“Oh shit!” These are not the words you want to hear from your pilot as he is landing your bush plane on a coastal beach known for bear viewing that, when guests come and go, also doubles as the runway. But that is exactly what our pilot exclaimed as he applied the brakes on our deHavilland Beaver and found the right brake to be non-functioning. We veered hard left up a tide line sand berm and over some driftwood and with a few bumps came to a stop. Our bush pilot, who looked to be all of 22 years old, didn’t say a word to us (perhaps a few calming words might have been nice after our not-so-smooth landing…) but quickly jumped out to assess the damage to his cherished, coddled, coveted airplane. We had just learned that these planes were produced sometime around the 1950’s and are still in vogue today — perhaps even more so now than when they were flown by the military back in their heyday, and especially up here in the Alaskan bush; they’re the plane of choice, so taking one out is a very serious matter! Anyway….
That was not the most auspicious welcome to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, but such as it was we were on the ground safely on the shores of Cook Inlet in Lake Clark National Park. Fred and a couple of nearby guides pushed the plane and an ATV was used to pull it back out to the beach runway so it could take back off with the outgoing guests. We were sure glad we were on the incoming flight and not the outgoing one that had to land in the same plane as our ‘eventful’ landing!! Honestly, it all happened so fast and nobody was hurt and now it’s just a great story! Turns out we ran out of brake fluid, so the guys added some more and with that the plane was all set. And we saw the same young pilot a couple of days later with the same plane, so he clearly landed the group after us with no problems.
Silver Salmon Creek Lodge would turn out to be my favorite of all the places we stayed during our five-week Alaska adventure. Had we known how great the bear viewing would be here, how delicious the food was, how comfortably we we would sleep after long days in the great outdoors, and how easy it was to relax — be it in the cozy, casual lodge or outside around the bonfire pit under the northern night sky — we would have booked a much longer stay! Lodge owner/host David Corey and the entire SSCL staff created a wonderful environment for their guests to take pleasure in whatever it was they wanted to. For me, this was a true off-the-grid Alaskan wilderness experience, and how fortunate we are to have experienced and enjoyed such a place.