August 17, 1990 -- Day 19

Skagway AK to Watson Lake YT

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Lynn Canal Morning showed the same opaque sky as yesterday. However the Juneau FSS was predicting some improvement by afternoon.

After a long discussion with Dad, who was beginning to feel the strain of the trip by now, it was decided to take advantage of the VFR conditions in the Lynn Canal and fly down to Juneau. At Juneau, Dad and Cindy would take a commercial flight home to San Francisco, leaving Tom and me to outwit the weather and find a way back to Minneapolis.

The flight down the Lynn Canal was beautiful. But the sides of the canal are almost vertical, and should one encounter an engine failure, there is no beach to provide any sort of emergency landing area. Coming into Juneau the controller cleared me for a straight-in approach. When I turned to final, I was surprised to find a small hill between me and the runway. It necessitates a somewhat steeper approach. The city is dominated by the huge Mendenhall Glacier, and it is indeed quite a sight from the air.

After dropping off Cindy and Dad and topping off the fuel tanks, Tom and I made a final check of the weather and took off. There had been enough improvement to allow us to get across the mountains and into Whitehorse. At Whitehorse (YT) we decided there was enough daylight left to reach Watson Lake, so after a weather check we filed and were rolling once more.

We again suffered reduced visibility due to forest fires, but landed at Watson Lake just as the sun was starting to set. The Watson Lake airport has a very nice campgound, complete with fire pits, picnic tables, water, and facilities back in the woods. We decided to stay there for the brief hours of darkness in order to get an extra-early start the next day. Tom built a blazing fire, and I got into the Res-Q pack to find a meal of sorts for us. That night we were treated to an awesome display of the aurora borealis. Stretching clear across the sky, it took the form of a gigantic curtain shimmering and waving overhead. I have seen the aurora borealis many times in Minnesota but never like I saw that special night in the Yukon. In many ways it represented a fitting climax to this wonderful trip.

Lynn Canal with glacier

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Linda Dowdy
Bethel, Minnesota
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Copyright © 2003 Linda Dowdy, last revision 030212