I made it to Venetie today.
I’m lying on my couch right now, listening to the clock tick and the whining doppler buzz of snowmachines in the village.
I got up early and repacked my boxes of groceries for the flight, then David and I loaded them up in his car. He dropped me and my stuff off at Wright’s with a hug, and there I was. Lindsay and David were beyond kind to me, and I would have been at a loss without their help: they took me gear shopping and grocery shopping and showed me around Fairbanks a little. Their advice was like solid gold. I feel, now, like I could do it on my own next time. Looking back, it’s hard to believe I spent only 24 hours with them, just as, looking back now, I can’t believe I’ve known Shannon and Jake for only twelve! Only two days ago I was newly arrived in Anchorage, floored by my first sight of the mountains and glaciers of Alaska. These have been some busy hours, my friends.
Wright Air Service is a passenger and freight line out of Fairbanks. I checked in, stepping on a scale with all of my gear, then scampered through the snow (the sky was dark, but the moon was orange on the horizon) to the other building to arrange for my groceries to be sent through their freight service. I hope they arrive tomorrow.
Here’s the fun part: When the pilot came into the waiting room and called us up, I was nervous. I’d never (in my memory) been on a plane that small. I was told to wear all of my warmest gear (baffins, wool socks, bibs, long undies, flannel, sweater, parka, neckwarmer, gloves) in case of a crash. Let that sink in. I was nervous.
Shannon told the pilot that I was new, and he showed me to the copilot’s seat. I hoisted myself up and squeezed in, trying not to panic. He helped me figure out how the seat belt harness thing worked, I fired up the kindle and, before I had my headphones in, we were rolling down the runway. Dixie Chicks Ready to Run was pounding in my head. I grinned and kept my fear behind my teeth and just like that we were in the air, smooth and slow.
It was almost 10:00 am and the sun was beginning to think of making an appearance. The Chena river, which winds around the buildings and under the snow-white roads of Fairbanks was steaming in billows and plumes and catching the light of the pinkening horizon. The streetlights dappled the roads and parking lots of Fairbanks with bright bubbles of cast light. All pink and gray, it looked like a page ripped from the Polar Express and taped to the window – quiet and still and beautiful. I looked at the compass, then straight ahead, due north over the mountains. Gorgeous. Empty. Vast. The experience was breathtaking. For just a moment, during the flight, I had a true sense of the scale of the interior, the great uninhabited miles of it, spreading out infinitely in every direction like a mathematical plane, with our plane, my whole life, just a point upon it.
The sun came up and painted the world in starker greys. It cast long tree shadows like in the bicycling hour of Maine summer evenings. We flew over the flats, the Yukon, frozen, wide as the Mississippi, with its great tributaries and snow-white oxbow lakes. We picked up a passenger in Fort Yukon, then headed west to Venetie, toward a white mountain, flying low. We landed, smooth again, and were off, hauling gear out of the cargo area. Jake hopped on someone’s truck to catch a ride to pick up the school’s truck, and the plane left, and there we were, standing alone in the snow beside a rapidly freezing pile of boxes and totes. Some of Ben’s stuff, shipped the day before, was waiting when we got off the plane. Shannon cautioned us to handle it with care in case it shattered from the cold.
It’s bedtime. I’ll write more and post some pictures when I can.