This is the first time I have opened a Word document in months so I apologize in advance and please bear with me while I find the words to describe the experience I’ve just had. Also, I am eating bacon so my fingers are a little greasy. I will blame any spelling mistakes on that. Finally, I have trouble conveying emotion in writing without using emojis. Okay, enough excuses.
Three months is too long to live in the weird and wildly beautiful Ketchikan and not pay a visit to the Misty Fjords National Monument. How are you going to get there?
As I waited for the phone call to solidify the plan, I started to wonder, is this trip to the Fjords going to be by boat or by plane? The more I travel, the more I have realized that I do not enjoy being in aircrafts. How does a giant and outrageously heavy metal object stay up in the air anyway? I managed to escape college without ever taking a physics class but I’m pretty sure that planes defy all of its most basic principles. Do not even get me started on floatplanes.
My curiosity about the mode of transportation quickly turned to panic when I got the call to be at Taquan Air in an hour (That’s not even enough time for an anti-anxiety med to kick in!).
I opened the front door to Taquan and thought I was going to shit my pants. I will do just about anything for an adventure and a good story, but maybe this was where I drew the line.
Before I knew it, the plane doors were locked. I was inside and it was too late to second-guess my decision. We were flying at such a height that you can see every breathtaking detail of the land below, but are also high enough to imagine what the fall might be like.
When you wake up to stunning views of the Tongass narrows every morning, it’s hard to imagine that the view can get any better. Working as a sea kayak guide, I see this scenery every day from the water. Views from floatplanes, however, are an entirely different ball game.
Floatplanes are very tiny aircrafts, but nothing makes you feel smaller than flying next to three-thousand foot granite rock cliffs with nothing but water and wilderness beneath you. I could see why John Muir compared this area to Yosemite. The Misty Fjords national monument is the Yosemite of the North; or is Yosemite is the Misty Fjords of the South?
When we landed in the Fjords, I was immediately overwhelmed by where to look. The ultimate panorama surrounded me. It was amazing how this place made me momentarily forget the last thirty frightening minutes of my life. I stopped biting my lip and replaced it with a smile. I saw what all the hype was about.
Traveling by yourself in a sea full of tourists – even though I was a tourist in this situation, I want to make it clear that I do not own a poncho, nor do I own a baseball cap or tee shirt that says ‘Alaska: The Final Frontier’ on it – definitely can have its perks. For one, I got to sit in the copilot seat on the ride over, which eased my fears because I could keep an eye on the pilot.
Oh, but there is the photography dilemma. Any person who travels by themselves knows this all too well. It’s either ‘selfies’ for days or the awkward “would you mind taking my picture?” After taking a few selfies from the front seat (those will never surface), I asked a nice family to take some pictures of me and returned the favor with some Christmas-card-worthy family photos.
I could have spent hours sitting on the float, but I wanted to get the last take-off and landing over with and return to a place where I didn’t need a floatplane to get around, only a bike.
I thanked the pilot for getting me home safe. He said it was for purely selfish reasons, he wanted to live another day too. I trust him now more than ever.
I am going to turn this is into an advice column real quick. Get your butt to the Misty Fjords. And do not be afraid to take a ‘selfie’ with the headset on. You know you want to.
Written by Tess Dinan (Pennsylvania)