There’s the “bird’s-eye view”, the “eagle-eye view” and then there’s the “flightseeing view”.
Sometimes Whitehorse becomes … well, Whitehorse. The lineup at the grocery store was even longer than usual, the traffic on Two Mile Hill makes you wonder if every driver is in fact licensed to operate a motorized vehicle and one or two bills may be overdue because you’ve just been too busy to go to the bank.
Flightseeing is an exhilarating way to “get away from it all” … in just an hour.
If this is your first experience on a float plane, driving to a lake to board an aircraft is a bit of a different feeling. That’s a plane bobbing on the water at the dock on Schwatka Lake, not a fishing boat or a canoe.
“Is everybody ready to go?” smiled Jan, the friendly person staffing the office of Alpine Aviation. She gave us a general overview of our upcoming adventure before the pilot assisted each of us onto the plane.
It was a clear, bright afternoon. There was a definite air of excitement.
This particular plane had one seat in front, beside the pilot, and three seats in the rear. Everyone wore a headset and a microphone; you could talk to each other during the flight. There’s plenty of Plexiglas all around, so visibility was good for all on board.
Following a short – but important – safety overview, it’s time for takeoff.
“Seat belts on? Door locked? OK, let’s go!”
After a short run down the lake, ripples lapping the pontoons, it was a smooth liftoff and the plane headed south. Turning away from the highway and toward the mountains, there was an awed silence as the wide wilderness opened up beneath.
Yes, it’s still there: the Yukon you can’t see from downtown.
As everyone settled in, voices started coming over the headsets.
“Which trail is right below us?”
“What’s the name of the mountain to the right?”
“There’s a cabin in there at the end of this lake!”
Banking to one side, it was the pilot’s turn for a question.
“Can you see the white dots to the left over there? Those are sheep.”
We flew closer; the sheep spooked and ran from the sound of the plane as we passed by. A few hard, icy snow crystals swirled around as we moved through some light cloud.
Travelling north toward Fish Lake and Kusawa, the lakes and the mountains were gorgeous and magnificent. The scenery stretched past the horizon.
Coming up out of a valley and rising over a peak, we spotted two dots in the near distance. Hoping to see grizzlies, we peered forward. The outlines became clearer as we approached.
“It’s a couple of people on horseback!”
They ignored our overhead buzzing, not even looking up as they ambled on their way.
Turning back toward Takhini River Bridge and town, we were re-introduced to civilization and traffic along the Alaska Highway. We couldn’t believe how quickly the time had passed. Before we knew it the pontoons splashed lightly onto the surface of the lake and we were headed back to the base.
“How was your trip?” Jan asked as we milled around on the dock, reluctant to return to our vehicles.
How was it? It was revitalizing and exciting to become reacquainted with this beautiful region we call home. The “float plane view” is, indeed, an eye opener.
For further information, check out the Yellow Pages under “Aircraft Charter”.
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ALPINE AVIATION