Lake Hood sits in the darkness serving as a temple to the machines that traverse these skies. Countless conglomerates of steel, fabric, and aluminum, rest their weary souls in the zero degree air, covered with blankets of snow and ice atop their skins. Like the larger mammals many of these are named for, they rest for the winter, having consumed their winter cache of flight throughout the summer, carefully slowing down their inner workings as their masters have dutifully prepared them to be ready to attack the skies once more. Slumped down, many times buried and frozen to the lands they spent months distancing themselves from, they rest alongside one another, eerily seeking refuge together from the northern storms that make southern hurricanes look like a soft breeze.
Within the limited lands that surround this sacred site lie a few of these machines that pass on the commonly-accepted hibernation practice. And a few limited number of those are kept indoors, where their stewards maintain them in a ready state to serve those distant lands that winter seems to have pushed farther away. In these heated enclaves I’ve found a handful of the men and women who are proud to call this home. Sweeping regulations across the world have kept these opportunities from happening over warm plates, cold beverages, and comfortable chairs. Today, the pizza is relatively warm, the drinks are ice cold, and the chairs, well, why sit when you can lean against the wings of an airplane that hasn’t flown in over 40 years and is being prepared for that triumphant return to the great winds that blow across these lands.
The sun only shines for a few hours this time of the year, and the temperatures hardly change in that limited window of solar radiation. The winds continue to blow, regardless if the ATIS is reporting calm (spoiler alert: there’s no such thing as calm in Alaska). And with the numerous layers that one would don to traverse these lands by foot, today I’m grateful for a fellow Cub owner and college buddy who, while calling this home, has heated leather seats and remote start features in his truck.
It’s hard not to romanticize the quest for the wilderness, but I’m starting to understand the allure of Alaska. People will say they need to come to Alaska to wage the war against themselves, to prove that they are more than what they think they are, to experience unfiltered, cage-free wilderness. Coming to Anchorage even in the winter is ruining me because it’s like I’m steps away from tracing the tales of Don Sheldon, minutes from the airplanes that fly these majestic lands and the souls of those who make them work, and I’d rather just stay here and immerse myself in the aura of this land and the people within and the terrain that surrounds it all and just dismiss the outside world as much as possible, as even in the mere moments surrounding myself with these men and their magnificent machines, even having never logged one hour of true Alaska time, float time, or round engine time in my logbooks, I’ve found a home.