Day 14: Float Plane + Chicken

Day miles: 440
Trip miles: 4676
Talkeetna to Chicken

When I was a kid, my father used to fly us into camp deep in the north Maine woods in his friend’s Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser float plane. So, it was a special treat to get up this morning and fly a Piper PA-18 Super Cub on floats with Lance. The Super Cub is my kind of plane; it is simple, and capable. Developed over sixty years ago, it is still considered one of the best bush planes ever built. I hadn’t flown a float plane before, but with a couple exceptions and a few different techniques for takeoffs and landings, they fly like any other plane. We covered these, and how to determine wind on the lake from the air, then went to a few lakes to practice.

The Super Cub is also very similar to the Super Cruiser of my youth, and thus evoked powerful meaning and memory. Before leaving on this trip, I spoke to my counselor about how I was struggling with the frustratingly thin and banal recommendation that I make no life-changing decisions in the wake of my fathers passing. With her usual balancing grace, she offered that death often reminds us of our own mortality, prompting a fresh look at our sometimes dusty priorities. My consistently introspective nature had already provided me with the shape of these potential life changes and part of the motivation for the trip was to provide definition to them. One of these was to get back to flying, and my experience with Above Alaska definitely laid solid groundwork.

After getting back to the hanger from the lake where the Super Cub is kept, I said my goodbyes to the folks at Above Alaska Aviation. Leaving was difficult, as I was getting attached to them as well as the town, but it was time to get back on the road. I had packed up camp and loaded the bike first thing in the morning, so I was ready to go and headed out south on the Parks highway.

I stopped in Wasilla at Sportsmans Warehouse and found a great dry-bag for the shotgun to solve my issues with water getting on the firearm. I wish I had known about this product before I left. I didn’t “see Russia” while in Wasilla, but I saw plenty of pawn shops. But really it was like any other American city sprawled out around automobile use, but scaled for Alaska. After a meal I was happy to continue on out of town.

From here I took the Glenn Highway to the Tok Cutoff to get back to Tok. While the later doesn’t sound like a large highway by name, it is 125 miles long. Like the rest of Alaska, the roads were lined with stunning mountain ranges to enjoy. From Tok, I continued to the northeast up the Taylor and Top of the World highways.

Evening found me in Chicken, Alaska, tired and hungry. The town has a little bit of an identity crisis; it appears that a couple businesses providing the same services are battling over customers with signage; but it definitely had character. After futility visiting a couple stores in town in search of hot food, I decided to set up my tent and get some breakfast in the morning. I was starting to get amused by all of these small towns having slightly different products in their gift shop. Alaska and the Yukon were full of bumper stickers that read “A quiet little drinking town with a _______ problem,” as well as an assortment of slightly different t-shirts that must have come from the same location.

I mentioned the other day that my mother had remembered reading about Don Sheldon when I told her I was staying in Talkeetna. I found a copy of this book here in town, and picked up it up for when I finished reading “Double or Nothing: The Flying Fur Buyer of Anahim Lake” which I had picked up in a gift shop along BC97 somewhere.

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