A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Alaska Days 8-12 : Arrival in Anchorage

August 5, 2022
Tyson Sawyer

This is the third post from the 2022 Flying to Alaska trip.

Day 8 : Friday, August 5, Customs and Gulkana

Lets backup a little bit on customs planning. I had heard that getting through customs at Northway can be a problem. I also read that if you call at least a day ahead of time and are aware that they only schedule appointments at 9AM and 3PM, that things can go smoothly. The problem is that the customs officers have to drive over an hour from the border customs station to the airport on roads that aren’t fun.

Thursday morning I called the Northway customs office. They explained the 9AM and 3PM requirement and that they prefer to do a “by pass” where you are permitted to make fuel stops on your way to Fairbanks or Anchorage. They also informed me that when I file the eAPIS form online for permission to cross the border that it would be rejected and that I would need to call them to setup the appointment.

Thursday evening, I was allowed to use the Lodge’s computer to get a weather briefing and phone to call customs. On the call, I explained that the weather was unlikely to allow me to get to Anchorage on Friday and that Fairbanks was well out of my way. They accepted that and scheduled me for a 9AM appointment in Northway. While on the phone, I doubled checked times and time zones with them as I didn’t want to get that wrong again.

Friday morning we were served and early, freshly cooked breakfast and then borrowed the phone again for a final confirmation call to customs. They really wanted to know that after their long drive, I would be there and on time.

As we climbed out from the airstrip and turned toward Northway, we noticed on the ADSB display a C-182 that we had seen fly into Whitehorse the previous day as we flew by. He landed at Northway for customs a few minutes ahead of us.

Northway has an actually FSS desk with a person you can talk to. Those are pretty much extinct in the lower 48. We talked with him for a bit about the weather and confirmed our expectation that we could get to Gulkana, but would need to wait until Saturday to fly to the Anchorage area. Our concern for Gulkana had been getting through the mountains. We found good visibility and ceilings in the mountains through Mentasta Pass. As soon as we exited the mountains into the wide flat valley the weather went down to low-ish VFR conditions, though still good weather by Alaskan standards.

After landing in Gulkana the fantastic folks at Copper Valley Air Service helped us find one of the last remaining rooms at a B&B and loaned us a car for the night.

All Day 8 Pictures

Day 9 : Saturday, August 6, Anchorage!

The weather on Saturday morning included some clouds for dramatic effect, but otherwise made for a nice flight to the Anchorage area.

The route through Tehneta Pass was, again, very scenic.

My cousin Alex is stationed in Alaska with the Marine Corps. Prior to being promoted to a desk, he flew a V-22 Osprey as part of support for Marine One . He is one of only 2 Marines stationed in Alaska. After picking us up a Birchwood (PABV), he took us for the scenic route back to the house, including a quick tour of Fire Lake (D72) seaplane base.

After some lunch, we went for a walk along the side of Eklutna Lake.

All Day 9 Pictures

Day 10 : Sunday, August 7, Touristing

Grandfather Alfred Sawyer’s Matterhorn picture

Sunday morning we spent some time chatting about my grandfather’s (Alfred P. Sawyer) trips to climb the Matterhorn and Kilimanjaro, and going over some of the newspaper clipping and document that Alex had from those events. At some time my grandfather purchased the picture above. As I understand it, when he bought it, he didn’t know that it was the Matterhorn. Eventually, having learned what mountain it was, he stated that he was going to climb it. In 1973, at the age of 54, he fulfilled his goal. In 1975 he made a trip to Africa and summited Kilimanjaro.

Later, we drove to Anchorage and visited the Alaska Aviation Museum. There is a lot of history to be found there due to the influence of aviation on European exploration and activities in Alaska. World War II, battles over the Aleutians with Japan, supporting Russia with equipment and the Alaska Highway are all represented.

Grumman Goose landing at Lake Hood

The museum is located on the shores of Lake Hood, the largest and busiest seaplane base in the world.

On the way back to the house we stopped at a couple of places where salmon runs could be seen.

All Day 10 Pictures

Days 11 &12 : Mon & Tue, August 8 & 9, Emilie & Isaac Arrive

Monday was a decidedly dreary day. I made some phone calls and arranged to have the Bearhawk’s engine oil changed at That Old Shop at Birchwood airport. I was happy to be able to get it done at the same airport where the airplane was already parked, avoiding the need to fly in the low weather. The people and service were outstanding.

The bright side of Monday was the arrival of Emilie and Isaac by Alaska Air.

Tuesday morning, Isaac and I went for a walk and found a local school yard to play in for while.

We found an interesting set of signs in a yard on the way back to the house.

Tuesday afternoon, we went to see the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

All Day 11 & 12 Pictures