Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fly like an eagle

Time for a photo dump! Pictures of flying into Admiralty and some island shots:

This is what I flew in on. Uppon arriving at the airport I became instantly stoked about the week ahead. All concerns I'd had vanished. All I wanted was to get on the plane and start my adventure!

The mountains were gorgeous as we flew by them. At points I felt as if I could reach out and touch them, we wer that close. I love how mountains take on such a different nature from up high than they do when you're on the ground.

So many green valleys here. So much backcountry. I feel like I could spend a lifetime here exploring and still never see more than 1% of this place.

As I stared out the window of the Beaver, my eyes and brain struggled to take in every curve, every tree, every undulation of the mountains as we flew by them. I tried to process the texture of the pines, the snow, the undergrowth that formed bright green meadows on the mountain side. I strained to see if I could spot any mountain goats. I scanned the shoreline trying to follow its curving line, spying each cove, each sand bar that stretched out from the mountains behind. Humans simply don't have enough eyes to truely see such wonderful nature. But I gave it my best effort with the two that I have.

My first flight into backcountry sent a lot of thoughts through my brain. I was in awe of the beauty of it all. But I was also in awe of the reality of it too. I thought about the chain of events that got my butt into that back seat of a float plane as it glided over the Tongass. I mulled over the year I spent since being laid off, when I had sat up at night pondering what the next 25 years of my life was going to be like. Wondering what was in store for me. At the time I had no solid job prospects on the horizon. All I had was gumption and the prayer that things would pan out for me. After partying away all summer, fueld by the desire to blot out my floundering state inlife, I had entered the fall of '09 with no clue as to what to do with myself, stuck in the worst economy we've seen in decades. I muddled through waters of indecsion and a sinking feeling of despair that the jobs I wanted, and the future I wanted simply werent going to happen. More and more I tried to ignore watching the natural progression taken place around me as all my friends took the next steps in their lives and I remained unemployed, living with my parents.

I was thinking all of this as I stared at the mountains, when suddenly I felt the plane turn and begin to descend. I watched out the window as the water seemed to hurdle closer and closer to the cabin. I listened for the first crashing whistle of float hitting current. The second float hit water below me and we bumped and swaged our way from being airborn to floating.
The engine puttered us along until we were in the shallows. Donning waders, I stepped out gingerly, splashing into thigh high water, the great green grandure of Admiralty stared at me several yards away. Just as when I first deplaned in Juneau back in May, I was hit by the sweet smell of pine, and the cold feel of a watery wind. I trudged to the shore and retied my boots, lugged my pack onto my shoulders and turned to begin the half mile trudge to Mole Harbor. I only got about five steps before stopping to stare at my new reality. I was back on the ground, looking up at the mountains, as they looked down at me with their ancient indifference. Behind me, other crew members were beginning their own trudge up through the low tide. I stopped to snap a picture of two crew members watching the Beaver warm up for its departure. I waited till she was airborn before turning to start walking again. I didn't watch it too long, but I listened as the engine grew fainter and fainter and was gone. Just like that, we were on our own for the next 8 days without any means of leaving less we send for it via radio.

Over the next 8 days I began to get into my stride. Our days began at 6am and ended at 9pm. The weather was merciful. It was sunny mostly with only a faint drizzle. Unfortunally thats not realistic at all and I perish the thought of whats to come. We worked hard, building a camp, hauling gravel, felling trees, building a cedar walkway over mudpits. I was cold, I was damp, and I was tired...but it was worth it.

I have a lot to be thankful for, as I sit here at the hostel, typing this up before heading to bed. I have a lot to ponder, a lot to experience and take in. Every moment is an experience right now for me. Every day I learn something new about myself. There is no limit to the joy one can manage to feel as the sun sets behind snow crested mountains and the sore throb in your feet finally has a chance to dissapate. When you can zip open the door to your tent and stare at the godlike Chilkats displayed in icy pagentry across the water. Or a hike to Lake Alexander rewards you with the calm of a place few have ever seen.

When this work is done, there is a good chance I will probably not return to Admiralty, given its seclusion and high price tag for a personal flight in. In the meantime, this is my reality. I am grateful.

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