By Ralph Hood
The above title was stolen from Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven.”
One of my favorite memories was the second trip wife Gail and I took to Alaska, where I made five speeches and one TV show appearance for several aviation groups. It was winter, it was cold and beautiful, and the local people were absolutely delightful. We traveled by car, private airplanes, and airline to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer, Kodiak, and Kenai (we did not travel by dog sled, but we did so in Montana on another trip).
In Alaska, I flew across the Cook Inlet—en route to Kenai—with legendary Alaskan pilot Tom Wardleigh in Tom’s single-engine airplane. I looked down at ice chunks floating below us, looked back at how far over the water we had come, then forward to see how far we had to go before being overland again.
“What,” I asked Tom, “will we do if the engine quits?” He smiled, waved his hand across the vista and said, “Ah, isn’t the scenery lovely?”
He was right—it was lovely.
I learned from Tom that all airplanes in Alaska must have a survival kit that includes a gun—with ammunition—that could kill a bear!
On Kodiak Island Tom Merriman took me for a ride in his Piper Super Cub (see picture). I sometimes flew power line patrol in a Super Cub in Alabama, filling in for friend Ed Long, who flew more hours than anybody else during his lifetime—for all I know his record still stands. But a Super Cub in Alaska is a far more awesome flight. We touched down on a black sand beach at one point and I felt like a real Alaskan bush pilot.
One night we stayed at a hotel in Anchorage near Lake Hood—not named after me, of course, but after some British admiral of long ago—which was the busiest float-plane/ski-plane base in the world. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was in full swing; and some of the sled dogs, tied up in the snow-filled yard of the hotel, barked madly while waiting for transport. Where else but Alaska?
Friend Mike O’Neill flew us in his airplane to Homer, where we saw more bald eagles than we knew existed in the entire world. They were everywhere—up close and personal! Unbelievable!
What a trip. Of all the places Gail and I have been, we agree that if we could revisit one of them, it would be Alaska.