Saturday – Coldfoot, Alaska
We welcomed Saturday morning with the sound of rain and snow falling on our roof and and a heavy fog covering the Mountains around us. The weather changes by the minute and just when it seems like the ceiling will never allow for flights to come and go, the systems pass through and there is hope for air travel. By 9 a.m., we were at Coyote Air discussing the possibility of flying out and the schedule of those in front of us. One of the groups who have been in Coldfoot for 2 days was on the tarmac with their gear loaded in the Beaver ready to fly. Their destination was a 250 mile flight or a 6 hour round trip for our pilot. With one group in front of us yet, the possibility existed that we might get 1/2 our crew into camp yet!
As the day progressed, the weather continued to change by the minute. Being held up in the motel across from the restaurant, we watched the storm cells move through by the hour, continuing to change our optimism on additional flights out during this day. The beauty of the Mountains around us, the simple yet wild landscape and the unforgiving damp and cold weather reinforced why Alaska is a destination you never forget.
With daylight waning, we are optimistic about 1/2 of our crew headed to camp yet tonight. The Air Taxi service pilots certainly work hard every single day to make these trips safe for all their passengers and we know they have our best interests in mind at all times.
SUNDAY – CHANDALAR LAKE
Sunday started in similar fashion to Saturday, as we woke to a few inches of fresh snow on the ground and heavy flakes much like we might see in the true winter months of the Midwest. Our pilot asked us to check-in at 8 a.m. to get an update on the day including the forecast and even though the heavy snow was an obvious give-away for no morning flights, we still discussed the possibility of the day. We were informed the forecast for Sunday to include low ceilings and snow throughout the day with the seven day forecast looking very similar.
Spending our time in the small seating area of the motel lobby, we try to remain optimistic on getting to camp. It’s not easy, knowing every day we sit here, we lose a day hunting. I think we all are reminded that Alaska weather is so very unique and unforgiving, forcing everyone to take a deep breath and continuously modify and change their travel plans. While the weather seems to change rapidly here in the Cold Foot basin, on this particular day, the low ceiling was hanging strong all day long.
With a break in the weather late afternoon, we decided to touch base with the Air Taxi service once again. It was time to head to camp!
Our gear was quickly weighed and put into the Beaver Plane, with a smooth take-off and 30 minute ride to camp. There was some concern on the way out that we may not make it as we flew through a few mountain passes along the way. Thankfully, the weather cleared and we landed at Chandalar Lake. We arrived at camp to join our group who were already getting things set up for the next 10 nights. Let the hunt begin!