Well, I’m in the Bush…

After an adventurous trip, I’ve made it to Shaktoolik and I’m only a day late and a suitcase short.

I was supposed to fly out of Anchorage on Thursday, but half an hour after we were supposed to take off, we were told our flight was canceled. Lynda (a teacher from my school that I had met up with because we were both in Anchorage) and I went up to the ticket counter to find out when they were rebooking us and it was announced our flight was boarding. Naturally, we’re a little confused and ask what’s going on. “Oh, just the Aniak portion of your flight is going. The runway conditions are too bad in Unakaleet.” Lynda, having just been there a few days ago retorts with, “Well, tell them to move the truck off the runway!” (They’re working on resurfacing their runway.) Come to find out when we got to Unakaleet yesterday that they actually had a full flight for Aniak and wanted the plane they would have to use to send us to Unakaleet for somewhere else.

So, I rented a car and Lynda called one of the former teaching couples from Shaktoolik that were living and Anchorage so we had a place to sleep. I decided that as long as were there, I’d like to see something scenic, so we drove the Seward highway down to Whittier. It was gorgeous! I got to see glaciers, blue glacial ice floating in a lake, we drove a 2.5 mile tunnel through a mountain, there were waterfalls, the ocean and Prince William Sound… it was amazing!

The morning, we were at the airport and did manage to board the plane, a little Saab puddle jumper. I can’t get over just how gorgeous this state is. We flew right by Denali and got to see it jutting from the clouds. The Rockies have nothing on the Alaska range; Denali was fully covered by snow and glaciers. After that, there wasn’t a whole lot to see, the clouds turned into a blanket that stretched from horizon to horizon. When we got overhead of Unakaleet, our pilot circled for a good long time and Lynda was getting worried that they were going to turn back to Anchorage without letting us off. Then the pilot goes into a steep dive and cuts power to the engines… which is just what I want him to do in a 32 seat plane that was held aloft by two propellors…

We made it though; only come to find out, two of our suitcases hadn’t. But, it’s the Bush, things happen and so Lynda and I toured Unakaleet, stopped by the only restaurant in town for a $12 7-inch sub and Lynda showed me around the District Office where I met a number of absolutely fantastic people. It was closing in on 3:30, when our flight to Shaktoolik was supposed to land, so we headed back to the airport, swinging through the area’s only coffee shop on the way. 3:30 rolls around and still no plane. He finally gets in and gets loaded about 4:30pm, just as the Frontier flight carrying our principal and her husband land; then we get told that the missing luggage from Anchorage is on board!

Bering Air says they’ll wait and their agent in Unakaleet drives me over to Frontier building and we find my principal, her husband and their dog along with Lynda’s bag… but not mine. We load up anyway, head over to the Bering Air flight and they pull some mail off to accommodate everyone and I’m told they’ll watch for my suitcase. And then we hit the skies in Cessna Caravan. At an altitude of about 150 feet, we’re flying right underneath the clouds and follow the coastline north to Shaktoolik. Let me tell you, it is absolutely gorgeous! If nothing else, this entire experience will be worth it for that flight alone.

Heidi (the Special Ed teacher) met us all at the airport and we loaded up the school pickup truck; Lynda took an ATV home with her husband and with three in the front of the pickup and one in the back holding onto things, we hit the road into Shaktoolik.

I’m halfway settled into my apartment now, there’s cleaning left to do and various things to finish arranging, but I hope to be done today. The post office opens at 3pm so I’ll head over there and arrange for a P.O. Box and figure out how to make an insurance claim for a few things that got broken in the mail. (You would not believe the number of taped back together boxes I found on my arrival. It doesn’t look like anythings missing, but several things broke; one box dripped glass when I picked it up.)

I’ll get pictures posted when I have time.

Anchorage is Amazing

The flight into Anchorage was amazing! If you ever have anything resembling a choice, fly in during the daylight hours. (I’m told a lot of people fly in at night and miss the show.) Once we started our descent and got below the level of the clouds, you could see the mountains jutting out right into the ocean and real glaciers! None of those “Oh, I mistook it for this year’s snow that just hadn’t melted yet.” glaciers from Glacier National Park. These were honest-to-god GLACIERS. (I think I mentioned during the summer that my mental image of glaciers was always that of an iceberg on land.)

I’ve had a blast in Anchorage; I was picked up at the airport by the District Librarian and a few other new teachers that were in town getting their own shopping done and we headed to dinner at this cool restaurant called Moose Tooth, which has amazing pizza. (If you’re ever in Anchorage, make sure to eat there.) The next day was full of grocery shopping ($165 in meat that is one of my checked bags, $600 in non-perishables and $140 in postage at the post office), meeting Lynda, one of the returning teachers from Shaktoolik, and a couple of the former teachers who were in Anchorage. The welcome wagon that the district put together this year was really helpful, but, I’ll be leaving a few suggestions for them to try next year (this is the first year they’ve done this).

It’s probably needless for me to say, but… I’m in love with Alaska already. Anchorage is fantastic, it’s a gorgeous small city nestled between the mountains and the bay and I’m really excited to board my plane in an hour and see more of Alaska.

Away we go!

I spent last night with my friends Tim and Jess, (watching Hairspray) who live a couple miles away from the Detroit Metro airport (which I flew out of). Tim dropped me off at 5:30am, and I had checked my luggage, made it through security and had a cup of over-priced coffee by 6am. A search for the bathroom and finding a seat in the lounge left me with only a 5 minute wait to board the plane. We even pulled away from the gate 3 minutes early and the flight was surprisingly nice. I found out I don’t much care for takeoffs and banking, but that could have simply been my mostly empty stomach.

I’m sitting in Las Vegas, NV right now on a 3 hour layover… it’s awfully weird to take a 4 hour flight and land an hour after you took off. So, next stop, Anchorage, AK where I will hopefully hook up with a guide from my school district and pick up a rental car. (I’m less hopeful about the car rental than the guide – Anchorage is notorious for being difficult to find hotel rooms and rentals in the summer.

I’ll update again when I get settled for the night. I should have a bed at the university, and I’ll be crashing early since 8pm there is 12am by my body’s clock.