Three weeks ago tomorrow was the day I flew out of Anchorage.
Destination? The Farm Lodge.
To reach the lodge, you can either fly in or take a boat across Lake Clark. I haven’t flown anywhere in the past ten years, but I was supposed to reach the lodge, and I was aboard an airplane for the third time that day—from the short-hop plane out of Eugene, to the 737 from Seattle, and finally to the nine-seater belonging to Lake Clark Air. I have pictures of nearly everything else, but not the plane—mostly because I was inside the airplane, not outside taking pictures of it.
The sun was shining, and I could see for miles—from the oil rigs to the left of me, to the mountain peaks on the right—as we headed south-west toward the Lake Clark Pass.
Everything here, incidentally, is called either Lake Clark ________________ or Tanalian ______________. There is, for example, Tanalian Mountain, just down the bay from the lodge. We also have the Tanalian Falls, which are on the Tanalian River, and so on. I’m hoping to hike up to the falls one of these days. That, however, is getting ahead of my story.
After takeoff, the plane climbed rapidly, leaving behind the mud flats along the shoreline. The ground leveled out below us. The pine trees looked like rough patches of moss, no higher than the birches scattered between them, or even the yellow-green smudges of grass.
Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes—the mountains that stood at first in a white blur off to our right drew gradually closer, and closer, and closer. The bigger peaks, further back, shone with snow. The closer ridges—the one just a few feet beyond the plane’s wings—stuck up in stiff pinnacles and sharp pleats of rock. Then the rock folded back into a valley.
It wasn’t a valley, actually, but a maze. If you’ve ever played Oregon Trail, just imagine rafting down the Columbia River, when you float along for a time in smooth water, before ducking left around a boulder, right around another boulder, and right again to dodge the small rock heap that poked up just in front of your raft. Every few minutes, the plane had to bank a little, past the next ridge or the next green hump of a hill.
Forty minutes, fifty minutes—I started watching the flight clock on the plane’s GPS unit. If the flight only took an hour, we must be almost there. But where was ‘there’?
Then the valley folded back, and Lake Clark spread out below us—a vast sheet of water, even from the air. And part way down the lake, I could see a narrow streak of the airstrip peeking out between the dark trees.