





Adios Amigos

Posted by on Jul 1, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Adios Amigos

Mike and Lou are headed home today and I am already missing them. Lou left from Fairbanks this morning, beginning the long trek towards Atlanta. Mike flew to meet Judy and me at the glacier to recover the zodiac. He will take a commercial flight tonight back to New York and family, leaving his airplane awaiting his return in September. Mike was primarily responsible for researching the places we’ve been. He has guided our group from one amazing experience to another while entertaining us with stories of past adventures and with a warm friendship that added so much to my trip. I feel a true connection to both Lou and Mike and I can’t wait for our next opportunity to explore. Fair skies guys!

After Judy and I helped get the boat, motor and gear back across the 1.5 mile distance between the lake and the strip, we decided to drive to Talkeetna due to the uncertain weather. It has been raining on and off all day, so having all of our gear in the rental car is great. We found a neat little cabin on a lake near Talkeetna for the night, drove to the grocery for some supplies and food and returned to fix a great meal while gazing at the lake.

We are both tired from the exercise of the boat recovery so this cabin is perfect. We considered camping but with the rain still falling, we decided to opt for the comforts of the cabin.

During the flight this morning, Judy got to see a moose in the ponds near Wasilla. Then during the trek back and forth to the glacier lake, she scared up a nesting pair of willow ptarmigans. They squawked and flapped at our feet, trying to distract us from their nearby nest.quite a show really, as they followed us for about 100 yards, staying within 5 feet or so the whole time. This time of year they are wearing their summer colors of brown and tan. In the winter, they wii be entirely white to blend into the snow.




Judy’s Here!

Posted by on Jun 30, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Judy’s Here!

Judy arrived yesterday via Alaska Airlines and I picked her up in our rental car that we will keep for a couple of weeks during her visit. This allows us to be very flexible in our explorations, using the Super Cub to fly out to destinations around Southeast Alaska and the car when the weather is poor or we simply want to drive rather than fly.

Today, we flew back to the Knik glacier for a hike to Little George Lake. We landed at the Picnic strip and took the 1.5 mile walk to the lakefront. The wind was up so we didn’t chance a boat trip in the Zodiac, but we spent a couple of hours beachcombing and photographing the icebergs. The light was different from the last time I was here, giving a different “feel” to the place. A cold wind blows from the glacier and the ice sculptures are fascinating as the cloud shadows mute the colors until the sun returns and reveals the deep turquoise and brilliant white of the floating figures.

The weather is cloudy and cool, with occasional sunshine that lights the mountains briefly like a celestial spotlight. Other times, the cloud layers hide the middle of the slopes, revealing the bases below with the peaks floating above the cloud layer.

We planned to fly over to Talkeekna after leaving the Knik glacier, but the weather made that a non-starter. In fact, the forecast is for a couple of days of rain. Instead, we returned to Wasilla, tied the airplane down and drove to the local brew house for a leisurely late lunch where we catch up on the news from home and discuss our plans for the next two weeks.

Lou and Mike have been up north, visiting the Great Kobuk sand dunes and Bettles. They are due back here late today or tomorrow morning.



A Small Taste of Home

Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on A Small Taste of Home

Since today is a relatively flexible schedule, I decide to clean up the airplane,do some re-packing and fly to Homer. Judy arrives tomorrow and this is one of the places that we are thinking of visiting. Before leaving Soldotna, I walked over to the Kenai river in hopes of seeing some fishermen chasing salmon, but no one was around. The river is high and moving fast, but beautiful.

The flight to Homer takes less than an hour andI takeaway cab to the “Spit”, which is where the harbor lies.the area is popular for sport fishing charters, kayak tours and various other adventure travel excursions.
As I walk along the street,watching the tourists and fishermen hustling to depart, I enjoy not having to rush anywhere today. The weather has turned more typical for southeast Alaska, cool temps and overcast skies. There is rain in the forecast so I decide to get underway for Wasilla where I will spend the night, pick up the rental car and drive into Anchorage to pick up Judy tomorrow. I fly across the Cook Inlet at Kenai, which reduces my time over water to around 25 minutes. The overcast is at 1800 feet with scattered scud day clouds below. Once across the inlet, the weather deteriorates as I approach Wasilla until I am flying at 700 AGL with 4 miles visibility in mist. The landing is uneventful and I taxi around a bit searching for transient parking. One of the differences I have observed about these airports is that very few have services for transient aircraft in the way we see other places. Most fuel is self service,and there is often no FBO providing crew cars, tie downs, etc. Perhaps there is not as much transient activity as we see elsewhere. Maybe most aircraft are based here and don’t require these services. Interesting though. I hunt up a fellow who directs me to a parking spot. Another difference… No tie down ropes are provided. This is not a problem as I have my own, but it is a difference. Maybe ropes don’t work we’ll where snow and ice would freeze them to the ground. After securing the cubmobile, I call a cab to take me to the Best Western Lake Luceille. It is a neat facility on the shore of a beautiful lake from which floatplanes are busily moving about.

After getting settled, doing some chores and a small nap, I walk about a mile to a Mexican restaurant where I find excellent quesadillas and cold Bohemia beer. Reminds me of home and I spend an hour visiting with some of the locals. Much has been written about Alaskans, often suggesting that they are either running from something or running towards something else. In my experience so far, I find them to be self reliant and friendly once you engage them in conversation. Sort of like folks in Texas. Many lead interesting lives, working hard and enjoying the outdoors. The young people who provide much of the services often live somewhere else and come to Alaska for summer work.

It feels good to sleep in a real bed for a change, but I am looking forward to the next adventure.