Alaskanada – Anchorage

Alaskanada – Anchorage

As I departed Sitka, the overcast fell behind me again. I climbed above the scattered layer, and in the distance ahead could see the 15,325ft summit of Mt Fairweather and its surroundings. By the time I drew closer, the skies were clear and the mountains and ice-flows of Glacier Bay were spread out before me. The pictures can hardly capture just how magnificent it was.

I flew around over Glacier Bay for an hour, and the only reason I didn’t stay longer was that my fuel status didn’t allow me to comfortably linger. Reluctantly, I set course north and started my descent towards the gravel strip of Dry Bay. This strip is located in a state park, with no road access; the only way to get there is by air or river.

I touched down on the well maintained strip, taxied into a little parking area, and set up camp. With my accommodations ready, I went exploring. The map at the camp site had shown a ranger station up the other end of the strip so I set out to find it and say hello; coming across a cluster of buildings I thought I’d arrived, and had a look around, What initially seemed to be abandoned turned out to be an old fish processing plant that a family had recently bought, and moved in to to start fixing it up. A very friendly lot, they invited me to join them for dinner and drinks and we have an excellent home cooked meal and swapped stories about our various travels and adventures. Walking back to the tent later that night was a bit spooky; I expected bears to jump out of the forest at any moment and get me!

Final legs to Anchorage

In the morning I rose early and packed up, before taxiing down the strip to the fish plant. Over dinner last night I’d learned that the father in the group had to go to Yakutat the next morning, and I’d offered to give him a lift as I was going there anyway. In return he was able to contact the mechanic there and arrange for me to have a place, and some tools, to carry out an oil change on the airplane. He and his dog jumped in, and we were off on the short flight up the coast.

At Yakutat the mechanic came out to meet us, and before long I had the cowling off the airplane and was draining the oil, replacing the filter, and filling the engine up again with fresh oil. I took on fuel and took off again towards my penultimate stop for this half of the trip, Cordova. This had been recommended by Todd as a beautiful place to visit, with an interesting gravel airstrip running right alongside a road near the center of town. The flight took me along the coast, past numerous glaciers spilling out into the sea, and over glacial terrain dotted with subsidence and lakes.

Cordova Municipal is a gravel strip alongside the road, right near the town center. To get to the parking area, you taxi across the road, with cars waiting as you pass. Float planes use the lake alongside. The city strip in Cordova was quite busy and as is often the way at little airports I was soon chatting to some of the locals. One man was loading up his tail-dragger to fly out for a few days gold prospecting, and his wife offered to drive me around and show me some of the town.

Cordova used to be a clam harvesting town, but over-fishing and the 1964 earthquake effectively ended the industry. These days the main industry is commercial fishing, primarily salmon. There’s also an excellent museum showcasing the history of the local area including a spotlight on the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker disaster. My host drove me all around the town, including a visit to the museum and a trip to the river to look for salmon, although we didn’t find any. Tour complete, she dropped me back at the airplane and waved me off for my flight to Anchorage.

Over Anchorage airport

The flight took me across Prince William Sound, and the Portage Glacier region, before crossing the center of Anchorage International Airport and doubling back to land on the gravel at Lake Hood Strip. The Lake Hood Strip is tucked into the corner of the main airport, and also features seaplane runways and extensive parking for both sea and land planes. Parking for visiting aircraft is available just a few minutes walk from the international terminal. I tied down the aircraft, sorted out all the luggage, and fitted the new cover before heading over to the terminal for the first of five flights that would take me all the way back for a few weeks work in the Middle East.

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