Unsurprisingly, my trip to Alaska in 2007 was one of the most memorable vacations I’ve ever taken. It really was the adventure of a lifetime. So much so, that the fourth Jaspa’s Journey book (The Hermit of Kennecott) will be loosely based on that trip.
We started out by flying into Anchorage, hiring a car and heading off into the wilderness for a week or so. Then we took a short flight down to Vancouver, Canada. There we boarded a cruise ship, and headed back north to America’s 49th state via the renowned Inside Passage.
On a trip full of highlights, one of the most incredible experiences was taking a float plane from the docks at Ketchikan up into the Tongass National Forest. The flight over the isolated islands and channels north of Ketchikan in a Taquan Air de Havilland Beaver was a wonder all of its own. And at the end of the flight was the hope of a close-up view of wild bears fishing for salmon in a remote island stream.
As a special treat this week, below is an excerpt from the first draft of The Hermit of Kennecott, based on our real-life adventures from that day…
“It was brilliant! We had a plane all to ourselves!” Bisckits gushes. “The pilot taxied us out from the jetty with the engine just chugging away gently. We slowly moved out into the channel. Then he turned the plane north… and gunned the engines!”
The little Giraffeses’ passion and excitement is clear by the way he puts his whole heart into telling his story. “Before we knew it, we were thundering along the water, bumping and bashing around. I thought I was going to bite my own tongue clean off!
“Then I fell off the window ledge – not that it was really much of a ledge to begin with…”
“Oh my!” croaks Phyllis in what’s almost a whisper, putting her hands to her mouth in shock. “You didn’t hurt yourself, did you?”
“Nah!” answers Bisckits, grinning and shaking his head. “Luckily, Sam was paying attention and caught me.
“Anyway, where was I?” Bisckits wonders aloud. “Oh yeah!… So there we were, bouncing along the water, with everything rattling and banging around. You wouldn’t believe the noise. The McRaes all had headphones on, so they could hear the pilot.” Half to himself, he adds, “I wish I’d had a pair of those.”
“Och aye, headphones for Ses,” chuckles Gravee. “I’m sure th’ humans will get reit on that. Jist as soon as they finish inventin’ tiny wee aeroplanes for us tae fly aboot in by oorselves!”
“Anyhow!” says Bisckits firmly, giving the Dogses a hard stare. “We bashed along the water for ages. Then the pilot pulled back on the control stick. And all of a sudden everything went smooth, because we were flying! Once we were in the air, it wasn’t anywhere near as noisy as it had been when we were thumping along the water. Although the engine was still pretty loud, obviously.
“We flew northwards along the coast – I could tell by looking at the pilot’s instruments. At first we saw a few small settlements down by the water, but by 10 minutes into the flight even they’d disappeared. After that it was just rugged mountains, endless conifer forests, dark grey water and tree-covered islands. Oh, and the occasional boat.”
“Aye,” agrees Gravee. “An’ them flat, white wispy clouds at aboot th’ same height we were flyin’. They looked like ribbons. Especially th’ ones wi’ sort o’ tendrils comin’ oot o’ them.”
Portia bats away her cousin’s arms, like she’s swatting a fly. “Oh Bizzee,” she complains, “You’re such a… Such a… Such a boy!”
This last comment produces laughter from everyone except Bisckits, who looks a little taken aback. “What?” he asks, sounding baffled.
“After about 20 minutes in the air, we landed in a small inlet and pulled up alongside a floating jetty across from a smallish island,” Jaspa takes up the story. “We got out of the plane and climbed into a minivan that – after waiting for a couple more plane-loads of humans to arrive – took us a mile or so into the woods.”
“That sounds like Traitors Cove, up in the Tongass National Forest,” Jaypee suggests. “I’ve been up there a couple of times before. Did the van drop you off at a path that wound through a grove of hemlocks?”
“Well, we did get out at a path that led through the trees,” says Jaspa, “But I don’t know if any of them were hemlocks. Mostly they were tall conifers.”
“That’s probably them,” Jaypee confirms. “Sound like the right place.”
“The undergrowth was really thick, that’s for sure,” Jaspa expands. “And there were broken, rotting braches and tree stumps everywhere. And on top of that, everything was dripping wet and covered with moss.”
“At the end of the path was a wooden viewing platform, shrouded by canvass screens, and overlooking a waterfall,” Jaspa continues. “The stream was full of fish, and there were quite a few dead ones on the grass banks and among the rocks at the water’s edge. There was also a strange box-like tube that seemed to divert some of the water around the waterfall.”
“When the salmon head back to their spawning grounds they call it the salmon run,” Phyllis adds.
“I don’t know about salmon running,” Jaspa says thoughtful, with a grin. “From what I could see, most of them were ignoring the ladder and trying to swim straight up the waterfall. It was really cool to see them leaping out of the water, trying to climb to the top of the falls.”
“An’ in th’ end, one bloomin’ black bear wis all we saw!” Gravee puts in. “It darted up to the bottom of the waterfall, snatched a salmon and scarpered! In… Grab… Gone! About seven seconds from start to finish. Sam reckons it wis so quick that all her photos came oot blurred.”
“Aye,” the Dogses concedes with a grin, “It wis a braw seven seconds, reit enough.”
Incidentally, This post is brought to you by the photo themes Close-Up (from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack?), Flight (from Nancy of Nancy Merrill Photography) and Water (from Sue of A Word In Your Ear). Since it’s partially about a trip in an aeroplane, I think it also fits with Cee’s Which Way Challenge from Cee’s Photography!
And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!