Austin and I have a book of notes we have passed back and forth since we started dating. I wrote an entry yesterday and I listed our most memorable moments in the question form, asking if he remembered each of them. I'm including mot of them here for you with an explanation of each event. I think it sums up our time in McCarthy pretty well. "I just saw your plane fly over my head--the last flight you'll have in the 2013 season here in McCarthy. What a dream come true! It has been a sunny warm summer--great flying weather and full of adventures."
"Remember when I got into town and texted you that we had a 'perfect cabin'? " I arrived in McCarthy two days before Austin who flew up in a 206. I was nervous to be here all by myself in a different kind of living situations than I'd previously experienced, but everyone was so kind and helpful and our cabin so sweet, I texted him that I was here and happy in our perfect cabin. He apparently thought that was really funny, but agreed on my assessment once he arrived.
"And when you got into town I gave you the biggest hug I had and we ate lunch at The Potato?" The guys in the 206 arrived on a Sunday afternoon and we met them at the airstrip just after they touched down. It was so good to see him. The Potato is McCarthy's only place that serves lunch and espresso. Their food is great, but like a heart attack on a plate. My favorite dish there is their garlic curly fries topped in scrambled eggs and sausage gravy! Yum!
"And when Don and Kelly played pranks on you in the planes before you were let loose?" They were testing Austin to see how he flew under pressure: shouting right as he was landing and later having a friend pretend he'd had little experience in a small plane and subsequently pretend he was vomiting, and had bear pepper spray that was leaking inside the plane, and opened the door while still flying. Austin passed the tests! :)
"And when we visited Jess in Cordova and stayed the night in the Birdhouse?" My baby bro was fishing in Cordova, a fishing town south of us, and we got to visit for a couple days. We spent the night with him at Hippie Cove. See the post "Last Holdouts".
"And when you took me to fine dining on my birthday and gave me the beautiful flower basket (that I kept alive all summer!)?" For dinner in McCarthy, the only place to have a not-so-expensive meal is at the bar. For a nice restaurant, you go next door to The Lodge. Excellent food! He brought me a Fuscia plant for my birthday in early June and it still looks great!
"And fun Fridays at the Bonieks'?" These are the friends who recommend Austin for the job here in McCarthy. Austin knows Martin Boniek from flying in northern Colorado. We would eat together with them on Friday nights and watch the weekly softball game from inside their living room through picture windows. That way, we didn't have to sit outside with the mosquitos.
"And when SteveO [Steve Opp] was going to visit for a week and ended up staying here until after we leave? And how he came up on an illegal bike al the way from Anchorage?" This one's pretty self-explanatory, and why we sometimes call him "Wild Opp".
"And our trip to the Fosse? And the 'Japanese Garden' that words nor pictures could describe?" See the post about Remote camping.
"And how you got confused for every 'Scott' in town?" There are three guys named Scott in McCarthy and they all have brownish hair and red beards. The most common mistake was thinking Austin was the Wrangell Mountain Air dispatcher, Scott, or that Scott was the pilot Austin.
"And when I made mashed potatoes and breakfast burritos for dinner?" Meals get weird at the end of the summer when you're down to items such as peanut butter, potatoes, sun dried tomatoes, and summer sausage!
"And how Natalie said you fit in well? And how Bill told Kelly you were doing things above and beyond?" What can I say about this besides, "people just love Austin"?
"And when I made a friend and went hiking with her?" Austin makes friends easier than I do, so having a friend in McCarthy was great! She worked as a dispatcher and we had the same days off so one day we hiked to the Jumbo mine together. It was great fun and Austin teases me about being proud of me for making a friend.
"And when you rode in the Fourth of July parade?" The parade in McCarthy is so short, all the floats go around the town twice. The Wrangell Mountain Air float theme was "bush pilots" so the pilots rode in a jeep all decked out in branches and leaves--get it? Bush pilots! Austin was also given a confetti cap gun that he shot towards the crowd but he saved a couple shots...
"And how you got revenge on Don?" The revenge was for setting him up with the supposed first-time vomiting flier with the leaky bear spray described before. He ran out to Don's plane as he was about to taxi onto the runway and flagged him down as if there were something wrong with his plane. When Don opened the door to see what was the matter Austin finished off his confetti ammunition and filled the plane with the celebration of revenge (that likely took a while to clean up)!
"And your raft trip and mud adventure?" Austin got to go on an all-day raft adventure with one of the local guide companies on his day off. The highlight of the trip--aside from an awesome lunch, swell guides, and a trip back in the beaver (the coolest plane Wrangell Mountain Air has)--was getting out of the raft to "test" how soft the mud was. Turns out it was pretty soft so as he turned around to run to the boat, his left foot began sinking until the mud was almost knee-height. He couldn't get free until he sunk his arm into the mud and tugged and tugged at his heel. He earned the nickname "Austin Mudslide Robel" reminiscent of a famous Alaskan pilot's nickname "Mudhole Smith" (who earned his name after he landed into a mud hole...twice). The next day we were at the airstrip and while Austin was fueling up an airplane, I heard tourist say, "that's Austin, the crazy guy who got stuck in the mud... He's a pilot! That's a little unnerving!"
"And trivia nights?" Every other Tuesday night was trivia night at the bar. It was also taco Tuesday which started as chicken or steak tacos for $3 each. The next trivia night, the tacos were ground beef (think Taco Bell tacos) and chicken. The following weeks offered bean or ground beef tacos;slowly, $3 seemed like too much money and we ate beforehand and showed up for trivia--which we were terrible at, but we learned important facts like... "A drop of water can hit Skolai Lake and run through four different waterways before reaching an ocean." Apparently most places don't have that many tributaries between an origin and an ocean. Who knew?
"And how we spent all day at Tebay floating, chasing ducks, picking blueberries, reading Frankenstein, and watching a wind wall hit us?" Tebay is a gorgeous fishing lake close to McCarthy but you have to fly in. Austin and I didn't bring fishing gear but we borrowed Don's two-person ducky and floated on the lake for most of the day. We've been reading Frankenstein aloud together throughout the summer and read it for several hours that day. We could almost see Frankenstein's monster bounding up the hills around us and begin to swim toward us on the lake. While in the boat it was eerily still but we watched as the wind picked up on the test side of the lake. It took several minutes before the initial wall of wind hit us--it was so strange to see it approaching. After we rowed to shore, we picked blueberries which are much smaller than what I as used to in Texas and grow on the ground rather than on a bush. But boy oh boy the taste was the same!
"And our all-day freezing cold, but awesome, glacier tour, and getting a new camera cause our warranty was still good"? See the post "Check out this pretty girl" that Austin wrote about exploring the Root Glacier. Our camera got wet and wouldn't work after that trip, so we sent it in and they gave us a new one! (Same make and model, but it's great anyhow.)
"And teaching me to drive a manual four-wheeler?" Austin gave me a ten minute lesson and released me to drive out of town to our friend's parked car and load it up for the winter. He's gonna have to repeat this lesson next year--I'll forget it all after just barely catching on.
"And when you were with me as I saw my first moose?" See the post about the Bear on a Four Wheeler.
"Wanna come back with me next year?" The answer is a definite YES!