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Napken lake trip 3 part 1

Fall 2016 – part one

Once again, the year passed slowly while waiting for the next trip to the remote Napken lake. This year (2016) things started out much the same as the previous years although we were down to 5 guys. Due to work commitments, Bruce couldn’t make the trip this year and where Ed had filled in for Mark the previous year he didn’t feel up to doing it again.

We did have one new addition to the group (Russ) but we couldn’t find anyone else who could get away for a couple of weeks to join us. At the time, Russ was 84 and had never been on a remote trip like this. He also wasn’t a big fisherman but he was willing to give it a try and after all was said and done he had the time of his life. The group this year was: Uncle Larry, Bob, George, Russ and myself.

So, after a long drive we arrived in Hearst, Ontario the evening before our flight. As usual we checked in at the airbase and were told to arrive around 6:30 am for an early takeoff. It turned out to be an exciting ride. We woke up to thick fog which dashed our hopes for an early takeoff but, after a quick breakfast at the local Tim Horton’s, we made our way to the airbase where we loaded the plane with our gear. Fully expecting to just have to wait out the weather, we settled into the waiting area where we could at least be comfortable and maybe get in a few games of pool.

After a surprisingly short amount of time the fog had lifted slightly off the lake. It was fairly clear up to about 100 or 200 feet, but just above the tops of the trees the fog was still very thick so it was a bit of a surprise when the pilot walked in around 7:15 and said “let’s go!”. I wasn’t going to argue with him. I figured he knew what he was doing and I was as anxious to get to the lake as anyone so we piled into the Cessna Caravan and within a few minutes we were airborne. As we flew north, we stayed just above the treetops and just below the layer of fog. There seemed to be only enough room to fit (barely) in this slot. Being so close to the trees gave us a true sensation of the speed at which we were traveling. We flew this way for about 15 or 20 minutes.

The fog began to push us lower, much closer to the trees than was really comfortable. On the right there was a river that was flowing in the general direction that we were going and the pilot suddenly made a swooping right turn and descended at full speed over the river. I thought for a second that he was going to set it down on the water but that wasn’t his intention – he simply needed to get lower to avoid the fog and flying up the river allowed him to do that. We were only a few feet above the water, flying fast with the trees on either side of us. As the river would curve so would we, sometimes the wingtips were just inches above the water. It was a thrilling experience. All of us were frozen in our seats, I’m not sure what the other guys were thinking but I thought that this was one of the coolest experiences imaginable. I trusted the pilot completely and figured if something did go wrong we wouldn’t have time to worry about it so I never really had any fear at all. I had read stories of how the early bush pilots could fly like this all day long and to actually be there and experience it –  well  – I was just caught up in the moment and enjoyed every second of it. We flew like this for close to 20 minutes maybe longer. Eventually we came around a bend and it was apparent that the fog was now actually on the river. 

Full speed - inches from the water!
Continuing on in this manner of flight could result in a situation that we didn’t want to be in so the pilot pulled back the stick and we shot up through the fog until we came out on top to sunny skies. wow! The rest of the trip was uneventful, the fog (which was now below us) eventually cleared and once again there was Napken lake spread out below. Once we had landed and taxied to the dock, I asked the pilot why we hadn’t simply flown above the fog from the start. He said that he was afraid that the lake itself would be fogged in and we wouldn’t be able to land if we couldn’t find the water. As it turned out, the weather at the lake was clear but it sure was a fun ride there. I made a request to the pilot that we do the same thing on the return flight!

 Once we had landed and taxied to the dock, I asked the pilot why we hadn’t simply flown above the fog from the start. He said that he was afraid that the lake itself would be fogged in and we wouldn’t be able to land if we couldn’t find the water. As it turned out, the weather at the lake was clear but it sure was a fun ride there. I made a request to the pilot that we do the same thing on the return flight!

Unfortunately, not one of us thought to take a video of this river flight. I did get one picture just before we left the river which gives a little bit of an indication of how low we were and I’ll attach it here, but it sure would have been something to have gotten a movie clip.

I really need to get an action cam!

more to come.

Rod

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