Getting Back

Rain is still coming down the next morning as we eat breakfast and talk.  The plane is due in at 7:30 AM.  10 minutes ahead of time we climb onto the ATV and ride the 1/2 mile to Pat's cabin where Pat greets us and tells us that we misheard the arrival time of the plane.  It's 11:30 AM, not 7:30 AM. 

John, another local fisherman, shows up at Mike's cabin shortly after we get back.  His satellite connection is down and he's here to use Mike's.  John posts a blog each summer on life at East River.  Soon, we're joined by Pat and later Jim Capra, the head ranger at Dry Bay, stops by.  An animated discussion of fishing ensues with much ribbing and laughter. 

Later, Jim and I have a chance to chat about traveling the coast, something he's quite knowledgeable about.  He's walked the section south of Lituya Bay and I'm quite interested in what he says.  He's done it in March, and says that at that time of year a packraft is close to optional due to the colder weather and lack of glacial runoff. 

The group breaks up by shortly after 11:00 AM and we head once again to Pat's place.  There's a group of about 8 of us there, two of whom are flying out with me.  The pilot taxis the Beaver up to the cabin and we quickly load and take off.  The mountains are still cloud shrouded but the Yakutat forelands, an extensive coastal plain, are visible below, as are many of the rivers I've crossed in the past 10 days.  At the Yakutat airport, we split the fare 3 ways, with my portion coming to $140 which is much less than I'd expected. 

My next order of business is to purchase a ticket to Juneau and somehow get in touch with Pearl, Dick and Kathy.  The one-room airport has an Alaska Airlines desk and after I explain my situation, no credit card, no cell phone, no calling card, nothing except cash, she kindly lets me use the phone to make a reservation and call Pearl who is still in Gustavus, as well as Dick and Kathy, our Juneau hosts.  No one answers though, and I just have to leave messages.  There are plenty of seats on the evening flight to Juneau and I pay for a ticket.  I'm feeling a bit blue as I while away the hours in the airport, feeling my good fortune in seeing Lituya Bay and the Fairweather mountains, but also like something is lacking given the trip being different than I envisioned.   

Eventually a group of folks comes in, just delivered by bush plane from Dry Bay after a 9-day guided raft trip down the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers.  It's been a great experience for them and we share trip notes.  An interesting tip I learn is that their guides find air horns more effective than bear spray in deterring bears. 

The evening flight is on time and I get a few glimpses of the Fairweather Mountains through the clouds as we fly over.  Interestingly, we seem to pass through a corner of Canadian airspace near Mt. Fairweather.  Soon we're below the clouds on the approach to Juneau.  The islands and waterways are familiar territory and despite still feeling a bit down, I look with affection on a part of the world I love. 

I'm also wondering if I'm too late to catch a bus to Dick and Kathy's place in Douglas, whether I'll be an imposition given the shorter-than-planned trip, and whether I should just look for a place to camp in the woods near the airport for the night.  I follow the signs to baggage claim and as I'm leaving the security area, I'm stunned to see my good friend Mark standing there. 

Then I see Pearl walking toward me.  I can't believe it.  We hug and tears flow.  Lord, it feels good to hold her.  I can't believe she's here.  After a long, tight hug, we walk over to Mark and I embrace him as well.  Then Pearl tells me there's a couple she met in Gustavus who want to meet me and introduces me to Bill and Sylvia who have just bought an inn in Gustavus that Pearl helped them work on.  They seem like really nice folks and we chat a few minutes before they leave.   

Then Pearl and Mark tell me that Dick and Kathy have invited guests over who would like to meet me and that there's a salmon dinner waiting for me.  The day has suddenly turned around and I'm feeling overwhelmed with gratitude.  The evening is wonderful, full of stimulating conversation and much laughter.  It feels so good to be here.  I'm warm and dry, the food is delicious and most importantly, I'm in the company of good friends. 

Priorities. Priorities. Priorities.  Hopefully I'll hang onto that lesson for quite awhile.

"Harry Reid" shithouse at Mike's fishing camp.

Loading the Helio Courier for the trip to Yakutat.  A remarkable airplane with a super short take off capability. 
After we unloaded in Yakutat, I watched Hans, the pilot, take off unloaded. 
The plane virtually leaped into the air.  It's said to be the next thing to a helicopter.  

Flying over the mouth of Dry Bay.

Aerial view of logs where Muddy Creek enters the Alsek River.  

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