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Thread: Floats to Alaska - 2020

  1. #1
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    Floats to Alaska - 2020

    Folks

    This is a little in arrears but thought I'd throw this out there. I hope you learn a little and perhaps get motivated to go on an "Adventure"

    2020 was busy year in so many respects.

    In the spring Mark brought a bunch of Javron parts to my hangar and we did a TON of prep work. Then a neighbor at Poplar Grove did the actual paint work using my old paint booth. I think we got about 25 parts through the booth. About a month of 12 hour days but we got a huge amount done and helped move his project forward. He will be finished in May of this year. It will be an awesome Cub. Like mine but way way better.

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    This is the "drying rack" Urethane paints are soft for a week or two. If you lay a part down it may imprint. I prefer to hang them in a rack for a couple of weeks just to make sure the paint does not get messed up.

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    My good friend some of you have met. Eric has a Cub Crafters rebuilt cub. He needed 10 hours of dual in a Cub on floats, for insurance, so we knocked it out in my Cub. You will see a little of his float install a little further down in this thread.

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    I left Poplar Grove May 11 and headed North to visit Jay DeRosier in Brainerd Mn. Bumpy as heck and it was not really a fun day. Once there I got to visit the Javron shop and gave a couple of rides to the employees. This is Mason. He is Jay's right hand man. Very talented just like Jay. Early May and some of the lakes were still frozen. We managed to find a little open water.


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    This is Kelsey. She is one of Jays welders. When you see the awesome quality of Javron welds you are probably looking at her work. She is really talented and a very nice young lady. She has a strong desire to learn and will no doubt be a versatile employee, able to do lots of stuff (and do it well) in the future.

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    After leaving Brainerd and Javron it was time to head out. Airplane is loaded heavy with a lot of Alaska camping gear, plus the wheel gear, tools, oils and everything I could stuff in there. My new hangar in Sandpoint is mostly done and useable so its time to go West and put my baby in her new home. This is going across the lake, Pend Oreille (pronounced Pond A Ray) coming into Sandpoint on the shore on the nose. After a few days in Sandpoint I went back to Poplar Grove to help Eric put his cub on Wip floats.


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    A good moment in the old Poplar Grove hangar. We had three sets of Wip 2100A floats in the hangar. Mine (before I left for Sandpoint) Marks (in for paint), and Erics.


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    Before photo. The "plan" was for Eric to have a lot of the prep work done to the airplane so basically all we had to do was mount the floats. Unfortunately there are not a lot of float knowledgeable mechanics around Poplar Grove, so no prep work got done. Made for a much bigger effort than we had planned but Eric is a HARD worker. We put in some long hours, had fun along the way, and got it done.

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    In progress!!! I can see why Wip charges what they do. Lots of work to do it the factory certified way. Fortunately we had my neighbor Tim (A&P IA) looking over our shoulders and making sure everything was proper and legal.


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    Done!! Seven days of 14 hours a day.

    Then it was back to Sandpoint and time to head to Alaska!!

    More to follow.
    Very Blessed.
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  2. #2
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    Over the Cascade mountains. It is about 2.5 hours from Sandpoint to a small strip right on the border of Canada north of Bellingham, called Lynden. It is an airpark with houses on either side of the runway, but they have credit card fuel and it is literally 2 miles to the border so a good jumping off point for the non-stop leg to Alaska. From 38W (Lynden) to Ketchikan (PAKT) it is 514 NM. Obviously add a little as you follow the coast and avoid all the airspace around Vancouver.
    But today is not a good day. You might remember when the credit card readers went down all across the US last year. Well here I was at Lynden, need a FULL load of fuel, and it is down. So is every other GA airport fuel system. Fortunately I bumped into a local pilot and he helped. We found some 5 gallon gas cans, several trips to the local gas station later, I was full of non ethanol gas and ready to go. You meet the best folks in General Aviation. I hope I can return the favor sometime, even if it is "paying it forward" so to speak.


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    Vancouver airspace is pretty complex. I had to study up quite a lot to make sure I was legal and knew all the "gotchas". Once north of there it gets pretty quiet pretty quick. Stunning scenery. Because this is a long leg it is critical to know the weather and most importantly the wind. I have done this several times now and I have to choose the day for the run North pretty carefully. Any headwind would be almost impossible for that duration. I like these two websites for weather.....https://www.windy.com ..........and.......http://www.usairnet.com
    I have found windy.com to be amazingly accurate. Love it.

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    The weather was good and I had a nice tailwind until just north of Bella Bella, a typical weather spot. Then it turned to rain and low ceilings and vis. Yuck. Usually I just go into a cabin in Misty Fiords, like the Humpback cabin, stay overnight and go the rest of the way to Ketchikan the next day. But the wx got so bad I could not get inland at all. Ketchikan radio called shortly after I crossed into Alaska (that was a big surprise, I was low and a long way out, so they must have a repeater antennae out there somewhere) and asked what my plans were. I had a flight plan so they knew I was enroute, and I guess with the bad weather, they were checking on me. That was nice. I explained that I was going to come on into Ketch. He said no problem the wx was so bad no one else was flying.......(that is not good,LOL). Made it to Ketch and went to a hotel. I was pretty tired.


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    The next day the wx was better so I headed north to the Alexander cabin. This website lists all the cabins. http://www.publiclakecabinsak.com
    Here is a link to the Alex cabin info......http://www.publiclakecabinsak.com/07...lexander-cabin
    One of the really neat things Tom Bass (the guy who started the above website) did was to set up a program that overlays all the cabin sites on the Garmin 796. Unfortunately it does not look like it is going to work on the G3X. We are working on that.


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    I spent a couple of pleasant and relaxing nights at the Alexander Lake Cabin. It was nice to rest a little from what was a VERY hectic spring. Then my good friend Jay DeRosier came up to spend a few days with me putzing around the SE and staying in the cabins.

    More to follow

    Bill
    Last edited by Bill Rusk; 03-02-2021 at 03:24 PM.
    Very Blessed.
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    Your posts are very motivational and enlightening. Thank you for the effort.

    Could the trip you describe have been completed the same way on straight floats, or were amphibious floats necessary?

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    Have family in Lynden, nice little town. Some may find it interesting that is is the original home of what is now Lynden Air Cargo.

  5. #5
    aktango58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Heinrich View Post
    Your posts are very motivational and enlightening. Thank you for the effort.

    Could the trip you describe have been completed the same way on straight floats, or were amphibious floats necessary?
    Lots of Alaska is accessible on strait floats, but until you get into the north/interior you can not buy fuel on fresh water, and many communities don't have fuel at any water unless you run boat fuel.

    Most spotter pilots have gone to amphibious floats here in southeast for that reason.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!

  6. #6
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    Paul - straight floats would work fine. Land at Kenmore in Seattle for fuel, then Campbell River is a good stop on the BC coast, then on up to Ketchikan. But with Canada closed due to Covid, the only way right now is nonstop over the top. Thank you for the kind words

    mam90 - thank you for correcting my spelling. Went back and hit edit, LOL

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    I talked Jay DeRosier (it didn't take much) into taking a break from his usual 90 hour work weeks and coming to Alaska once again. This year we went to some cabins we had not been to before. This one you can see we grounded out a bit early.


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    This is the Sweetwater Lake Cabin on POW (Prince of Wales) Island across from Ketchikan. Need cabin with a really great front porch. After a visit, just checking it out we flew on to overnight in another "new to me" cabin


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    This is the Honker lake cabin. I came by here once before but did not like the parking spot so taxied right on by and went elsewhere. This time the parking still sucks but I decided to stay anyway. Good wx and no wind made it doable. If there had been any wind, or forecasted wind, this would be a no go. lots of big rocks at the shore and no beach. But a nice cabin and once again a great front porch


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    Believe it or not you can get tired of fish every night for diner. This is a loaded baked potato. If the cabin has a wood stove, or you have no rain (rare) and can do an outside fire, this makes a great meal. Butter, sour cream, pulled pork, Bacon Bits, salt, pepper, jalapeños, cheese (LOTS of cheese for Jay) and anything else you want. Shortly after that we are in a food comma......and ready for a nap.
    Last edited by Bill Rusk; 03-07-2021 at 10:25 PM.
    Very Blessed.
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    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    Then it was off to the Checats Cabin in Misty Fiords. This is a beautiful lake, great setting, but the outlet to the lake is near the cabin. All the debris (read that logs) float down to this shore and block access to the shore. It makes parking a challenge to say the least.


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    We did a little log rolling getting the plane unloaded. Thank heavens I was holding on to the tie down rope, otherwise I would have been taking a swim at one point. Amazingly enough I did a swing or two on the rope, ....think Tarzan....but without the glamor, and my scream sounded more like a 6 year old girl, and I managed to land on my feet on shore. "I'd rather be lucky than good any day" ( a favorite fighter pilot saying)

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    Unfortunately, due to the precarious parking situation, this cabin is on the list for possible closure. I'm not sure there is a fix. If they built a dock or even a ramp it would just get damaged and destroyed by the next wave of logs that floated down. The only option would be to relocate it to an area without a log jam.


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    I spoke to another guy that loves to fly in to these cabins - Jeff DeFriest- and he told the story of being tied up here. He saw a large log start to pivot around and it was about to crush his outer float. He was able to jump in and wrap a rope around the log enough to keep it off his floats. He said he did not get much sleep that night.

    Bill
    Very Blessed.
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    I LOVE THIS PICTURE!!! Jay and I were in the boat, fishing and this guy wandered out to the shore. It was a great opportunity. He did not seem to mind the motor running so we were able to safely get "relatively" close (this was shot with zoom on the camera). What a cool opportunity. I have seen very few bears from the ground in the 5 summers I have been in Alaska. Last year Jay was with me for a week and we even went to Kodiak Island and saw exactly ZERO bears. So Jay got his bear viewing fix!! A couple of days later Jay headed for home and back to work and I went solo for a couple of days.







    Have I got a story to tell........

    After Jay departed I hustled down to the Black Bear Lake Cabin on Prince of Wales Island near Ketchikan. Spent a great night there. Pictures below. Then in to Ketchikan to take care of business, then to the Sakar Cabin. And then the wheels fell off.....

    I got in to the beach and grounded out a few feet off shore. No problem....that happens sometimes if the bank is shallow. I climbed out, looked down, the water appeared to be about a foot deep, and a little muddy. No big deal....been there done that. BUT..when I stepped down I sank into the mud up to my waist.

    Holy crap Batman!!! Water and mud in the waders, can't stand up and can't hardly move. Trying to hang on to the float to keep from sinking further. Houston....we have a problem.

    And to top it all off it is not clean mud, its really slimy and stinks. Black sticky stuff everywhere. This is not going well. I said a few things that I immediately had to ask forgiveness for. I finally managed to get back on the float with mud everywhere. Yuuuck. Fortunately my wallet was in the plane and my phone was just above the water/mud line. Whew.....the rest can be washed but this is......NOT GOOD.

    There is no way to get to the beach, and even if I do, there is no water near the shore that is not a quagmire. First I had to get the waders off. They are full of water and mud. Then the socks. Now I'm in bare feet. I really can't move the plane with the paddle and I can't get off the float to push it to deeper water. I am going to have to try to turn it out a little and power out. Carefully I get back in the mud. It is pretty scary to sink that far and not be able to move your legs. I managed to get the cub at least parallel to the shore so maybe I can power out. Back on the float which is now just covered in mud and slime. More bad words....more asking for forgiveness.

    I don't want to get in the airplane because I'm a mess. I put my rain coat on the seat and climbed in. Oh...man.... this does not feel good. Start the engine and power up. It slowly moves and it looks like I will miss that big rock ahead when I hear a grinding noise and come to a stop. I guess there is a rock under the water/mud I can't see. More bad words.....more forgiveness. Shut down. Climb out. Try to find a rock under the water/mud to stand on to try to get the airplane off the rock it is hung up on. Remember I'm barefoot now. More bad words....are you noticing a trend yet?

    Finally I manage to get the plane free. Stow waders, survival vest, and life vest that are all wet and covered in mud. Can't stay here. Can't get to the cabin and I need to go somewhere with clean water to try to recover a little. Water rudders are covered in slime and not working well but who cares....I'm outta here. I am going to try to go to Petersburg and get in a hotel and laundromat but I need to walk through a car wash first. The hotel would freak out if I walked in like this. But at least the masks for Covid would help with the smell.

    Hang in there folks....it gets better. About once or twice a year my GPS locks up and quits. Yep.....this seemed like a good time. More bad words...mostly directed to Garmin regarding their products reliability. Ask for forgiveness again. Pull the Garmin out of the panel...in flight.....remove battery.....reboot......restart....problem solved. Well at least one thing has gone right. Now that my GPS is working it says there is a cabin on the nose. I have been there before. I seem to remember a good beach and clean water. Down we go. Land at the Salmon Bay Lake cabin and sure enough we have a nice beach.....well...... that gravel and rock is not so nice when you are barefoot. But at least the water is clean and no mud.

    I beached the plane and climbed out. About the only thing to do is try to clean the mud up a little starting with me. Off come the clothes to rinse them in the lake. So I'm standing in the water....naked as a Jaybird....and I think "I sure hope no one is at this cabin". It would be my luck some lady would be looking out the window thinking "Oh man....thaaatt is just Not right" The water was really cold.......I'll let you figure out the rest. Fortunately.....my potential humiliation is alleviated.......Raquel Welch is not there.

    I also needed to get some of the mud off the airplane. So there I am....naked....using my underwear as a rag to clean the mud off my Cub. If I was not freezing cold, and turning blue....looking like a Smurf........this would be funny. Standing knee deep in the water, my sun-tan-less white arse reflecting light like a neon sign, I had to clean the mud out of my waders. Believe it or not.....at this point I am laughing at myself so hard I can hardly stand up. Its OK....I can't feel my feet anyway. I hope to see my testicles sometime in September.

    I managed to get most of the mud off but of course everything is wet and I'm a walking popsicle. I dug out some dry clothes, dressed standing on the float, and managed to get going. As soon as I broke water that really good heater I have was put to good use. I flew to Petersburg and managed to get in the hotel. Tomorrow will be clean, repair, resupply and get ready for another adventure!!




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    This is Black Bear Lake Cabin on POW. Jay and I came in a few days prior and there was still ice all over the lake. I did not want to chance a landing for fear of hitting some ice under the water and Jay was up front. After dropping Jay off I came back figuring I might find a place to sneak in (I am more willing to take a chance when solo than when I have someone with me). At any rate the ice had melted off so I got in to the cabin.



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    Stunning scenery. The pictures don't do it justice. But.....



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    Because the cabin sits up 1700 feet (or so) above sea level it is easy to get trapped by the weather. Because of that this cabin does not see as much use as others and is on the short list for closure. Too bad because it is one of the most incredible for scenery.



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    I will try to go back this year if I can find a couple of days with good weather. Absolutely incredible!!

    Bill
    Very Blessed.
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  9. #9
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    Video

    I usually try to do a video for each of my visitors, but last year I had video burnout pretty bad. It takes a lot of time to make a video. So......for 2020 I just did one video that covered pretty much the whole season. Many of you may have seen it. But if not.......its about 3 minutes.....hope you enjoy



    Bill
    Very Blessed.
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  10. #10
    8GCBC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Heinrich View Post
    Your posts are very motivational and enlightening. Thank you for the effort.

    Could the trip you describe have been completed the same way on straight floats, or were amphibious floats necessary?
    Tom Bass, who is probably the most prolific contributor to modern day long haul float flying, constructed this web site on straight floats:

    http://www.publiclakecabinsak.com/

    Bass is an incredible travel guide, no one comes remotely close to his genius of long haul straight float flying. He’s a very nice gentleman and approachable too.

    Note: I flew a similar trip (SE AK) on amphibious 2100As (calendar year 2015, 2017). I prefer amphibious for many reasons mainly ease of maintenance, weather avoidance, and they get a lot of compliments from other pilots.
    2018 R44
    IA/A&P, ATP, SES, CFII, MEI, Rotor PPL (2500 TT)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXI48e1heuo

  11. #11
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    Amazing stuff, Bill. Thanks for posting. Seeing your talks on the HDHP, and reading your threads here has convinced me to finally get a float rating. Instead of thinking that it’d be a neat thing to do “someday”, I’m set to get it done in a supercub once the water gets softer in Maine...

    Then the next step will be to bite the bullet and build, but I need to see/get a ride in a few of the options first, so may take a while...

  12. #12
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    Glad you made the trip Bill thanks for the write -up. We’ve ordered better weather for 2021, ‘20 being dreadful in SE.

    Take care.

  13. #13
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    8GCBC - Yes...Tom Bass did an AWESOME job putting the Cabin website up. It is an incredible resource for visiting the cabins. He has pretty much retired from flying, and graciously gave the website to the Seaplane Pilots Association to insure it stays active. I am now one of the caretakers of that site. Tom was, and is, a great proponent of the Tongass cabins. Thank you, Tom.

    dirt911 - Glad you have enjoyed the post but even better that you are going after that dream!! Great news. Don't give up....it is worth it and you will build some awesome life memories.

    Justin - thanks for the kind words, yeah 2020 was pretty tough on the weather. Still had a great time but it did change things a little as we often went to plan-B.
    Perhaps I will see you this summer.


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    Went in to the Jordan Lake Cabin. This is the lake I had the mishap on a few years back. Had to get on that horse. Smaller sized lake. Requires a turning takeoff but not too bad. It would be a challenge in a C-185. Nice cabin but you can see the rocky beach, so not a great place for the plane.


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    Always one of my favorite cabins....Young Lake North. Easy in and out, good parking, and a comfortable cabin.


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    The area around Young Lake North cabin is open and airy. Good hike (about 4 miles) to the ocean if you want. Fishing is good at the south end of the lake when the salmon are running


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    This is the Martin Camp Cabin. The cabin is close to lake level and the area is flat. The downside is the lake can rise significantly with a rain, (lots of runoff into the lake means a 1" rain can equal 12" of lake rise) so the cabin gets flooded regularly.......see next photo...


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    Turns out the flooding is so bad they put a net at the woodshed to keep the logs from floating away. Needless to say, this cabin is on the short list for possible closure. Lots of bear signs near the cabin, in fact the grass was laid down right next to the cabin, and I suspect he slept there recently, but I did not see him. Probably won't go back to this one.

    More to follow

    Bill
    Last edited by Bill Rusk; 03-08-2021 at 11:06 AM.
    Very Blessed.
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    My good friend and our awesome SC.org resident "doctor on call" came up and spent a little time with me in 2020. He is pretty good at catching fish!

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    Bro at the Virginia Lake Cabin. Nice to have a dock and Doc



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    Brian, from SWA came up last summer. A new experience for him. He did great, including a first time glassy water landing, (with me doing some serious coaching from the back seat where I can't see ANYTHING).



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    Found a pretty neat ice cave. Water had tunneled it out.


    Bill
    Last edited by Bill Rusk; 03-07-2021 at 10:27 PM.
    Very Blessed.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Rusk View Post
    8GCBC - Yes...Tom Bass did an AWESOME job putting the Cabin website up. It is an incredible resource for visiting the cabins. He has pretty much retired from flying, and graciously gave the website to the Seaplane Pilots Association to insure it stays active. I am now one of the caretakers of that site. Tom was, and is, a great proponent of the Tongass cabins. Thank you, Tom.
    Bill, excellent work. I am so glad there are caretakers of http://publiclakecabinsak !
    2018 R44
    IA/A&P, ATP, SES, CFII, MEI, Rotor PPL (2500 TT)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXI48e1heuo
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  16. #16
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    Garth came up and spent a week with me. We had a good time but man the wx was pretty bad that whole week. I did a short video with Garth.






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    From the deck of the Suloia Cabin on Chichagof Island


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    The Big Shaheen Cabin on Admiralty island. One of my favorites


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    Young Lake South Cabin.
    Very Blessed.

  17. #17
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    One of the best part of the trips is sitting on the porch with a snack and a coke and just enjoying the company of good friends


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    You just can't imagine the scenery


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    This is Mark Fiedler. He is building a Javron cub, in Jays shop from beginning to end. It will be off the charts awesome. It should be done in about 18 months total and I have encouraged Mark to take it to Oshkosh. Award winner for sure. It is going to reflect the craftsmanship of both Mark and Jay DeRosier. If you go to the show you will want to find it and take a close look.


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    Mark Fiedler took this shot. You might recognize it as the September shot in this years calendar.

    Getting close to the end. Hang in there.......

    Bill
    Very Blessed.
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  18. #18
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    This is from the Petersburg cabin. The setting may not be as spectacular as some others, but it is a good cabin. I have seen several moose here.


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    The inside of the Petersburg cabin. Larger than most. Nice wood stove and an ample supply of wood.


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    Eric was my last visitor for the year. He is the one we put the yellow floats on at the beginning of the thread. Eric was planning to fly his cub up and do the cabins but with Canada closed he was not able to do so. I invited him up and we had a great week together. We covered a lot of ground and he got a good introduction to the way I do the trip. He may choose to do things different but at least he has seen the major parts. Where to get fuel, where to resupply, how to handle low weather, etc.



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    I had a good run down the coast and home this year. A light tailwind and smooth, clear skies. Stunningly beautiful scenery. The BC coast is beautiful but rugged. Not a great place to have engine problems.


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    After returning to the lower 48 it was time to close out the hangar at Poplar Grove and make the last of the move to Sandpoint.


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    Fortunately I had a lot of help from my friends. I am Blessed to have good friends.


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    Lots of stuff!!


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    My neighbors threw me a going away party. How cool is that. I am going to miss that place.


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    But part of the reason for the move is this. This is the area where I will settle in and call home. North Idaho is a beautiful place.


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    Sandpoint. You all have a place to stay in North Idaho anytime. I hope you will come visit.

    2021 was a REALLY busy year but another good one. I hope to head back to Alaska in 2021. Maybe I will start a thread before a year has passed this time. Thanks for following.

    God Bless

    Bill
    Last edited by Bill Rusk; 03-08-2021 at 10:27 AM.
    Very Blessed.
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  19. #19

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    Thanks for taking the time to post, Bill. I look forward to seeing more pictures of your next trip!

    Did you ever get a chance to finish the set of round tipped wings you were building a while back?
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