An excerpt of Book 1: "Corky's Courage, An Alaskan Adventure" by Bill Richardson
Copyright © by William C. "Bill" Richardson All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without prior permission.
This book is also available as an e-book for all types of e-readers.
Second Edition: Sept. 2013 Printed in the United States of America ISBN: 978-0-9885311-6-1
Chapter 1 - Kachemak Bay
“Another great day for us to fly, my fine feathered friends.” The many birds in Corky’s yard seemed to agree as they fluttered back and forth among the bushes and trees. While standing on the cabin’s porch and taking a deep breath of the cool crisp morning air, she watched and listened to the many birds and critters by her cabin.
A few birds had yellow and brownish body feathers and others had grey mixed with white patches. Several red-breasted robins fluttered in and out of the trees. Gathering together in small groups on the ground, they would chirp and hop about looking for food. In a few days she knew they would flock up, fly together for a few minutes, and then land. Then with a great burst they would rise into the sky, circle as if to say goodbye and start flying south to warmer country for the winter.
The shier birds were dashing in and out of bushes and trees for cover. Cautiously, they would slowly come out again to squabble over a bug or mosquito. However, one small black-capped chickadee wasn’t shy. It landed on a branch close to Corky and while cocking its head to one side, chattered at her as if to say hello.
A large greenish black and white-patched long tailed magpie glided in its roller coaster fashion from a cottonwood tree to a short stump. Quickly jumping off the stump, the bird made several chucking sounds and then stopped completely. It looked around as if anticipating something. Corky smiled as the bird reminded her of someone in a smart looking tuxedo with no place to go.
A white and brown snowshoe hare slowly ambled along, ignoring the chattering red squirrel that was perched overhead on a spruce branch.
The forest’s sweet damp smell mixed with the ripe odor of high bush cranberries reminded her it was time to pick berries for winter jams and jellies. Giving them to others as Holiday gifts had almost become a tradition with her. “Before long these berries will get too soft so I’d better get to picking them soon,” she muttered. “And be sure to make plenty of noise when picking the sweet berries to help scare off any bears.”
A brown bear had recently tried to scratch its way through her wooden door into the cabin and had left long gash marks. Corky knew she had to be very alert as the bear might have a cub or two with it. An encounter with a disturbed bear could turn into a very unpleasant event she reminded herself. However by staying alert, that probably wouldn’t happen.
Corky delighted in watching the beautiful yellow birch and orange cottonwood leaves reflect the early sunlight. Their striking fall colors made the area around her cabin look like a calendar picture.
The morning sounds and sights helped Corky to finally relax. She had returned to Homer the evening before from a several day trip flying photographers and biologists into the Brooks Range from the old Wiseman mining community. The biologists wanted to document the snowshoe hares’ color changes from their summer browns to their Arctic winter grays and white colored phases. There were several people and lots of equipment to fly in and out of the camp before all of the good weather disappeared. Flying the Cessna 206 with floats was enjoyable and was exactly what she liked to do; however the many hours of detailed attention were exhausting.
On the way back from Wiseman she had stopped in Anchorage to buy groceries and take care of other errands. One stop was at Molly’s Tea House to get a fresh batch of English Breakfast tea. Molly’s not only sold tasty teas in bulk, they provided special tea parties in a prim and proper English tearoom setting. Corky broke into a smile when she remembered how she had walked into the spotless tea-house wearing outdoor boots and clothes. She was sure if she wasn’t in Alaska someone would have objected but no one seemed to mind at Molly’s.
One of her greatest pleasures was being on the porch, enjoying the autumn morning, with a hot cup of English Breakfast tea.
The last twelve months had been a very busy period. Not only had she finished getting her commercial multi-engine and instrument rating, but she had also attended the Arctic Winter Survival School at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks.
Corky had grown up around airplanes, received her private pilot’s license a week after her sixteenth birthday and her single-engine float rating by her seventeenth. Her parents were field biologists and worked by contract with many different companies and government agencies throughout Alaska. The entire family would go into the field to help with the research work, spending weeks in the field.
With her growing up in Alaska’s wild country, Corky had many wonderful and sometimes very exciting experiences. Both her parents were pilots and had taught her to fly safely and follow the Three Ks: “Know yourself. Know your plane. Know your weather.”
“I wonder how the folks are doing on their Copper River Valley trip near Iliamna Lake,” she thought. “That’s beautiful country. Maybe I’ll fly over and see them.”
Suddenly the phone rang. Startled, she quickly jumped from her chair and almost spilled the hot tea. The birds scattered and the squirrel went silent and didn’t move even its tail.
“Good morning, this is Corky,” she answered with a warm smile in her voice.
“Hey, Miss Corky Corcoran, this is Mark. I see you’re back right on schedule. Did you have a good trip?” he rapidly asked. “It’s such a gorgeous day, how about we fly to the outside beaches? On the way we can check out the bears and salmon runs. And by the way, I missed you.”
Corky replied in kind. “It was a good trip, Mark. I’ve got lots to tell you about. And yes, a trip to the outside beaches sounds great to me. I’m looking across Kachemak Bay now and I see a few broken clouds on the Kenai Mountains. It might be a bumpy ride on the outside. Which plane are we taking? And by the way I missed you, too, Mr. Mark Donnelly.” They both chuckled softly.
“Sorry about that. I’m just glad you’re back. I called Flight Service and checked the last aviation weather report they had. A storm front is about two hundred miles south and shouldn’t hit until late tonight at the earliest. We’ll take the Super Cub since it is just you and me on this trip. The Cub has the beach tires for landing on a gravel bar or beach. We’ll go north to the head of Kachemak Bay, cross over the Fox River to Bradley Lake then to Nuka Bay, fly south along the beach line to Rocky Bay, then cut to Jakolof Bay and back to Homer. With the long-range tanks there is more than enough fuel. Whatta ya think?” he quipped.
“Sounds good! What time do we leave? It’ll take me a few minutes to fix some lunch and hot tea,” she said.
“Great. I’m at the airport finishing up some paperwork, so that’ll take about an hour. I’ll check the plane, file a flight plan and wait for you by Jim’s hangar. That means about 10:30. You okay with that?” he asked.
“You bet! See you then,” she replied and hung up the phone.
She knew Mark’s charter service had two planes. One was a two-seater Piper Super Cub with high wings, large tires, and long range tanks. The Cub could fly slow and low which provided a great method to aerial sight-see, but it did bounce a lot in rough air.
Pilots trained in flying the aircraft found it fun to fly but as with any plane, it had its quirks. The very large beach tires, or as some pilots called them, tundra wheels, slowed the plane down some, but allowed landings on very soft material like mud, tundra, sand, and loose gravel.
Mark’s other plane, a Cessna 206, was almost identical to Corky’s except for the paint colors. The plane was another high wing type with a powerful engine and could carry seven people. It traveled much faster than the Super Cub, but was a fuel hog. His 206 had floats instead of wheels so was used only for water landings and takeoffs. It was not as maneuverable as the Super Cub, but Mark flew hunters and fishermen with their gear into and out of remote lakes and rivers. Since the bigger plane was heavier, it provided a smoother ride in rough air.
Corky respected Mark’s flying abilities as a pilot and knew he was as familiar with the local areas as she was. They had spent a lot of time together sharing Alaska’s beauty. The outside beach or southern Kenai Peninsula coast was a rugged area with many bays, coves and steep cliffs and was bordered on the south by the cold North Pacific Ocean. The scenery was magnificent and full of birds, animals, big hemlock, spruce and occasionally cedar trees. At this fall time of year the streams would have thousands of small Humpy salmon in them.
While lighting the gas stove to make some more tea, she heard the magpie start its raucous noise again. The squirrel was chattering a scolding to anything that could hear. She grinned and grabbed the heavy loaf of wheat bread from her favorite bakery in Anchorage. Corky realized she hadn’t asked Mark if he needed some lunch. “Oh well,” she thought, then smiled, “I’ll make extra, he likes to eat.”
With four quick slices of her bread knife she was ready to add the filling. There was just enough sliced moose roast left from her trip for the sandwiches. With a few strokes of her folding knife she trimmed the thick pieces of meat, and then she added homemade cranberry sauce and slices of sharp cheddar cheese. After making two big sandwiches, she placed them in separate plastic wraps. Adding four food bars and two bottles of water with the sandwiches, she set them into her pack. Corky’s pack went everywhere with her. Even when driving to town the pack and a sleeping bag were in the car. Sometimes flying opportunities happened quickly, so she didn’t want to leave the gear at home or anyplace else.
The pack contained her survival gear, which included more than Alaska regulations required. Everything was usable for winter or summer survival conditions. With the newer types of materials the equipment was lighter and smaller than it used to be. Now more items took up the same amount of space and weighed less than before. The gear included a fold up 22-caliber survival rifle, a long length of strong parachute cord, a wire saw, a first aid kit, a small hatchet, an emergency locator beacon, a pair of gloves, some fishing equipment, mosquito repellent cream, dried foods, and much more.
With the knife back into her belt sheath, she checked that the waterproof match case was still in her pocket. Grabbing the thermos of tea, a camera, the pack, jacket and her cap, she headed for the door, but stopped by the phone. Slowly dialing the rotary phone, she called Cora Basargin, her married sister, who lived in Nikolaevsk, an Old Believer Russian community north of Homer.
“Cora? Are you there? Okay, you’re not. Mark and I are flying to the outside beach via Bradley Lake and Jakolof Bay for some sightseeing and should be back late this afternoon. We’re going in his Super Cub and he’ll be filing a flight plan." ...