Backcountry Bush Flight

Sep 8, 2021 | 0 comments

This last week has been gorgeous here in Katmai. Colors are starting to change ever so subtly. Some of the cottonwoods are starting to turn yellow, but even just the grasses browning up and plants starting to die back is giving the land a new look. The mosquitoes and white socks aren’t as bad anymore, either, and there have been endless cranberries and crowberries to forage. 

The only downside is that the sun goes down now around 9:15pm or so, and doesn’t come up until after 7am. I wouldn’t mind so much, except… you know, bears.

A couple times in the last week, I walked to work early to catch the sunrise over the lake. It’s usually so cloudy that the sunrise is pale and monochrome, but we’ve had some beautiful moments as it peeked through the clouds a couple times at the golden hour, so I’ve been able to get some good photos and video.

The park has gotten busier again, which I was told would happen. Fortunately, there’s only a week and a half left at this point, so I just need to get through about 9 more work days. Then the week after next, I fly home.

As much as I’m looking forward to returning to Oregon, I’m going to miss Alaska, too. This place is always so good to me, anywhere in the state I go. It challenges me, but it also makes me feel so alive and fulfilled. It’s familiar and mysterious to me all at once. Comforting and displacing. It has this way of shaking my life up, and revealing to me what is truest in my heart.

Today was one of the best days off I’ve had yet. I was given the opportunity to fly out to a remote cabin on a lake called Nonvianuk with one of the wildlife technicians, to change the batteries on a bat accoustic monitoring box.

It was a short trip, but so much fun to fly in a float plane and get to see some more of the park!  It was just like other bush planes I’ve been in (a 1950-something de Haviland Beaver), but take off and landing are so much smoother in the water.

We flew over miles of wilderness; dark green swaths of spruce forest, serpentine rivers, big rounded lakes. When we landed on Nonvianuk, three of us trekked across the trundra hauling a small step ladder along a vague trail up to the cabin. There was an outhouse, a old collapsed food cache, and a small showerhouse. The inside of the cabin was quite nice, considering it’s not really used anymore. It had a kitchen area, a little loft with a bed and a wooden ladder up to it, and a table.

The battery change was quick, and I had just enough time to take a few pictures  before we headed back to the Beaver and took off again. The pilot showed us a couple old cabins from the air, which was cool to see. One was Roy Fure’s second cabin (pictured above, surrounded by endless forest), which he built sometime after living in the cabin I that stayed in a few weeks back. Flying over that much wilderness, it blew my mind how industrious this guy must have been. I mean, that cabin was remote. It would have been several day’s walk to get anywhere near another human being out there, much less any form of civilization. 

By 3pm, we were back in Brooks Camp, parking the plane on the shoreline crowded with other float planes. Two bears slept on the beach. 

What a strange, wonderful place this is. Once again, I’m overcome with gratitude for being here. Gratitude for all the opportunities I’ve had here, for the people who bring joy and character to the place, and gratitude for the place itself.


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