I went flying Wednesday in a 4-seater Cessna 185. Sadly, I did not operate the controls – I have not flown a small plane since I was burning holes in the sky around St. George UT in the early 1990’s. Plus, this was WORK – I was getting PAID for this! – so I went on our interpretive ranger scenic flight courtesy of the Park pilot. Ferociously chewing a piece of Dentyne Ice gum to ward off any turning-and-banking-induced not-the-pilot nausea, I stepped up and hoisted myself past the strut and into the backseat tangle of seatbelts and headset cables.
Pilot (Alan) from the rear
There I sat, cozily belted and scrunched into the seat behind the pilot with my camera in my lap, spare batteries in my pocket, and my headset banging the roof anytime I craned for that perfect photo-op out the plastic window.
Naknek Lake, still partly frozen
Brooks Camp, Brooks River and Falls
We stayed up a little more than an hour, flying 600 feet above the ground and cruising at 130 mph. We saw one moose and that was it for wildlife. The cloud cover was low and so was the visibility but our pilot pressed onward across Naknek Lake and past Brooks Camp. We skirted the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes (VTTS – remember?) and caught a matchstick head-sized glimpse of the Novarupta plug in the fog and deep valley snow cover.
Margot Creek, along the route to VTTS
Three Forks Overlook Cabin (left of strut)
Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes
Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
Mt. Martin was visible far up a valley off to our right, a plume of steam clearly evident. U-shaped valleys were everywhere, telling of the advance and retreat of the continental glaciers. The last glacial maximum on the Alaska Peninsula was 26,000 years ago.
Terminal Moraine of the last glacial advance near King Salmon
The tilted layers of Mt. Katolinat showed through the clouds, but I would have to wait for a future flight to see the peaks of Mt. Katmai, Griggs, and all the rest of this part of the Aleutian Range. I have been told that on a clear day you can see Shelikof Strait.
I will definitely be looking, when I am on my next flight.
Iliuk Arm, Naknek Lake