Flying in the Brooks Range
July 30 - August 7, 1986
We flew low through ragged clouds to Denali Park and then on north through Windy Pass. As we left the Alaska Range, we cut across country toward Manley Hot Springs. This was my first major cross-country flight with Dennis in the Cessna, before the days of Loran and GPS. I wasn't watching the chart closely enough. I realized we were lost when I saw a large braided river ahead of us and looked in vain for it on the chart. The clouds were low so we couldn't see far. Eventually, we found a river flowing northward and followed it to the Tanana River. By luck, we were only a short distance from our destination, Manley Hot Springs. After that scary experience, I stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for navigation.
We bathed in the hot springs, rested and picked raspberries the next day, waiting for the weather to clear. When it did, we continued north to Bettles. The Dalton Highway led us most of the way there, but we again got lost shortly before we arrived. We reached the river, but which way to turn? I had no idea it was so easy to get lost in a small plane! We later learned the secret is to aim slightly to one or the other side of your destination, so when you get to the river, you know which way to turn. When Loran-C navigational aids came along, we eagerly invested.
From Bettles we flew north and landed on a remote strip in the Brooks Range. We packed our backpacks and climbed up a mountain to camp for the night. In the photo above, we're just ready to head up the mountain. In the photo to the left, you can maybe make out the airplane on the sandbar just to the right of center.
We later flew over the Arrigetch Peaks and down the Noatak River, where we landed to camp on a sandbar and were joined by a group of wilderness canoers. We continued to the village of Kiana. Our dog at the time was named Kiana, and we wanted a picture of Kiana in Kiana. An friendly Eskimo woman there was cleaning and drying salmon.
We flew over a huge area of sand dunes to Kotzebue, then south to Nome.
By the end of the trip, I was pretty good at navigation. Near Farewell, we saw a herd of buffalo and circled down to take pictures. I didn't get good pictures, but I did get airsick. Dennis never gets airsick. I frequently do. I'm envious. Fortunately for me, we stick to fair-weather flying for the most part.
The best of Alaska can't be reached by road! I fell in love with flying and started learning what I needed to know to become a fully-qualified co-pilot to my husband, the love of my life.
Dennis mentioned that he was happy I didn't complain about camping out in bad weather. I taught him a poem that I'd found posted on the wall of one of my grandma's friends. I wish I knew who wrote it. Dennis loved it and memorized it.
Go on to read Visiting an Eskimo Village
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony