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Alaska is amazing for many things, but one of the most important contributions it makes to America is its extreme dedication to preservation of the vast wilderness areas that encompass it. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Tongass National Forest, located near the quaint town of Ketchikan. This was our first stop when we took the cruise back in August, and I decided to take my parents on a tiny float plane to explore the wondrous landscapes from above. The whole time, I imagined being on the ground, right in the middle of all these trees, getting lost in all the tiny paths, falling asleep to the sound of waterfalls, but it was not to be on this trip. After this journey, which was rushed to some extent due to a tight schedule, I made a promise to return to Alaska, to travel deeper into the wild and at my own pace...many adventures await! But today, let's take a quick look at the Misty Fjords National Monument and some of the most pristine wilderness in America....

1. When you live in this part of Alaska, you live in the clouds. Constant torrential rains due to the ecosystem. You can see the low hanging clouds and fog in this photo. This results in many cancelled float plane excursions for visitors, due to poor and unstable weather conditions. Our flight was delayed for an hour, but I'm grateful it eventually took off. Unfortunately, we were supposed to take a helicopter ride and land on a glacier in the city of Juneau, but that trip didn't come to fruition due to dense fog in the area. On this day, a different story. I stood, waited by this other colorful seaplane, and chatted with the operator until our pilot arrived. He was a young, handsome and rugged guy from Australia, working in the Ketchikan area during the busy summer tourist months.

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2. Our float plane seated six people, plus the pilot. You board, put on these headphones to hear and speak with the pilot, and then you're ready for lift off! Very cool sensation to be in such a tiny plane! :) Balance is essential, and all passengers are weighed before boarding and seated at the pilot's discretion. Thus, it's possible you might not be able to enjoy the ride beside your companion, but instead a complete stranger. Not always such a bad thing. If you weigh over 113 kilos (250 lbs), you pay a $150 surcharge.

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3.  Blurry photo of the tiny village below. It's difficult to take decent pics in the plane due to the bumpy ride, and very tiny windows from which you look out. Half of the time, they had condensation built up on them. The town of Ketchikan is only accessible via boat or plane, so many residents own these seaplanes. Overall, one in four Alaskan residents have some type of ownership in a small plane. Absolutely essential, as it's the only way to travel from many small villages to the larger cities for medical care, supplies, etc.

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4. Houses in the area are quite small and rugged in appearance. Almost like cabins. Not the usual type of construction for American homes.

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5. On this trip, the sole focus was nature, not people. The Tongass National Forest covers over 2.3 million acres, and was designated a National Monument in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. In 1980, The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was passed, turning the 2 million acres into a federally-designated wilderness area. As a result, the area now receives Federal funds and the U.S. Forest Service works to protect the unique resource.

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6. Endless streams and waterfalls can be seen from the float plane.

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7. Over 2 million years ago, ice sheets began advancing and retreating in the area. The glaciers flowed down from the mountains, following river valleys and filling natural depressions in the land. When the glaciers melted 13,000 years ago, the granite walls in Misty Fjords were exposed. Vegetation began to overtake rock surfaces, and today cedar and Sitka spruce trees flourish, soaking in the immense rainfall received in the surrounding ecosystem. If you visit Alaska, you will see the very sad impacts of global warming, as many of the glaciers and icebergs are quickly retreating.

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8.
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9. The most exciting part of the adventure was landing in a small fjord, in the middle of a torrential downpour. We got to the ground, and there was complete stillness, silence. Nothing but trees, rocks, small birds, and my fellow passengers. Heaven on Earth to go find a huge boulder, sit on it away from the others, and think about the vast and overwhelming beauty of the world.

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10. The plane in which we traveled was a De Havailland Beaver, built in 1959 and first owned by the U.S. Army Air Corps. There were only 1,692 planes of this type constructed, over half of them purchased by the U.S. Army. Construction stopped in 1967, but over half of these float planes are still in service today, the majority of them used in Alaska. Our pilot named her plane "Lady Esther", in honor of her grandmother who encouraged her to pursue her flight dreams, in an age when it wasn't so common for women to be pilots. She told us her grandmother was her hugest inspiration in life, but in reality she was petrified of flying, and never once stepped foot in a plane. The "Beaver" plane originally cost $17,000 in 1959, but today they sell for well over $500,000.

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11. These "Beaver" planes are typically powered by an R-985 Pratt & Whitney radial engine, and the same is true for Lady Esther. Some pilots have modified the planes to accept turbo prop engines. The radial engine is supposedly reliable, producing 450 hp in stock form on the Beaver. At least that's what our pilot told us. :)) If you're scared of heights, or an anxious flyer, I don't recommend flying on one of these planes! It would be panic inducing for this personality type. The planes are very expensive to maintain, with annual maintenance costs running between $50,000 - $75,000 per year.

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12. Our pilot is a remarkable woman! To date, she has flown over 17,000 hours, spending a total of almost two years above the Earth's service. She grew up in the middle of nowhere, Nebraska, and frequently took commercial flights on small planes. She became fascinated with aviation, sitting for hours at the small, local airport in her Nebraska hometown, watching planes take off and land. Michelle took her first flying lesson at age 16, and one year later she had a pilot's license at the young age of only 17!

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13. How did Michelle end up in Alaska? It's a common tale for many people who now call Alaska home. She journeyed to Southeast Alaska for a trip during college, and immediately fell in love with the area. She had never once seen a seaplane in the Mid-West, and became fascinated with their abundance in Alaska. She immediately devised a plan to own one herself, talking to locals to figure out how to relocate to the area and earn sufficient funds to buy the plane. Local fishermen encouraged her to work on boats, where she could earn big money being a deckhand on one of the profitable salmon fishing boats. This area, Ketchikan, Alaska, is known as the "Salmon Capital of the World." Now, she earns most of her income during the summer months of May - September, the short time frame in which all tourists visit Alaska on cruises. In the off-season, she frequently works in the U.S. Virgin islands, a much warmer climate than winter Alaska! :) The ride on the float plane isn't cheap - $265 USD per passenger. When you think about the time, dedication and financial investment it took for Michelle to reach this level of achievement in life, it seems like a fair price to me.

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14. I'll tell you about the vibrant and cozy town of Ketchikan, Alaska in a separate post. But here's a photo of the town square to wet your appetite. :)

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15. Open and seemingly endless forest road.

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16. On the way back to land, you get a nice view of all the massive cruise ships docked at the port. Later in the week, I'll show you the ship on which we traveled - the Celebrity Solstice.

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17. It takes a special kind of person to live in Alaska, away from the masses of humanity and in isolation to a large extent. But I do sometimes think back to this place, to the vast wilderness of the Tongass National Forest, and dream of staying there for a few months. Wandering for hours through the forest to find a pathway out. For the greatest times of self-discovery are sometimes when we're lost, searching for a way to the light, a new doorway to another great, open expanse of life....

me

Many more stories from Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada to follow...if I could only find more time to write!


Comments

( 133 comments — Leave a comment )
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notabler
Feb. 1st, 2015 04:11 pm (UTC)
I totally love this place! It reminds me about beauty of North Ural region, where I was born. But without disruptions and damage of brutal industrialisation of this area in Stalin's time, which have been carried out with total contempt of people needs. I always dreamt my region would look alike to Alaska. I have read a lot of Jack London novels about Alaska, so I loved this region even since
peacetraveler22
Feb. 1st, 2015 04:36 pm (UTC)
There's another great writer - John Muir. He has beautiful stories from Alaska. It's easy to understand why so many writers make their way here at least once in life. Truly inspiring landscapes.
mybathroom
Feb. 1st, 2015 04:12 pm (UTC)
Nice views!
peacetraveler22
Feb. 1st, 2015 04:37 pm (UTC)
Would you be scared to ride in one of these tiny planes? :))
(no subject) - mybathroom - Feb. 2nd, 2015 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
yarowind
Feb. 1st, 2015 04:47 pm (UTC)
>>if I could only find more time to write!

Please find it!:)
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:21 pm (UTC)
I'll try, but unfortunately it seems people aren't so interested in nice travel stories anymore. LJ has turned into a soap opera platform, where only sex and scandalous materials grab attention. It's a pity, it wasn't like that when I first started writing here. But, yes, I'll continue to write a lot of travel posts. It's the main focus of my journal. :)
(no subject) - yarowind - Feb. 2nd, 2015 05:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
asharky
Feb. 1st, 2015 04:51 pm (UTC)
"...10. The plane in which we traveled was a De Havailland Beaver, built in 1959 and first owned by the U.S. Army Air Corps. There were only 1,692 planes of this type constructed, over half of them purchased by the U.S. Army. Construction stopped in 1967, but over half of these float planes are still in service today, the majority of them used in Alaska. ..."


DHC-2 Beaver
Years of production: 1947-1967


Yakovlev Yak-12
Years of production: 1946 - 1968


peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:22 pm (UTC)
Have you traveled in one of these small planes? Are they common in remote parts of Russia? It seems like the harsh winter weather conditions would be too difficult for them to operate.
(no subject) - asharky - Feb. 2nd, 2015 07:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 2nd, 2015 09:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
rise_man
Feb. 1st, 2015 04:54 pm (UTC)
Alaska is beautiful and harsh

thank you for nice photos

Edited at 2015-02-01 04:55 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 02:47 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! More to come. :)
raad_traat
Feb. 1st, 2015 04:57 pm (UTC)
Great view from the airplane and beautiful nature!

Thank you
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:23 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Thanks for reading the post. Visit again! :)
dim_va
Feb. 1st, 2015 05:08 pm (UTC)
Into the Wild. With happy end )

Edited at 2015-02-01 05:39 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 02:50 pm (UTC)
It's one of my favorite films. Some day I'll step foot in his bus, which still sits in the Alaskan wilderness. One of my friends went on a solo trek, found it, and spent the night there. In the very place where Chris McCandless died. Btw, he was from my area of Virginia. Amazing person, but unfortunately not so wise with his journey into the harsh winter forest. He wasn't fully prepared, and it cost him his life.
(no subject) - dim_va - Feb. 2nd, 2015 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
juan_gandhi
Feb. 1st, 2015 05:14 pm (UTC)
Alaska is so beautiful. Drove there from San Jose, and back, all the way to the polar circle. Felt so at home there...

Edited at 2015-02-01 05:14 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 02:48 pm (UTC)
Which part of Alaska did you like best?
(no subject) - juan_gandhi - Feb. 2nd, 2015 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
popados
Feb. 1st, 2015 05:19 pm (UTC)
whe their houses so small?? Giant areas, wood...
badbeef.pip.verisignlabs.com
Feb. 1st, 2015 05:55 pm (UTC)
Heating?
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
feelisgood
Feb. 1st, 2015 05:43 pm (UTC)
Super
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC)
Большое спасибо!
livejournal
Feb. 1st, 2015 05:46 pm (UTC)
Float Plane Adventure in the Alaskan Wilderness
User torgus1969 referenced to your post from Float Plane Adventure in the Alaskan Wilderness saying: [...] Оригинал взят у в Float Plane Adventure in the Alaskan Wilderness [...]
pasangero
Feb. 1st, 2015 07:23 pm (UTC)
Great pictures and story! Thank you!
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks! My pleasure! I'm glad you enjoyed the story and photos. :)
elena_88888
Feb. 1st, 2015 08:09 pm (UTC)
By the way, did you meet Russians there (by their nationality, not by citizenship)? )))
naysayer15
Feb. 1st, 2015 11:45 pm (UTC)
Если ты имеешь в виду колонистов 19 века, то их там не осталось - они все покинули Аляску после продажи США. Остались только крещенные алеуты, но я думаю, что сейчас их число мизерно и живут они в дальней сельской местности. А так в этом плане это обычный штат США, ну может число черных меньше чуть-чуть и всё.
(no subject) - ryanka - Feb. 2nd, 2015 01:59 am (UTC) - Expand
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(Deleted comment)
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:30 pm (UTC)
Да, это красиво!
rider3099
Feb. 1st, 2015 10:15 pm (UTC)
Awesome nature! My husband has a dream to visit Alaska one day
peacetraveler22
Feb. 2nd, 2015 03:31 pm (UTC)
Olga, for you it's easier because you're already on the West Coast. Much closer. :) I hope you get to see this amazing State one day.
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