Long talks with the pioneers in the field of backcountry aviation advocacy, my mind kept racing. As the President of the organization, I struggle knowing if I am doing all that I can. Countless task cards on Trello, numerous ideas on improvements we could be making for others, and a watchful eye on the innumerable policies and proposals drafted in the local, state, and federal arenas remind me that the war will never end, and the fight will take an army of hundreds if not thousands.
Slow to call it a draw, I hear stories of our members and supporters going above and beyond that which would be expected. Availing private land for public use, donating time and talents to help fulfill our goals and values, hundreds of membership dues graciously paid and renewed, the numbers of our members responding to the calls for help with letters and meeting comments again overwhelms me.
There will always be more to be done, but the conversations revolving around stewardship and legacy will empower me to do more. And I’m grateful for the many examples that have paved the trail before us.
This day of the fly-in is usually when the rest of our friends make the trek to Smiley Creek. For years now, we’ve turned this into our annual summer vacation slash family reunion and it’s heartwarming to hear my children talk about the fun they have in Idaho. Sadly, this year, my sister and her family were unable to attend, but thankfully, the biggest part of backcountry flying made up the difference.
I’ve spent many years now camped across Utah, Idaho, California and Montana and not once have I camped next to someone who wasn’t a pleasure. From the Australian yacht captains, to our Nebraska family, those warm smiles from Washington, and everyone in between, the backcountry has become a second family to me, and these few days are when we take these moments to rekindle our love for airplanes, our appreciation for one another, and our aspirations for more frequent meet-ups (maybe even a tour of the World’s Largest Costco, Kelli and Joshua!?).
After a nice catered meal, a few remarks from yours truly, and a few cute awards for our attendees, I found myself waving goodbye to my family (as they had obligations the following morning), shaking many thankful hands, and for once that busy day, a quiet moment to finally walk down to the south end of the runway to see the second greatest airplane parked on the strip. Moments later, I found a large continent of our extended backcountry family doing the same.
The airplanes, the backdrops, these airstrips separate us from our other lives as professional pilots, amateur retirees, and our busy modern lives. Moments staring into the polished spinner of deHavilland’s greatest work being slightly faster than a dog sled, sitting on the grass runway, realizing on the morrow we would be transitioning back to those other worlds.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The journey towards (the backcountry) is filled with anxiety, excitement, mystique. The journey home to the layman may be empty, but the true growth comes in those miles spent transitioning from what we once were to what we have become. While Josh and I make plans for one more day in this playground slash temple, reality that this transition is coming, another few months or more til our backcountry family reconvenes makes these moments tender.
Something about legacies, friendships, and reunions. In the back of my mind, I hear these words: “If I search among my memories for those whose taste is lasting, if I write the balance sheet of the moments that truly counted, I surely find those that no fortune could have bought me.”