I’m Leaving On A… Float Plane?

Much like Jeff last year, I got to go with Matt on his annual float plane trip with Scott Christy, a local pilot and very good friend to stickleback researchers in Alaska.

You know how I mentioned before that seeing that eagle snatch the dying grebe from the triumphant loon was the coolest thing I had seen in Alaska so far?

Sporting the latest fashion in hip waders - Rachel stands in front of Scott's float plane. It is lovingly referred to as "the baby."

Sporting the latest fashion in hip waders – Rachel stands in front of Scott’s float plane. It is lovingly referred to as “the baby.”

Oh, I lied big time. This was definitely the best day I have had in Alaska. Despite all our recent poor luck, today went off without a hitch. Number one, Scott is a fascinating individual with many stories to tell – both about his own Renassiance-man-like-life, and about his many travels in search of our little fish. But also, on our trip, I got to see the landscape as I’ve only glimpsed briefly from the tiny windows of the jet planes that take me to and from Anchorage at the beginning and the end of the summer.

Skinny Spruce Lake from the air. Completely surrounded by marshland that gets flooded periodically as the ocean is not that far away.

Skinny Spruce Lake from the air. Completely surrounded by marshland that gets flooded periodically as the ocean is not that far away.

Before we took off, Scott wanted to know if Matt was a one cookie or two cookie kind of guy. One cookie guys want their dessert now (i.e. we could’ve flown out to a pretty cool spot and seen lots of interesting things but probably not catch very many fish), but two cookie guys will hold out and wait a little while in order to earn that second cookie (we fly back to a lake previously collected and try a few others). Matt assured us he is certainly a two cookie guy, so Scott guided us out of Anhorage and across the Susitna Rivers.

Flying in a float plane was a novel experience for me. The smallest plane I’d ever been in previously sat at least 50 people. Scott’s plane seats three fairly comfortably. You feel every shift in altitude and every turn, no matter how gentle or steep. Sitting in the back seat on the way out, I had windows on either side of me and was in a near-constant state of staring from one side ot the other, drinking in the landscape below, curious to know if this was how birds felt looking down on the world.

Yes, that's a fairly amazing view.

Yes, that’s a fairly amazing view.

We had a very successful two-cookie trip. Although we did not catch any fish at the second unnamed lake we landed at – though we did enjoy a tasty lunch in the sunshine despite my picking up 14 new mosquito bites (they like me, what can I say?) – we caught oodles and oodles of fish at Skinny Spruce Lake. (Actually, this is also an unnamed lake, but Scott and Matt named it themselves for, you guessed it, a rather skinny spruce tree in plain sight.)

Scott and Rachel collecting fish at Skinny Spruce Lake.

Scott and Rachel collecting fish at Skinny Spruce Lake.

And then Scott let me fly the plane on the way back! No lie, he had me take the wheel for awhile and keep our nose on the horizon. It was a fairly singular moment in my life. I am convinced that I need to get my life on track now so I can have the time and money to earn my pilot’s liscense because that was one of the coolest things I have ever done.

Scott and Rachel in the cockpit.

Scott and Rachel in the cockpit.

All in all, a wildly successful day. This helps to make up for all the trouble we’ve had so far.

 

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