There was a reason why we started our days so early — we wanted to beat the weather. And, in the event a flight was delayed because of weather, we wanted to make sure that we could potentially catch a later flight.
We awoke while still dark outside and drove to the dinky airport. On the positive, the flight wasn’t delayed. On the negative, our plane was even smaller and more fragile looking than the plane we took from Juneau to Gustavus. And it was a Cessna. I swear any time you hear about a plane crashing in the mountains in some remote area of the world, a Cessna is involved. I did not want to ride in a Cessna.
Luckily, the Cessna flying coffin was not the actual plane we were scheduled to fly, we flew in one even smaller than that — like toy plane size. Somehow, we made it back to Juneau.
That’s pretty much where our luck ended. We spent the next eight hours or so stranded in the Juneau airport. After boarding the plane and sitting on the tarmac for about an hour, we were instructed to exit the plane. Apparently, the de-icing thingamajig broke and they were expecting icy conditions (shocker) on the way to Anchorage, so they grounded the plane.
Now this is where it gets all Alaskan on us: there were only a couple flights that left in any given day in and out of Juneau. Despite being the capital, the airport was rather rinky dink. The options at that point were to somehow get on another plane (very unlikely since not many planes scheduled in our direction) or — get this — fly in the necessary part from Anchorage, then fix the plane, then reboard the plane, then all go back to Anchorage. It was absolutely bewildering to me that in a snowy cold climate like Alaska, where I’m sure they used de-icers 90% of the time — why there were no de-icer parts at the Juneau airport. Also, Alaska Airlines pretty much has the monopoly on all flights anywhere within Alaska, so it’s not like they had to deal with planes they were unfamiliar with.
So much for getting up early.
Everyone was absolutely stir crazy at that point. If we had been trapped at any other airport in the lower 48, there would have at least been food to eat and magazines to buy, but since we were past security and not sure of the status of our plane, we were trapped with a zillion other people in a 3rd world country like atmosphere with a single snack machine and coke machine amongst us. In a matter of minutes, both machines were emptied.
I recalled a poem that I saw printed and pasted on the wall of the Gustavus “airport.” It was entitled, “Weather Permitting.” I googled the poem – it pretty much sums it up:
Way up in Alaska wherever you are,
If you’re headed out close or you’re headed out far,
And you’re going by plane you can add (and it’s fitting)
I’ll be there good buddies… weather permitting.
It could really careless what you’re planning on doing,
An operation, oration, a wedding or wooing,
When you go to the airport you may need your knitting,
For you’ll only be flying with… weather permitting.
I have fretted and stewed I have stamped on the floor,
I have shouted and screamed and started to roar,
But there’s no use in fuming or fussing or snitting,
You’ll always face this… it’s weather permitting.
So don’t get disheartened in the far golden North,
If you suffer delay as you sally forth.
Just learn to relax without fretting or quitting,
You can depend on one thing…it’s just weather permitting.
When the rich folks all come with their clothing so fine,
With their high fashion wardrobes and special french wine.
They’ll stop for a while then continue their flitting,
Go on with their jet setting…weather permitting.
And whether you’re working or playing around,
Flying through mountains or over the sound,
In what kind of season your travels are are hitting,
I will guarantee this…weather permitting.
And it gets in you’re blood then whenever you go,
So I said to my sweetie, how I love you so,
She said I adore you, come close where I’m sitting,
And I’ll do what you want me to…weather permitting.
And when the grim reaper comes I can see it all clear,
I’m alone in my shroud happy heaven is near,
I’m coming Saint Peter! This old world I’m quitting,
I’ll be along soon…Weather Permitting.
After five hours or so of “weather permitting” we were thrown a bone: a flight had just arrived from who knows where and we were switch places with the current passengers, steal their plane to head back to Anchorage, and leave those poor souls stranded in the Juneau airport with no snacks in the snack machine to wait for the de-icer to arrive. I really didn’t understand the logic, I mean, they could have had at least one flight arrive on time that day, but whatever.
At least the days were still long in Alaska, so even though we arrived in Anchorage hours after we had planned, we still had about five hours of daylight to take a road trip to/around the Kenai Peninsula. Incidentally, we planned a “weather permitting” day like this into our itinerary, so we really didn’t have a hard-set schedule that day.
We rented a car from the airport, loaded our stuff, and began our road trip to destination unknown. It was cold, rainy, and cloudy, but at least we weren’t sitting in an airport.
The Seward Highway was the perfect road trip highway – lots to see, lots of places to stop, get out, have picnics, and take little hikes (weather permitting…cough). We didn’t really stop at too many places on account of the weather being crappy, and also because we just wanted to get to wherever point B would be that night, but we did stop at Cook Inlet to see if we could spot some beluga whales. No dice, but I found the sign about “harassing, chasing, hunting or killing” the whales to be really disturbing.
We stopped at another random place along the highway – I think we were getting antsy at that point and wanted to get out and do something. We were also lured by a sign with a camera icon pointing to a vista point. I’m not sure where we were, I just know we were somewhere in the whereabouts of Chugach National Forest
While Sly was off trying to find a bathroom, I decided to venture off the trail a bit to see if I could get closer to the river. I chose what looked like a washed out trail and followed it down. It wasn’t a trail, it was a flood path. Before I knew it, I was slipping down a mud slide to what I was sure would be a steep plunge into frigid waters. I managed to grab and cling to some slippery vines on the way down, landing in a bed of wet moss. I wonder what old “BJ Thomas” would have done if he found me tangled in roots on his claim.
Anyway, I obviously survived, and as I laid face-down on the bed of moss moss, I photographed more mushrooms.
Back on the Sterling Highway, we decided to give up on camping and gun it to Kenai.
The photos above were taken around 9:45pm – the sun was just setting, which would be a little more obvious if it weren’t so cloudy.
We arrived in Kenai wary and hungry. We were both feeling too lazy to set up camp or cook anything, so instead we splurged on Taco Bell and a room with cable tv. That night, we lived as kings.