View Mobile Site

I’d go to the beach, if it weren’t frozen

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED March 16, 2011 2:08 a.m.
My favorite t-shirt, designed by Ketchikan pun-master Ray Troll, is buried under a quarter-zip fleece and no-nonsense Marmot jacket, and my feet have been wet with sweat since Sacramento.

The torso cover makes sense when traveling to Alaska in any month spelled with more than four letters. The wool socks inside waterproof hiking boots comes from years of cold feet during float plane trips, and might just be the best decision since snow is being reduced to slush after three days of rain.

I feel good about myself, until a local kid at the Ketchikan Airport walks by in a hooded sweatshirt and shorts. The guy next to me at baggage carousel 1 (of 1) is in tattered Carhartt overalls with a long sleeved shirt and sandals.

After 15 minutes of waiting near the empty Alaska Airlines check-in counter and just before Ketchikan is enveloped by the cloud-wall creeping northward, those of us headed to Klawock, walk out a side door, through driving rain to the cold plane.

You can’t help but feel like Shaq in these things. You have to bend at the hips to get in, and eat your knees for the whole ride if you are taller than 6-foot-2.

There are seven of us, with the oldest passenger taking shotgun. The lady in front and to the right of me is reading the emergency card, but doesn’t look worried. The girl behind her is checking her Facebook.

We taxi, then speed skyward against the wind and pelting rain, toward the wall of clouds. The rain looks thicker, more like sleet as we disappear into the white blanket, turn west and I completely lose my sense of direction.

I expect us to possibly poke above the cover, but we don’t, and since there is nothing to see outside except white, I look elsewhere for excitement. I find none.

Of course, when flying a plane through a winter storm in Alaska, excitement isn’t usually something you seek, so I am content.

Lost, but content.

The emergency card lady is now reading the directions on the barf bag, I hope it’s just boredom because the smell of puke in a fuselage that’s an oversized Tylenol with wings is something too terrible to think about.

For a moment the clouds break. I can make out a few lakes, locked in the bitter white of winter. Ahead, the dying sun is slightly visible. Then, as quickly as it came, it’s all back to white.

I feel bad for the tire on the landing gear on my side. The front looks like it has frostbite.

I don’t know how much further we have to go, and I don’t know how long we’ve been in the air. I can’t see any of the mountains, rivers or lakes that would give me a frame of reference or indicate how much further we have to go. I only see white and now some grey.

The pilot has a GPS screen that I contort my body to see, but not even the inlets and land on it look familiar.

Once we float beneath the clouds after thirty minutes I can see water, little islands and a few cabins. I’ve got my bearings, and know it’s about landing time.

I shamelessly pull out my camera and take a quick video of the runway the pilot is aiming for, and hits, wheels first.

After three flights, I am home. Ten inches of last week’s snow has been eaten by three days of rain and it’s warmed all the way up to 40 degrees. There are reports of a few dozen steelhead in the river a half mile from my house.

I shake my head and wonder who would want to spend their spring break sitting around on a sandy beach.

To contact Jeff Lund, email aklund24@gmail.com.
Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...