As far as work goes, we hit the ground running.
We spent the first week learning everything Kantishna Air Taxi. I learned how to use radios to communicate with pilots, deliver wind checks, receive flight plans. We got to know the rest of the crew: pilots, chef, ground crew, and basically everyone else in Kantishna for that matter.
Kantishna is a unique corner of the world. It’s definitely its own place, but not quite a town. Basically, Kantishna is what makes up the “end of the road”- that single 93 mile road that enters Denali park. There are 5 lodges in Kantishna for visitors to stay at if they decide to stay in the park. The more long-term (long-term equates to the 3 month long season in this case) inhabitants of the area are employees of those lodges. Besides those five lodges, there are no services anywhere within the park.
No restaurants, no vending machines even. No gas stations. No grocery stores. Nothing.
We swiftly learned the ins and outs of off-the-grid living in Kantishna. A lot of information entered our ears that first week.
When our first day off came around, it was gladly received.
When you work hard, you’ve got to play hard.
One of the pilots we work with offered to take us to an airstrip over the mountains a ways. The old airstrip was used by miners during the gold rush, but now it remains largely unused and unmaintained.
Of course, we accepted his offer to fly! He flew us in his personal plane, a two-seater Husky, making two separate trips to shuttle both Jake and myself.
Roger has been flying for about 40 years now. His knowledge of the Denali area trumps most people’s. Not only has he been flying over the mountains here for decades, he’s also summited an impressive number of mountains in the Alaska range in his day. He’s a true testament to the gritty do-it-yourself attitude of Alaskan living.
Flying in his Husky was a trip. We’d been in Cessna 206’s, the planes used by Kantishna Air Taxi to flight see or charter between Alaskan destinations. Those are tiny 5-passenger planes which offer a window seat to every person seated inside. But the two-seater experience was like none other I’d ever had. It felt as close to actually flying as I’d felt in my life, windows surrounding us completely. Roger’s plane was like an extension of himself, and landing was no problem for him even on the gravelly, unmaintained Glen Creek airstrip.
Roger pointed out the route to get back to Kantishna while we were flying overhead, and the extent of his verbal direction was to “follow the creek” back to where it meets the main road. During our 10 mile march downstream, we found ourselves having to trek through the icy water of Glenn Creek a total of 13 times. Because of the shocking cold and sometimes strong current, and with the addition of some rain, too, we kept our cameras tucked away during the hike portion of our day adventure.
After those 10 wet and chilly miles, we made it back to our little home at the end of the road. ‘Twas certainly a first day off well spent and a great opportunity to explore our new surroundings.