Thursday, February 12, 2015

Winter Return to a Cold, Off-Grid, Off-Road Alaska Cabin

Our little Piper PA 20 is sort of the “Honda Civic” of planes. It is great for flying the two of us around, but its meager pay load means that delivering seasonal quantities of food, mail, and accumulated Amazon purchases from our Post Office box in Anchorage necessitates three round trips.

Laura with a warm cup behind the cabin
After a winter vacation in warm and crowded southern venues, we are ready to head back to the solitude of our little cabin. Kindly, our mechanic in town usually hauls our plane into his hangar to warm it up the night before our departure, speeding by several hours the prep-work needed for the first of multiple flights on below-zero days. Given the paucity of winter daylight hours with a firm deadline of sunset (no landing lights on a remote lake!), his generosity is the gift of light that enables me to achieve some semblance of cozy habitation before darkness descends at 4:30 pm this time of year.

For all flights, we balance and triage our cargo. Perishable food wins prize of place on the
Kitchen, a few days after settling in
first flight home. So on my lap, I balance a box of eggs and right behind me I stow a gallon of water and a net bag of ingredients for the first three meals. That way, if Bryan's return flights are delayed overnight by an unexpected weather system, I have at least a day's worth of fresh food.

On this year's homecoming day, the sun rose at 9:30. We loaded the plane and then Bryan did three “touch and goes” to test the plane's systems before I climbed in. At about 11 am, we lifted off into the clear blue sky, heading toward the jaw dropping view dominated by Mts. McKinley, Hunter, and Foraker. The air was windless, but the throbbing of the engine caused the windows to slide ajar to minus 10 degree air. I tugged futily on the knob that promises “cabin heat” but can't deliver at these temperatures. Anticipating this, I had waddled into the plane swaddled in three pairs each of socks, pants, and tops, plus a hat and two layers of gloves.