No Matter How Far Away You Roam…

The challenge this week is ‘Anticipation‘. A fitting topic given that the holidays are coming. My personal anticipation is not for gifts or the lower 48 shopping, but I do love seeing my family. It is also nice to get some downhill skiing done. But the immediate anticipation is always the travel itself. Specifically if it will happen or not.

Flights are never a given in the bush. The arctic inversion that pushed all the cold down to the lower 48 brought warm air up to us causing it to warm up from the -35 that it had been for the last few weeks, to almost 20 above. It also brought wind and snow. Until now we have had 2 inches of snow. Friday it started snowing making it questionable as to whether or not the teachers who booked the afternoon flight would get out. They did.

Personally I do not like to fly so immediately after school lets out. I need a day to clear things up so they can be relatively put together when I get back, and to put my feet up and take a deep breath in preparation for travel. Traveling on Saturday also gives me a little cushion in timing as there is a longer layover in Kotzebue. If I were to miss the morning flight out I might still be able to take the afternoon flight before the evening Kotzebue jet leaves, though it is not guaranteed.

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A little bit of a smokey start

Saturday the snow had picked up. I do not know what constitutes a blizzard. I have never been in snow where you cannot see your hand in front of your face. But if this wasn’t blizzard conditions it was at least a decent storm.

I had not been able to run my snowgo for lack of snow and in -35 sitting for weeks I had not even been able to get it started. But with the warm weather and additional snow I was finally able to hitch it up. We (Kelly was on the morning Bering flight also) made it to the airport and a friend took the snowgo back.

All the smoke in the picture is due to the fact that it was started inside the garage so it could not dissipate and in cold weather some of it is condensation just like your breath which makes it look worse than it is.

We couldn’t see the plane but we heard it land in Kotzebue then we heard it fly by us presumably to get a better angle in the wind for landing. But 5 minutes later we decided that they were not coming back which was confirmed by the agent.

The new plan was to switch to the afternoon flight and hope that it made it to Kotzebue in time for the jet. I went home and put a pizza in the oven and started making preparations to go for a hike (tracking is lots of fun in the snow). As I am waiting for the pizza I hear the Ravn agent announce that it was coming in in and hour. They had been waiting for weather before flying. So I turned off the oven and put the half cooked pizza in the freezer. We reloaded our luggage and headed up again to jump on the other airline. I do not think that the wether was better but it was a little brighter out, it being almost noon.

After the flight came in the pilot told us that it was too bad and we would not be stopping by Kobuk. This happens quite often where pilots will land in either Kobuk or Shungnak and then decide that the landing was too dicy and choose to skip the other.

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Kotzebue at high noon

After getting into Kotzebue we saw a few friends who were also passing through and a few who live in the hub. The flight left on time and was scheduled to stop in Nome on the way back. But there was bad weather in Nome so we circled and circled until we were running low on fuel and had to return to Kotz to refuel and “try again”. Unfortunately for those traveling to Nome the weather worsened and we bypassed it altogether. So due to the Anchorage- Kotz- Nome routing they went from Anchorage to Kotz, hovered over Nome, returned to Kotz before going back to Anchorage where they started. I suppose I was lucky to get in at all even if we were a little more than an hour delayed.

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Flight 2 is larger Kotz- Anchorage

The next flight  from Anchorage to Seattle. Again I felt lucky to get out. As we were boarding the plane fog started rolling in. But we took off on time and the only issue was some turbulence due to weather.

I made it into Seattle and found my gate (changed from my ticket) and having been up for almost 24 hours settled down for a nap. I woke up and the gate monitor still said Portland rather than Pasco so I went to check the board. The gate had changed again and by the time I got there the boarding doors were closed. So the agent at the counter rescheduled me on the next flight and I finally got into Pasco about noon only a couple hours later than expected.

But the fun didn’t stop. I had changed flights but my luggage arrived ahead of me. It would have been no big deal except that dozens of other peoples bags had not made connecting flights so there was something of a crowd trying to find luggage. Moreover the Pasco weather had dropped due to the inversion down to 4 degrees (20 above in Shungnak for the same reason). So they were short staffed as they had to deice every plane coming in, which they do not normally need to do. But my bag was eventually found. It is fortunately very distinctive and so the agent knew exactly where it was.

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My ‘bag’

This was the most problematic series of flights I have ever had with some sort of problem occurring on every leg. But maybe that makes me lucky if this is as bad as I have had since it could be worse. In all the trip was almost 30 hours and little sleep.

I love going to far off places but I hate the journey. In the end though, after all it is worth it as there is no place like home!

 

 

On a side note, a few days after I left a water line froze in Shungnak and it is now my understanding that the village is without water pending repairs. Also I will work on a Christmas post closer to the day for those who have been asking about how holidays work up there.

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