The pilot flips a switch and the propeller engages.
Over the headset, I hear him relay to the tower that we’re ready to go. Water sprays from the twin pontoon floats below the plane, the nose pitches upwards, the engine roars and we gently lift off from a small lake – that happens to be one the largest float plane airports in the world. I swear the theme from Indiana Jones is playing in my headset.
My wife and I packed up our 8 year old and 4 year old and came up here to the northern wilderness to seek out some adventure, something to get the heart rate up, and here we found it on Day 1.
We lift off from Anchorage, Alaska, buckled into a blue 5-seat Cessna 206, soaring over the Knik Arm on our way to see some glaciers, only about an hour and half flight to the northeast. The four of us are packed into this small plane with Jake, our pilot, who looks about 10 years my junior, but calm and ready for anything.
When we reach the Knik Glacier, nestled into the craggy mountains in Palmer, Alaska, Jake tilts the plane and scans the lake at the end of the glacier.
“Looks good, let’s go take a look,” he says.
The plane banks and then pitches softly downward finding a long open stretch among the icebergs and lands gently on the silvery water. Jake kills the engine, opens his door and invites us out onto the pontoon to take a look, take some pictures and take in the views.
We’re in awe. It then strikes me that we’ve crossed over to the frontier.
It’s July, but it’s frigid. Rain drops pluck at the milky lake. I’m holding on to my 8 year old like he’s standing on the edge of cliff. There’s real danger here that I haven’t felt in a long time. Feelings of self-preservation and protecting my family swirl with the intoxicating risk of it all and I breathe in deeply with a fat grin.
Two days later we drive an hour southwest of Anchorage to the Alyeska Resort. The place is posh; it even has a Starbucks and a great sushi restaurant. While my wife is booking a massage, she finds that they have fishing charters. I’d been going on and on about how I’d love to be able to take my boy fishing while we were here, so we make it happen. Two hours after that, we’re bombing down the road in an ancient Dodge Caravan back into the wilderness.
I grew up in Connecticut, and my dad taught me and my brother to fish on a small, quiet river where we pulled in sunnies, perch, and maybe a trout if you were really lucky. So when it came to fishing up here, I thought to myself, I got this.
But here in Alaska, there be monsters.