Driving is the normal way to deal with the day-to-day, in most people’s lives. Master Guide Terry Overly would prefer flying. My all time and personal favorite means of transportation is of course horseback riding. But what if something goes wrong or runs out? I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. She had asked me how we dealt with running out of groceries or if someone gets sick.
You may think this is a funny question to begin with, but the fact is that we live in a fly-in area of Interior Alaska. There are no roads, there are no stores, there is only us. We live deep inside the United States’ largest National Park, the Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Horseback riding out to the closest road would cause a definite problem! (It would take three days of hard riding!)
You may call your means of transportation a car, a SUV or a truck, some of you may call it a motorcycle. We call ours an airplane. (Ours have names as well: Mike, Golf and Cubby)
We quite literally use an airplane the way most people use their vehicle. It is how we get to the store, the doctor, it is how we go to the movies or a restaurant. It is part of our life.
Almost every single person or thing that comes to Chisana, gets flown in. Not everything, of course. We ride our horses into Chisana when we buy more to add to our herd. (Unlike one of our neighbors that actually had crates built and had them flown into their place!) Big stuff (like horses! Or full sheets of plywood) comes into Chisana via an airplane called the Sky Van. The Sky Van, designed with STOL (short take off and landing) capabilities, twin turban engines with a full body rear cargo door, is a boxy airplane that can do some amazing things.
We drive or haul snow-machines and 4 wheelers in the Winter time, across country. All the large equipment that lives here in Chisana, such as the Log-Skidder, the Cats of every possible size, were driven in over the Spring snow and ice, across country.
I suppose you could walk. folks do every year. For some strange and unusual reason, we have folks appear from the trees a few times each year. Walking through the Park. Huh. How about that. It takes all kinds.
As for supplies. food, baby stuff, fuel and what-nots? We fly it in of course. As for running out, we do not run out. I explained to my friend how I feel when we go visiting family and friends. I love to cook. I would love to make you dinner, for instance, or maybe breakfast tomorrow morning. “Make yourself at home!” You say in a pleased voice.
Sure. I open your cupboard doors, I open the freezer door, I open the refrigerator, I look in your pantry and I turn and say, “I need to run to the store.”
This has happened so often to me, I don’t even look anymore. (It makes me VERY nervous, to see so little.) I am used to, after all these years, to my cupboard being a 16′ x 32′ building, with 6 freezers inside and floor to ceiling 3’ deep shelves. The bread freezer is the 7th and sits on the porch outside the “store” and on the other side of the door sits the 8th freezer that holds the sheep and moose steak, the 9th freezer lives on the back porch of the Lodge and that has the frozen goods the Lodge uses most.
We go and do our grocery shopping with 2 trucks pulling flat bed trailers. We drive about 400 miles, select and load the groceries, drive back another 400 miles and begin the flights that will carry our groceries to Chisana. From the airstrip, the plane is unloaded, the groceries and supplies carefully handled, reloaded into trailers, hauled down to the Lodge, sorted and put away as the plane departs to pick up and carry another load home.
“What happens if one of the children gets very sick and you can’t fly?”
You pray. You worry. You have medicines and supplies on hand, our family doctor, pediatrician and a family friend who is a surgeon a phone call away. And at the very last resort, if it ever God-forbid came right down to it, the Black Hawk can be called and the military will send the team and Black Hawk to pick up and med-evac as a training mission. (They love a challenge!)
Living in the bush, you learn fast how to plan and shop to last until the next time you head into “town” to do the same. Planning and vision of what the future weeks or months may require are a necessity.
It is always a shock to me, when I am chatting with a long time friend who hasn’t been to Chisana to visit before, speaks of driving to Chisana. It can’t happen. As foreign as it may seem to the mind, it can not happen. There is no way to drive into Chisana… and we like it that way!
This does bring confusion and consternation to planning vacations or visits with friends, until you do it the first time. I have written directions with this in mind a few times. Check them out and let me know if I have missed clearing up any confusions or questions! I really do want to take the unknown and puzzle out of it for you and for anyone else.
- Join Pioneer Outfitters in Alaska, Travel Plans
- Driving to Your Summer Vacation
- Travel FAQs ~ Pioneer Outfitters
Enjoy your day, your week and whatever season you may be experiencing! Remember, we are waiting for YOU, to share with you the wilderness and wonders that Alaska has to offer you, so get in touch!