Alaska, Almost...(Part 1)
been flying on a contract for the Forest
Health branch this summer.
Were flying specialists around the
north half of the province assessing the
damage done by the mountain pine beetle
and other pests. The following is
an excerpt from a journal I sometimes
feet the view to the south validated the
weather briefing of one hour ago.
The towering cumulus cloud and
thunderstorms formed along a line from
Prince George running north-east, leaving
the promise of a relatively uneventful
flight to the south-west. My
destination leaving Chetwynd was
Vanderhoof and the route would easily
skirt the systems.
slid by off my right wingtip, and I made
a mental note that Id possibly be
sent back there in a few days.
Another thirty miles clicked off on the
GPS before the first signs of trouble
came up under me. A shallow layer
of cloud was forming directly ahead, but
appeared harmless enough. I flew
on over top of it into a darkening sky,
and soon more towering cumulus cloud
boiled up from the gloom, turning the
entire sky into thick soup.
attempted to get down under it all, but
even at about 500 feet above ground, I
could see darkness toward my destination,
now less than 30 miles to the southwest.
Time for a 180 degree turn, and
get the heck out of there. This
wasnt supposed to be here.
MacKenzie, here I come!
company Im working for has a
facility in MacKenzie, consisting of an
old terminal building with pilots
quarters upstairs. Its not
been used since the previous air service
abandoned it a few years back. Still in
pretty decent repair, it appears the
staff simply got up and walked out one
day, leaving everything behind.
The desks, computers, fax machines, weigh
scale, passenger waiting room, baggage
. Everything in place to come
to work for the next day. But,
they never came back. Its a
totally eerie place. The magazines
in the waiting room are all at least
three years old, and the calendars on the
wall are dated May, 2006.
The ramp at
not much else going on at this airport.
A small charter company runs a
Grand Caravan up Williston Lake
transporting groceries and passengers in
and out of Fort Ware and a couple of
other villages and reserves up there.
They also serve the dwindling
number of mining camps. With all
the logging abandoned, this airline may
not be long for its existence.
So, here I
sit, in solitude with my computer.
Yes, there is still electricity and
running water in this building, but no
internet. Theres an old
Chevy Van parked outside, with some keys
hanging on the wall. I found a battery
charger and managed to start it for a run
into the town for some food. There
are canned beans, soups and old boxes of
cereal in the kitchen upstairs, but who
knows how old that stuff is. Its
quite an experience.
of isolation and loneliness is made worse
by the steady downpour and thick, black
cloud overhead for the past two days.
Theres a radio here, but CBC
and the local best rock, 101.9, the
RIVER just dont seem to
appeal to my needs. And of course,
theres no TV.
Forestry crews we fly around are not
working until Monday. And we still
dont know where they want to fly
from. So I might be working from
right here, or from Prince George or from
back in Smithers again. Its
all uncertain, but Im OK with that.
In fact, its all good.
No sense complaining since
Im here for the duration of this
work. Ill take it as it
not even 21:00 hrs. yet, and I cant
believe that even way up north here,
around 56 degrees latitude, the days are
so short already. Summer is almost
over. In fact one would think it
was a severe autumn day today with this
wind and cold. I have worn
shorts/t-shirts exactly three days this