Re: Matthew Curcio Post 6 and 7 - Made it back home from Alaska
Jerry Marstall <jnmarstall@...>
Oh, to be young again!! Jerrytoggle quoted messageShow quoted text
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From: "Matthew Curcio mlcurcio89@... [Q-LIST]" <Q-LIST@...>
Date: 6/25/19 5:38 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: Quickie List <Q-LIST@...>
Subject: [Q-LIST] Matthew Curcio Post 6 and 7 - Made it back home from Alaska
Below are the next and final posts I put up on Facebook on the Alaska trip. Long story short I had an awesome final couple of days in Alaska- made it back home with tailwinds, nice weather, and no issues with customs or the airplane. Much Thanks to Shaun Milke for help with the trip planning. It was an incredible trip and I was very fortunate to have great weather the whole time. I put a little over 50 hours on the tach and 66 on the Hobbs. I have a bunch of pictures I'll post a link up to when I get around to putting them on a google drive or if you friend request me on Facebook you can see them. It'll be a week or two before I get around to that as I have another big trip coming up. Shortly after starting to plan this Alaska trip I realized that after flying up there I would have been to almost all 50 states and that made me think I should probably plan a little trip to hit up the three I haven't been to (Idaho, Montana, and Mississippi). Then I started wondering how many states I have flown my airplane in and that number came out to 25. I figured it would be cool to try and hit the other 25 sometime but at that point I mine as well just do a big loop and hit up all lower 48 in the same trip. I want to start modifying my engine for power and efficiency and since I have put about 600 reliable hours on in the last 18 months it seems like this is the time to take advantage of the proven configuration before I start changing things. All that to say the way my vacation worked out, leaving Thursday gets me the most bang for my buck as far as time to do the trip in and it will also be cool to have flown to all 49 north American states in a 3 week period. I really enjoy everything you learn flying in new places and getting to build a real mental map of the geography of this country. I'm going to land in each state and take a picture of a sign with that states name on it with me. The goal is to leave Thursday after work and start in the southwest move to the south east and then work my way up the eastern coast and then from northeast to west. I'll stay a couple days for the fourth of July in Ohio with family and then hit the other 13 northwest states on the way back to SoCal. I should have enough time to give a decent cushion for weather and so far the weather is looking fine.
I woke up Wednesday and decided I wanted to check out Valdez and McCarthy. Valdez is supposed to be really nice if it’s sunny and not worth it if it isn’t - it’s rarely sunny. The weather cameras were showing perfectly blue skies so it was time to hightail it out of Fairbanks. I took off and flew towards Allen army airfield, down to Gulkana and then followed the road into Valdez. The flight in was spectacular, the path in snaked through mountain valleys. The mountains had a really cool structure and were full of fjords flowing down everywhere which looked amazing. I took that all in and then landed. The scene in Valdez was something out of a picture - with blue glacial run off water, green grass and mountains going from green to brown to white shorting up everywhere. I got lunch out on the deck of a cool little restaurant on the harbor, walked around for a bit and then decided it was time to go to the next stop.
I flew over to McCarthy which is a cool little town of about 200 people in the summer and 20 in the winter. The glaciers on the way in were incredible. All the people there seemed to be pretty young and super friendly. This seemed to be there summer getaway spot. By land it’s very remote - about a 7 hour drive from anchorage but it took me around an hour to get here by air. It was really cool. I just barely missed the last shuttle so I started the 4 mile hike and ended up hitchhiking a ride most of the way up to Kennicott, which is an old mining town up along the glacier from McCarthy. Kennicott is being somewhat restored by the national park service’s so half the buildings were falling off the side of a mountain while the other half looked almost new. They had a cool old powerhouse that reminded me of my past life. I brought my backpack and everything with me and decided to camp at the base of the glacier 2 miles past Kennicott for the night. The view was absolutely insane and I fell asleep to the sound of the glacial river flowing and rocks falling from the moving glacier. I had to fill up water so I decided to walk down to the glacier, fill up and eat dinner there on the glacier. This was the perfect place to slow down before I head back south.
I woke up bright and early (it’s always bright this time of year) and went down to hike on the root glacier it was full of awesome glacial streams and waterfalls. There’s something really strange about hearing a rush of water and then looking down into a crack to see a massive underground waterfall 30 feet below going who knows how far down. Glaciers are crazy. After the glacier I packed up my camp and hiked the two miles back down into Kennicott. I got lunch and walked around and learned about the mines history which was actually really fascinating. It was the world’s richest copper mine in its time and was a huge undertaking to develop such an operation in the remote Alaskan wilderness. I took the shuttle back down into McCarthy and walked around there for a little bit. It’s such a cool, place and a total blast from the past!
The weather was so clear again today I decided to hike back to the airplane and fly up and see if Denali was out of the clouds it had been all week. I climbed up to 12,500 on my way to it to make sure I’d be on top of the few clouds I was seeing. There was one towering cumulonimbus cloud to the west of it but other than that it was clear and what a freaking sight. Pictures don’t do it justice but bear in mind I was at 12,500 feet and so the mountain was still 8000 feet above me. Everything about it is massive including the glaciers flowing from it. That really put the icing on the cake for this trip and now time to start making my way back down.
I made it into Whitehorse at 1am on Friday morning (sun was just setting) and found a campground there. It was a smooth flight in and no weather to contend with asides for some light rain. Walked into town in the morning and got some breakfast, did all my customs paperwork while walking and headed out for the day. I followed the roads closely this time and flew lower through Canada so I got to see a little more and the airplane was less nervous (airplanes don’t get nervous pilots do). I started to hit some weather here and there but nothing too bad.. I got a good case of carb ice for about the 5 time this past week which is 5 more times than I’ve ever had carb ice in 1000 and something odd hours of flying. Fortunately, I have good carb heat. On the last stretch getting to the border there was a nasty rain cell right on the side of a mountain valley / pass that the chart warned heavily about rapidly changing weather in, don’t attempt to scud run etc. I got through it without too much trouble and then had to try and figure out how to get through some Canadian airspace. Their airspace system is even stupider than there bacon- like maybe when you have a tight mountain pass known for trapping weather that then leads into a tight box canyon of airspace you should have some kind of way for pilots to figure out the center frequency, geniuses. Also if you ever have an urge for masochism and don’t have any hot sauce to pour in your eyes Canadian “visual navigation charts” will work just fine. Rant off.
I had to clear customs in Bellingham so I was trying to find a place to camp nearby. No options so I started to look at nearby airports and sure enough orca island (part of the San Juan Islands had a nice airport with an incredible campground 1/2 mile away. Customs is old hat now. Flew into Orca Island and wow, Baker farm and campground, coolest non airport campground I’ve ever been to. I got up Saturday morning and the sky was mostly clear over the San Juan Islands but socked in everywhere else. That was part of my reasoning for wanting to go here actually because I had noticed this trend on the way up. I took on a light load of fuel and climbed out over the clouds and flew VFR over the top down to Medford for more fuel. The clouds started to clear up around Eugene. Fuel was pricey on the island and it is a shorter runway so I figured I'd just split today's flying up. I caught a nice tailwind the whole way back to SoCal (TSP) and with just the one quick stop in Medford, I was back home by 5pm. I cleaned out the airplane and myself a little bit and then flew down to John Wayne and spent the rest of the weekend with friends down there.