One of the reasons I love living in Alaska is its sheer vastness gives me literally endless things to explore. At 663,300 square miles, if Alaska was its own country, it would be the 17th largest in the world. I’ve learned not to restrict myself to the parts of Alaska that can be accessed by car. Much of Alaska’s beauty and excitement can only be reached by boat or by plane.
This month, I got an invitation to meet up with Greg, an old friend of mine for a weekend excursion. He has an old cabin on a lake in the woods outside of Denali National Park. The catch about the trip is that the cabin cannot be accessed by car, so the only way to get there was via his old float plane, which can take off and land from water, thanks to its twin slender pontoons (or “floats”) mounted under each wing. So in other words, it was my kind of adventure. If you haven’t taken off or landed on a float plane, I must say, it’s both thrilling and terrifying.
We traveled lightly, since we were traveling by small plane, but one of the things we made sure to bring was the flour and yeast, eggs, baking soda and sugar necessary to cook up another Alaskan classic: sourdough pancakes. The most important ingredient, though, was something we would have to collect on our own: wild Alaskan blueberries. We landed in the midafternoon, so we had plenty of time to hike around and find some berries. Since he has been coming up here for years, Greg has a few favorite spots where he knows the wild blueberries grow.
Returning from the blueberry hike, we turned our attention to another important task: dinner. Since it is situated on a lake there are lots of wild fish to be found right outside the cabin door. This type of fishing is a little less exhilarating than the time I spend on the coast catching boatloads of wild salmon, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. We sat outside for the rest of the evening, eating our fish and waiting for the late Alaskan summer sunset, that finally happened at around 11:30 pm.
Up bright and early, we cooked our hearty pancakes to prepare for a little more in-depth hike, this time to a small mountaintop in hopes of spotting one of Alaska’s other beautiful inhabitants: the bald eagle. According to Greg, over the years, there has regularly been an eagle’s nest at the top of the mountain. The proximity to the lakes, including the lake on which Greg’s cabin was situated, draws the eagle families in, because eagles dine mainly on fish. We wanted to be sure not to get too close, because we didn’t want to upset the mother bird. Sure enough, though, we found the nest. We were about 20 yards away, but we still had a great vantage point. The mother bird was nowhere to be seen, but the baby birds were squawking and moving around the nest. The excitement reached a fever pitch when the mother appeared on the horizon and swooped into the nest, carrying a fish. What a majestic site!
After all the hiking and exploring, I slept very heavily on my final night at the cabin. We woke up early and finished off the pancake batter and the blueberries. It couldn’t have been a much calmer day outside, which was perfect for heading for home in the float plane. The adventure was quick, but very rewarding. And most of all, it affirmed my love of Alaska and fulfilled my love of exploring.
Until the next adventure,