View Full Version : Ski Planes to Rainy Lake - by Brad Thornberg

02-10-2002, 03:50 PM
Ski Planes to Rainy Lake - by Brad Thornberg

I just got back from a ski plane trip to Rainy Lake. It ended up that we had 9 airplanes along. (1 PA-11, 2 PA-12's, 2 PA-18's, 1 (gasp) Husky, 1 Champ, 1 170B Cessna and 1 235 Maule.) We cleared Canadian customs at Fort Francis and then ran down Rainy Lake to Seine Bay. There were wolves in the area and though some of the guys roared across the trees and surprised them, the wolves had jumped back off their deer kill and into the woods, leaving only ravens to hang about unperturbed by the time I got there.


That night was spectacular, clear and about 20 degrees. A full moon lit up the snow covered lake and the sky was more a deep blue than black. The airplanes glinted and sparkled in the moonlight and the brilliant northern stars filled the sky and twinkled through the tall dark pine tree's surrounding the bay. I didn't want to go in.
The next day we all headed up farther north to Gary and Mattie Kurilla's cabin near Nestor Falls. The local restraunt opened up especially for us (Gary knows everybody) and we all landed on the lake by it (while we were eating, the restraunt owner plowed a runway for the guys with wheels. We were operating in 6-8 inches of snow and the little 8:00x6's tires on the 2 PA-12's were about at their max capabilities. 97Y's Goodyears handled it quite well but I had left it back at the Seine Bay cabin so I could film) The last guy in was really rocking because there was no wind and all the wake turbulence just hung in there. After lunch, it was on to the Kurilla cabin. They have an island place on a beautiful lake 25-30 miles NE of Nestor Falls. We landed a whole pile of airplanes in front of their house in brilliant sunshine. (It was like a mini O'Hare International with prop blasts billowing powder snow in all directions. The snow was a bit deeper here and when the airplanes landed it twirled wake vortex spirals behind them) It was really fun for everyone.

On the way back, we had almost reached the Seine bay cabin we were staying at when the cloud ceilings came down and it started freezing rain (Rain at 5F deg above zero?! WEIRD!). The windshield and wings started icing up and most of the group made a beeline out of there. The Super Cub I was riding in and the PA-11 decided to try and make it in. The guy I was with (Steve Johnston) kicked on the windshield defroster and carefully watched the wings to see if there was a rapid build up of ice as we dropped down on the tree tops. (I LOVE GPS!) Well, both Cubs that made the return attempt made it back but we ended up with airplanes scattered from Baudette to Nestor Falls to Seine Bay. Everybody made the most of it and had a wonderful time were they were stuck. I tromped about all over creation looking for wolves (across beaver dams and through tall cedar forests, up steep hills, across hidden lakes and finally home (Came across some neat otter tracks. They are unique in that you see the: run run run, slide, run run run, slide...) The others toured the bustling metropolis of Kenora and the guys in Baudette went fishing for Walleye's. (They came home with a bunch of fish. Andy and Jerry had found our guy Craig in the Champ by flying along the Rainy River and spotting his plane out by the mouth of the river where it empties into Lake of the Woods. He had landed by a fishing resort and had asked for a room.)

The temperature dived last night and I have pictures of the nails in the floor in the bedroom all white from the frost! I will not complain about indoor plumbing again (or not much at any rate :smile: Below zero F temps and an outhouse with only a carpet flap for a door (and a strong wind) is utter misery! Dale promises better facilities next year.
This morning the weather broke clear and very COLD. It was 12 below zero and trying to keep the frost off the inside of the windshield AND get the Super Cub started was rather interesting to say the least. (The Honda generator and the Tanis were trying as hard as they could to warm the engine.)

(Steve Johnston slept under the wing of his Cub last night trying out his cold weather survival gear. It worked after a fashion but he sure didn't want to get OUT of his gear this morning!) Plus I was late with my border crossing time (US Customs as of late has been on edge as you can imagine). It was a beautiful flight down the lake to International Falls but when I got there, the steam from the paper mills covered the runway making it IFR. I was able to land on the southeast portion of the runway and taxi up to Customs from there. The one nice thing about it being so cold was that the agent saw no point in anything beyond handing me my papers and pushing me back out the door into the nostril freezing cold and strong north wind.

So I headed back across the Big Empty with a strong tailwind and finally got back to BRD about an hour and a half later.

Great fun!


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: steve on 2002-02-10 15:07 ]</font>

02-11-2002, 05:07 PM
Fine story, well done Brad, very adventures flight. Steve could you direct me to a map where I can find out where this all took place?

Hans who will come over there soon

02-15-2002, 09:44 PM
Great to hear about the trip you were telling me about, that sounded like a good deal of fun! I'm pretty sure that we all are going to have to get together and do this sometime, whether here or there--still would be fun! It's gotta happen!

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: RedBaron on 2002-02-15 20:45 ]</font>

03-19-2002, 05:59 PM
awesome trip

Bob Breeden
01-23-2003, 10:24 PM
Great trip! If you guys go out again, I'll be there. Thats real Cub flying - intense focus and independent flight - playing in the snow.

I'm headed to Georgian Bay soon, to the area of 30,000 islands the North Channel. 3-4 day round trip from Virginia. I'm planning to go in the next 30 days, over a long weekend, at the end of this cold snap. Anybody want to meet up there? I know a few places to stay - like Killarney

I enjoyed landing on a little open field on a knoll in today's 15 degree temps and 15 kt winds. Several takeoffs in 2 airplane lengths. :lol:

01-23-2003, 10:51 PM
Bob, we just did... last weekend...