That night, I met up with a friend from the Pilots of America forum, Bill. He drove me around Juneau and introduced me to some of the local scenic spots. He was also kind enough to take me shopping for a proper waterproof jacket, something I had keenly felt the lack of that day in Gustavus! It was a pleasure to visit his home and meet his wonderful wife, as well.
The next day, two friends joined me for a flight down to Petersburg in order to scatter the husband’s mother’s ashes (from the ground, not from the air!) Weather leaving Juneau was grotty again, but picked up as soon as we left the channel to the south of the city, for a beautiful flight south for an hour. As usual, we were offered a lift to the town, and I left the other two to carry out their scattering.
The town was a beautiful destination. I followed my by-now usual southeast Alaska visit program, which was to walk around and take some pictures, admire the sites, and then get something to eat before leaving. This time it was a local pizza joint, followed by a quick visit to the local outdoor store where I picked up a couple of exposure blankets to add to the survival kit. The majority of the really remote flying was still to come!
With plenty of daylight left, we flew across to Wrangell to see the petroglyphs at petrolyph beach; ancient carvings by Alaskan natives. The beach is just a short walk from the airport. In slight oversight on my part, I had failed to consider the full implications of them being on a beach. It was high tide, and they were all underwater! Fortunately the local government had foreseen such issues and provided replicas, well above the high tide line, for visitors such as us. Visit completed, I dropped the others back in Juneau.
After the flight north to Juneau, I turned straight around and flew back south to Kake, a small airfield that seemed to offer the opportunity of on-field camping, and put me close to my first destination of the following day, Ketchikan.
Kake airport was deserted, and after hunting around I finally found a little patch of ground to pitch my tent. Not an easy task in southeast Alaska, it was turning out, as most of the airports are built on reclaimed land with not much spare space. I later found out, from a friend who used to fly there, that he often used to see a big brown bear sitting in exactly the spot I spent the night! Shortly after arrival a couple of teens showed up in a pick-up truck, to lock up the airport, and checked whether I wanted to be locked in or locked out!
The next morning was bright and clear, and I flew south early to Ketchikan.
Getting closer to Ketchikan, the hillsides started to change from virgin forest to logging territory, with bare areas dotting the mountains. Ketchikan flight service station cleared me down the channel into their special flight rules area and gave me permission to land. I taxied down to the lower level parking area and found my way to the FBO, tucked in between cargo buildings. The ferry over to the mainland ran every thirty minutes, and a bus from the other side ran me in to town.
I spent a few hours exploring the city, another tourist-centered downtown that was hard to distinguish from Juneau! Once again there were multiple stores, particularly jewelry stores, catering to the cruise ship crowds. One shop offered all kinds of furs, including a complete wolf for several thousand dollars!
Tourist activity completed, I returned to the airport, and set course north to Klawock. I was hoping to meet up with another Pilots of America contact, David, but hadn’t managed to get in touch in advance. I decided to drop in anyway and see if he was around. The lady at the airline desk was a bit fazed by a stranger turning up from the internet and asking for one of their pilots, but was eventually convinced to call David and interrupt his banjo practice. He turned up quickly and welcomed me, helping me wash the mud off of the airplane, and organising for me to spend the night in the recently vacated room of a fired pilot. We hung out for the evening, barbecuing and swapping flying stories.
The next day, David was flying, but his friend Todd played the perfect host and took me on a driving tour and out for a great breakfast. Returning to the airport, he helped me plan my flight through Glacier Bay and find a camping spot for the night. Planning done, I set out north for my first stop, Sitka.
Flight conditions were great with scattered cloud as I flew up the coast, thickening to a low overcast that I ducked under to land at Sitka. The city was just a half hour walk from the FBO, and I carried out my standard tour of the city as well as picking up some traditional “fry-bread” for lunch; not bad but I wouldn’t hurry to get it again!
Tour of Sitka completed, I headed out for a highlight of Southeast Alaska; Glacier Bay.
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