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don d
03-10-2002, 07:10 PM
Second week of Ed and Don?s Alaska adventure


Up at the crack of 9 A.M.. Jim's right, the view of
the Alaska Range from the outhouse is fantastic.
Really not much of a view on this Thursday morning due
to rain and fog. Ed and I decide to go fishing
anyway. Even in the rain we Figured we could find our
way down to the kustatan. we Loaded up and flew over
there and when landing, found the mud hole next to the
river a lot muddier than yesterday. Mud all over the
airplane. We are gathering the fishing gear and Ed
asks if I put the tackle box in. I said no. I left
the Shotgun (bear medicine) with him and flew unarmed
back for the tackle box. More mud on the explorer.

Fishing pretty good in the rain and we caught some
silvers right off. Fish averaged about 10 lbs.. The
best bait was fresh eggs on a treble hook. Just throw
it out and let it set until you get a bite. These
silvers bite real lightly but when you set the hook it
feels like you hooked a submarine. About noon the
weather improved, the fishing is still good. Catching
bad.

Fresh big bear tracks along the river's edge. Made
you poke your nose to the wind once in a while just to
check your surroundings.

A Pa-12 flew overhead, circled and landed in the mud
hole. After fishing a little longer, I have to go
down and talk to these folks. They are Ralph and Val
from Kenai and are just bumming around for the day.
After getting acquainted, Val invited Ed and I over to
their home, for a Caribou dinner on Friday night. We
needed to get more fuel, so we gladly accepted the
invitation.

By Friday noon we have all the fish allowed in
possession, so head over to the kenai area to process
the fish, get more fuel and to meet Val and Ralph for
dinner. Flying across the Cook Inlet is always
interesting. The narrowest place is near Kenai and it
is about 9 miles. Jim says get enough altitude to be
sure and make it across regardless, because the inlet
flushes twice a day into the Gulf of Alaska. 4000' is
about right. Most likely no trace would be found if
you went down out there.

Everyone who lives in Alaska, lives on a lake and has a
private airstrip. There are a lot of these, so
finding the right one is a challenge. After a couple
of tries, Ed and I find Ralph and Val's place. We had
a great dinner, conversation and even strawberry
shortcake.

Before long the sun had set and we needed to get
back across the pond. Getting away took a little
longer because Ralph insisted on providing GPS
coordinates to his secret Caribou hunting grounds NW
of Iliamna. These Alaska people are alright!! Just
enough light left to find and land at Jim's Cabin.

Saturday morning, Jim and his son in law show up in
his cub. We are going to accompany them on a flight
over or through the Alaska range to check out some
moose hunting area. After about a 2 hour flight over
the mountains and out into some rolling tundra country
we come to a river on which Jim lands on this tiny
gravel bar wedged between the river and a tree line.
On the radio He suggests that Ed and I fly along the
river and find a place we feel comfortable to land,
which might have some good moose hunting area close
by.

ED and I fly around and find a good gravel bar with
area to the South that looked moosey (or is it
moosie??) to us. We are Elk hunters and don't know what moosey looks like. We
landed at our gravel bar
and off load some food, tent and wood stove, which we
plan on using later when moose season opens. This
landing site is probably 1000' long, but follows a
curve in the river. Makes for turning landings and takeoffs. Has a little
brush growing on it
and some drift wood here and there. Overall a good
place to land.

After off loading the stuff and hanging it in a tree away from Mr. Bear, we
took off and flew back to where Jim had landed. Lighter now, we landed there
with no problem. On short final, over a log jam, a bull moose came out of the
woods and we landed right over him. He just turned and ambled back into the
woods.

Jim said there was a small river nearby that had some good grayling fishing
and a good place to land. We all flew over there and sure enough caught some
nice grayling. Ed and I fly fished , which made it more of a challenge and
fun. The Alaska residents just used plain old spinners and caught more fish.

Ed and I had intended on flying South West to Dillingham to try some Caribou
hunting. We left mid afternoon for about a 2 hour flight and Jim headed back
to Kenai. Weather was forecast to be good but the further West we flew the
worse the weather got. We fly nearly the full length of the Mulchatna River
and then down the Nushagak towards Dillingham.

We were hearing chatter on the radio and they were talking about IFR
conditions at Dillingham. We proceeded down the Nushagak until we were about
8 miles North and contacted Dillingham Radio. We requested a special VFR
clearance and was told to stand by. I was circling around a tree on the river
bank at about 200 ft. and we hear the controller ask another pilot departing
if he could wait until he got us in. The controller said he was worried about
the experimental (us) wanting to land. We got the next clearance and when we
finally got on the ground and parked, Ed and I just sat in the plane for
awhile. Wind was blowing a gale, with a real low ceiling and raining like it
can it SW Alaska. The aircraft waiting to depart changed his mind and stayed
on the ground. I swear Dillingham had the tightest airport security in the US
at that time. They must think a lot of bad people are in that area.

Due to the tight security, no camping was allowed on the airport. ED and I
got a room at the Beaver Creek Bed and Breakfast and it was a real nice place.
We even got to have a hot shower and sleep under sheets.

Next day was Sunday and we had a tough time getting fuel at the airport. We
finally talked Fresh Water Adventures, one of the local air-taxis, into
selling us some fuel. We had Caribou hunting to do you know.

Kind of windy, but Ed and I take off out across the tundra in search of a huge
band of boos. We found a little river called the Iowithla, which a fella had
told us about, that he thought might be a good area to hunt. We flew another
30 miles North and were seeing a few scattered boos but not any big groups.
After chasing a couple of grizzlies around (we tried not to make em mad), we
decide to go back to the Iowithla river area and find a place to land. We had
seen as many caribou there as anywhere. We searched around and found a low
ridge just above the river that looked ok to land on. After a low slow pass
and a little feel, it still looked ok so I circled around and landed. Proved
to be about 600 ft of usable area on a slight slope to the East. After
looking around we found evidence that we were not the only people to land
here. We drove some tie downs and anchored the Explorer down good. I think
high winds are a big problem in this part of Alaska, so have some good tie
downs. Tundra is not too solid so drive in dovetail type are a lot better
than the screw in things we use down South. Learned about this stuff from our
Alaska friends.

Had to kill some time, because by regulation we couldn?t hunt until the next
day, so I did some fishing and exploring while Ed hiked over to a swamp about
mile away to search for a shed moose antler we had seen from the air. Lots
to see out on the tundra. I spotted some caribou, lots of swans and expected
to see moose and bears. There were low bush blue berries everywhere. I
caught some grayling, but Ed didn?t find the antler. He said that swamp was a
lot bigger than it looked.

We pitched our Northface tent downwind of the explorer, brewed up some
Mountainhouse, fried up some grayling and settled in for the night. By being
downwind from the plane we figured if it blew away it would crush us and we
wouldn?t have to worry about it.

Monday morning came early and we were up and around by daylight. We had
spotted some boos on a mountainside to the South West the day before and
spotted them again this morning. There were a couple of bulls in the bunch.
Not big ones but the only bulls we had seen.

Ed had the caribou tag so I just tagged along and packed a spotting scope. It
was probably about 2 miles to the boos, with the route taking us down and
across the Iowithla and up a series of rolling ridges, putting us above and
downwind of the animals. Sure enough when we got up there nothing was in
sight. After watching for a little while a cow and calf came by within a 100
yards but no bulls around.

I broke out the spotting scope and after glassing for a few minutes, spotted
a group with a bull further in same direction we had been traveling. Looked
like another 2 miles to these. Ed and I discussed it and headed off after
these boos. We crossed a small valley and up through a large tag alder patch
to get up on the ridge where I?d spotted the animals. Clouds were passing
through and we would only catch glimpses of the boos bedded on the ridge top.

Traveling up the ridge within mile of where they had been I notice a bunch
coming down the ridge toward us. Ed decided that the bull not being
particularly large was a least a caribou and good enough for this trip.
Deciding that, he just up and shot him. A pretty animal, still in the velvet.

I took us about an hour to dress him out and load him on our back packs.. I
would guess we had about 90# each. I looked around an the ride top and told
Ed that if he didn?t want to back pack him, I would fly up there, land and get
him with the airplane. There was lots of room and not too rocky. Winds were
coming up and we decided that it might not be safe, if the wind got much
stronger.

We started back and we could hardly see the airplane about 4 miles away. We
traveled about 1/4 mile, when I tripped on a rock and fell flat on my face.
Broke the shoulder straps on my back pack but didn?t hurt me. Did some
repairs and got started again being more careful.

ED and I stopped at the top of the big alder patch to rest and noticed a
caribou carcass not far away. As we were setting there Ed decided to reload
his .338. He said he only had one round in it. We started on and traveled
through the alder patch and across a little draw to a place about 1/4 from
where we had rested.. Ed looked back toward where we had come and asked ?what
the heck is that?? I looked and what we first thought was a moose was
actually a grizzly checking out the caribou carcass, where we had been 5
minutes before. Wow! he must have been right there with use when we were
there taking a break.


The bear didn?t get us and we made it back to the plane after about an hour
hiking. Hiking on tundra is different. Some times you step on a hump and it
goes down and the ground around rises up. Like a huge sponge.

We loaded every thing in the explorer and took off up hill in a strong
quartering cross wind heading for Dillingham and more fuel. Winds were pretty
gusty when we arrived with some crosswind. We had noticed earlier the starter
being a little weak and it made things a lot worse when I left the master on
while getting fuel and checking the weather to Iliamna, Lake Clark, and Lake
Clark pass. Weather briefer said the winds , the better. Battery went South
without us and had to get a jump from a forklift nearby.

Due to 30+ knot direct crosswind, we considered departing on the ramp, except
for a big sign reading ?NO TAKE-OFFS ON RAMP?. I started the take-off at a 45
deg. Angle across the runway to improve the crosswind angle. About when the
tail came up so did the left wing, even though I began with full left aileron.
We just tettered along with this feeling that we were about to roll over on
our back and into a ball. When I got the the other side on the runway I
pulled full flaps and said ?fly you SOB fly.? Thank the lord, that 200hp Lyc.
dragged us into the air and gave us enough speed to maintain control. It was
the closest call (that I?m aware of) I have had in 30 years and 5000 hours
flying. On a 100' wide paved runway!!!!!

I still have some two weeks more flying, fishing and moose hunting to write
about. Just tell me to shut up and I will.

Don

SJ
03-11-2002, 08:17 AM
Thanks, Don! I will also have to email a few of my non-flying hunting friends. They will be green with envy and probably be lining up at the flight school.

sj

RedBaron
03-15-2002, 11:25 PM
Don,
Sounds like alot of fun...
Have hunted out of the Mulchatna herd for many years, sounds like you had a good time as well.
Keep going!
Andy