Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ski Flying Safari 2010

A week ago, I decided to take a day of leave to do some flying. It felt like winter was rapidly coming to a close and I better get some flying in while the skis were still on the plane. As I got to the airport, I called Paul to see what he was doing. "We're going flying. I'm at the airport right now" was his reply so at noon, I took off and met up with Paul, Clint, and Kim over Potter Marsh. We headed across Turnagain Arm to Hope and then up to Resurrection Pass. After flying through the pass, we landed at Juneau Lake.

Juneau Lake

Juneau Lake Cabin
There is a great cabin at Juneau Lake.

Taking off from Juneau Lake, we headed to Kenai Lake, flying over the lake and south to Lost Lake (just north of Seward). At Lost Lake, I followed everyone and landed last. The snow was deeper than at Juneau Lake.

Lost Lake

Lost Lake

Lost Lake

From Lost Lake, we followed the highway and, then the railroad, back towards Anchorage. Along the way, we stopped at Spencer Glacier to transfer some fuel from Paul to Kim.

@Spencer Glacier

Spencer Glacier

Spencer Glacier

Leaving Spencer Glacier, we overflew Alyeska Ski Resort (since Verena was skiing there...she saw our flight of four as we passed) and we returned to Anchorage through Powerline Pass. It was a great day of flying and turned out to be my last day of ski flying for 2010. Overall, I got 25.8 hours of ski flying since January 23rd!

It has been pretty warm and there was a puddle of water forming under my plane, so I opted to get off the lake and switch back to tires. On Thursday, I taxied over to the public ramp and jacked the plane up and switched back to tires.

Week 20 - 52 Weeks - Alaskan Style

Monday, February 15, 2010

President's Day Weekend

On Saturday,Sean and I headed north to try our hand at burbot fishing on a lake we found near Talkeetna. Based on the bathymetry we had chosen a spot near the middle of the lake that we wanted to try. As we approached, we realized that someone on a snow machine had taken our spot so we landed at the outlet end of the lake. We set three set lines and tried jigging in a few other spots. I had one fish on...but lost it. Otherwise, we got skunked. It was a beautiful and sunny day, though.

Ice fishing

Sean looks for the perfect spot

Looking for fish

Then, on Sunday, after Michelle cut my hair, I talked her into taking a ride up to Donkey Lake to check on Heidi's cabin. Later this week, Heidi and I will fly up there and I wanted to check on conditions and make some trails up to the cabins. We had a slow flight up with a strong headwind and a quick flight back. We met the owner of the lodge on the lake and he was beginning to put in an airstrip on the snow with his snow machine. We landed in the middle of the lake and walked up to the cabins with snow shows.

Donkey Lake

MSP Checks on Cabin


Monday, February 1, 2010

Out for a Sunday Drive

A couple weeks ago, I got the skis installed on my plane and, since, have been learning to pick landing spots. As many tell me, skis are easy to fly but also extremely easy to get stuck. As a result, I carry a shovel, snow shoes, rope, ice anchors, a come-along, and enough warm clothes/sleeping bag to spend a night stuck somewhere, just in case.

Yesterday, I left Lake Hood and flew north to Yensus Lake and Donkey Creek Lake to check on cabins that a friend owns.

View Sunday Fly in a larger map

After over-flying both lakes, I spent some time looking for lakes to practice landings. As I was looking around the mouth of the Susitna River, I heard three friends departing Lake Hood. I met up with them and we flew north to visit a cabin. I followed Kent and Paul, drug the strip twice to get a feel for the snow, and came in and landed. Heather landed a few minutes later. We spent some time at the cabin and got ready to go. As usual, I had a small mechanical issue (solenoid) that delayed my departure. After hand-propping the plane, the issue resolved itself and I departed and headed back to Lake Hood.

Lake Hood HDR

Ski Flying HDR

Paul's Plane
Week 11 - 52 Weeks - Alaskan Style

Ski Flying

Heather and Coal enjoying the snow

I'm pretty lucky to have friends who are willing to help out and let me tag along.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

West Side of Cook Inlet -- Looking Back

Like last year, I spent a little time on the west side of Cook Inlet this summer/fall. This year, however, it was a combination of work and play. Last year, I fished the Kustatan River with Sean Burril and Michelle on a couple different trips.

In March and April of this year, Mt Redoubt was erupting and in the process caused a couple of lahars (volcanic mudflows) that covered the floor of the Drift River valley and sent ash clouds to the north, west, and east (depending on the wind during each event). You can read more about the volcano and eruption at the Alaska Volcano Observatory:

Redoubt Volcano at AVO

Chris Waythomas of the AVO and I received some funds to examine the impacts of the lahars on fish and aquatic habitats of the Drift River. In addition, Dan Young of Lake Clark National Park worked with me (and found funding for a helicopter and my travel to Port Alsworth) to look at potential ashfall impacts outside of the Drift River valley.

I flew to Port Alsworth in July and Dan and I spent a couple days flying around streams near Mt Redoubt. We revisited sites where fish had previously been encountered, measured water quality, and surveyed some sites to improve the map of known fish bearing streams. We saw some spectacular sites and I really enjoy working with Dan in the field.

Departing Port Alsworth:
Port Alsworth

Dan measuring water quality:
Water Quality

Tuxedni Bay:
LACL Fieldwork

Then, in August, Chris Waythomas and I spent a couple days doing the same thing on the Drift River. Where the sites Dan and I visited were not greatly impacted, the Drift River sites were severely impacted.

Mt Redoubt from the Upper Drift River:

Lahar deposits near the volcano:
Drift River Lahars

A site we could not sample because of quicksand:
Drift River

Chris W. documents lahar deposits near in the lower Drift River:
Photo point

Following a channel that did contain coho salmon:

A site covered by lahar deposits:
Drift River

There were still bears:
Size 12

Then, in August and September, I went back for fun. I fished the McArthur River with Sean Burril and John Seigle during on three different trips.

Our ride on a McArthur River sand bar:
McArthur River Sandbar

Sean flyfishing for coho salmon:
Sean Fishing

We ran into Heather, Paul, and Coal:

John hooks a fish as Paul is landing:
McArthur River

John with a nice fish:
McArthur River Coho salmon

Then, late in August, Paul and Brianna Anderson and Dennis Marks and I tried our luck on the Kustatan River. We didn't catch any fish but we did have a great evening. And for me, it was fun because there was someone else taking some pictures!

Brianna and I fish for coho salmon:

Headed to the Kustatan:

I hope to get back a little more, next year. I will definitely be doing some more work on Drift River and will spend a little more time fishing a few more streams in that area.

See my Flickr page for a few more pictures.

Also read about proposed coal mines just north of these streams: Here

Monday, November 30, 2009


Week 2 - 52 Weeks Alaskan Style

Hi. My name is Chris and I'm going to start (gulp) ice fishing. I tell myself that it is just an excuse to fly somewhere to do something. But, really, I want to catch some burbot. So, this is the year that I will finally put my plane on skis. I have had them for two years but because of modifications that I needed to make, I haven't been able to put the skis on. This year, everything is in perfect alignment...and it is going to happen. A friend has offered to let me park my plane on Lake Hood (right in front of their cabins so I will have electricity). The plane is ready to go.

Watch the Lake Hood might even see me take-off:

Now, I just have to head to the sporting goods store and stock up on supplies. Let's see, I need a little ice fishing rod, some tackle, and an ice auger.

I'll post more when I actually get out there...really. I promise. You won't want to miss the excitement!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Travel Rant!!!

Bear with me...I have a rant. I travel quite a bit. Fortunately, I can usually tap into my Scandinavian Zen to maintain my calm. It usually works...I just don't worry about the guy who doesn't take his laptop out until he puts his case on the x-ray belt, the guy who acts like his lighter shouldn't be setting off the metal detector, or the family with 42 carry-on items. It just isn't worth it...I will get to my plane with plenty of time, just go with the flow.

There is one thing that really gets me...and it shouldn't...but it does. "Pillow Girls"'ve seen them. It seems to be a trend. Usually 16 to 27 years old. They are usually wearing sweats with a word emblazoned across their ass (Pink is the most common), slippers, hair in a pony tail, a pissy look on their faces (that usually says...I got up early and I don't like morning), and they are carrying a damn pillow. They look like they just got up from bed, complained about having to be up so early, grabbed the pillow and their carry on, and shuffled off to the airport.

What ever happened to dressing for travel? Granted, I don't dress up for travel...but I sure as damn well don't wear my pajamas!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Short Trip to Homer

"If you have time to spare, go by air." Paul Anderson

Yesterday, I thought I would take a quick trip to Homer to help a grad student who is working on salmon in the Fox River estuary that flows into the head of Kachemak Bay. My plan was to leave Anchorage between 7 and 8 in the morning, arrive Homer around 9:30, work on otolith preparation methods for a few hours, and be back to Anchorage by 4 or 5 in the afternoon. No problem.

Forest fires on the Kenai Peninsula are causing haze and smoke throughout the region and a temporary flight restriction is in place on the north shore of Tustumena Lake. In order to avoid the TFR, I planned on flying right down the mountains to Homer. I got a flight briefing and filed my flight plan when I got to Lake Hood. Then, I took off and headed south. As I crossed Turnagain Arm, the visibility was roughly 7 to 10 miles, so everything looked good. Between Skilak Lake and Tustumena Lake, the visibility improved dramatically, so I decided to call flight service with a Pilot Report (PIREP). Just after I relayed my PIREP, my radio crapped out. Dead. Nothing. Damn. I worked through everything I could think of and couldn't fix the problem. No real problem, though. I got to Homer, overflew the field and entered the pattern following a plane in the pattern. After landing, I tried a few more things and found the radio to be dead with no hope of repair.

Smoke from forest fires


Fires near Tustumena Lake

In Homer, I called a friend and we worked through the radio issues but didn't come up with anything I hadn't already tried. So, I worked on the otolith prep methods with the student and, around 4 got back to the airport to head home. I found someone (a complete stranger) who loaned me a small handheld radio. I got a briefing from flight service, filed a flight plan, got fuel, and was ready to roll at about 6pm. But, the handheld wouldn't transmit from inside the plane. I figured, I would get to Anchorage and squawk 7600 (code for lost com) on my transponder once I got to Anchorage. I tried to retrace my route along the mountains, but turned back as I approached Tustumena Lake. Visibility was less than 3 miles and it looked worse ahead. I flew back to Homer. I canceled my flight plan and after another briefing, decided to fly up the coast and cut between Soldotna and Kenai airports. Then head straight to Turnagain Arm and into Anchorage.

I called Anchorage Tower and asked for a no-radio arrival. They gave me a transponder code to squawk as I approached the Lake Hood airspace and said they would give me a light gun signal to land. That was great. I opened my flight plan, took off, and headed along the coast.

Kasilof River

Mouth of the Kasilof

I arrived into Anchorage, got the light gun signal as I crossed the Tudor Overpass as promised, and landed. There was a layer of smoke over Anchorage. I called Flight Service to close my flight plan and called Michelle to let her know I was home. It was 9 pm. So much for that quick trip to Homer.