From the Air in a Cessna Float Plane
May 29th, 2015
Day 2 and this afternoon we now have the RV. Tomorrow we head out to Dawson City but today we need to familiarize ourselves with how the RV drives, parks, rides etc. so we decide to kill two birds with one stone. We try out the RV by driving out to the trailhead for the Miles Canyon.
The capogita has checked out the maps and tells me to watch for the turn off to the Alaska Highway. We head out of Whitehorse and I see a sign for Miles Canyon Road. We drive right by and then turn the RV around. The capogita says – are you sure – I don’t think this is the Alaska Highway. But I say yes it says Miles Canyon Road and he says “va bene” and we head down the gravel road. The road winds its way along Schwatka Lake. This is a lake that was created when the hydro dam was built in the 1950’s and it actually flooded over the white horse rapids so they no longer exist. I take another look at the map and sure enough we are not where we wanted to be going!
It is a beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky and we are enjoying the views of the green-blue lake waters so we keep driving. We see a number of float planes docked along the shore. We stop to take a few pictures of the lake and the planes. Then a bright red Cessna comes in for a perfect landing at a small dock. It is like a scene from a beer commercial – the wilderness, a float plane, a red setter bounds onto the dock happy to greet his owner, the pilot in a red plaid shirt gets out of the plane and pats the dog.
The capogita turns to me and says – “why don’t you ask them if they will take us up for a ride?”. I go over, ask if they take people up and yes they do. Martin takes us to the cabin-office and shows us the possible “rides”. The capogita says yes to the 90 minute ride though he really would like to do the longer one but it is already three in the afternoon. And he wants to go up right away! Martin tells us he is originally from Laval but has been living in B.C. for thirty years and is now living in the Yukon with his wife and children. He tells us that his wife is a teacher at the French language school in Whitehorse. He has to leave to pick up his boys from school but Daryl will take us up. They chat together for a few minutes and then he tells us we will be the first people they take up this season.
Daryl explains to us where the life jackets are, how to inflate them, how to open the doors of the Cessna, how to start the “finder” signal should the plane go down. All good things to know!!! We put our head sets on, buckle up and we head out down the lake.
What a perfect, perfect day for to see the area around Whitehorse from a plane. The water is still, no wind and clear skies. We take off just above the power dam and head towards Miles Canyon.
Daryl tells us he was with the armed forces for 11 years and he was stationed in Whitehorse. Though he was not a pilot for the forces he loves to fly. He left the forces and he and his wife have been living in a cabin off the grid, no running water, in the bush….
He tells us the names of the lakes as we fly over Fish Lake, Primrose Lake and Mt Ibix. We had told him it would be nice to see some wildlife – he does spot some sheep, tiny white spots on a mountain side. There are caribou too but he says they are so well camouflaged that unless they are moving they are hard to see.
The landscape below us changes quickly. From a narrow meandering river filled with glacier silt, to a wide dark blue river, both emptying into an emerald-green lake, to mountain tops covered with snow, to a lake that is still shedding the last of the winter ice. This is a lake where in the fall they bring in sheep hunters. He points out a lone log cabin along side a lake literally surrounded by wilderness a vestige from the gold rush days.
From the air you get a true appreciation of the vastness of where we are. Nothing but wilderness as far as the eye can see. The colors are stunning. Every lake and river seems to be a different shade of blue. The dark grey of the mountains, with the snow covering them sparkle in the bright sunshine. The different shades of green from the light pea green of the alders to the deep green of the coniferous trees are a sharp contrast with the perfect blue sky.
Daryl makes a perfect landing on the lake. I don’t even feel that we are back on the water. Martin is there with his two sons and their dog Cody and they tie up the plane. He takes a picture of us with Daryl – this is Daryl’s first flight as a commercial pilot. Well done Daryl!