Day 52 – July 27, 2001 – We woke up this morning in Muncho Lake to a slight overcast but it cleared off pretty quickly. We had made arrangements last night to take a flightseeing tour this morning and were eager to see as much as possible. All of us but Joyce and Ken met our pilot, Urs Schildknecht, at the seaplane we would be taking. Urs has owned the Northern Rockies Lodge for 14 years but has had a flying service in Muncho Lake for nearly 10 years. His plane was immaculate and extremely well-maintained. As he told us, “I’m selfish. It isn’t just your life I’m concerned about; it’s mine.” Nancy got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat while the others stuffed into the remaining seats. Six passengers is a little crowded but we didn’t care. None of us had ever been in a seaplane before but after idling around on the lake surface for a few minutes, we took off as though we are on the ground. We flew up over the lake, around and over the mountains (where we saw two herds of mountain goats) and down through the valley leading back to the lake. While we were up there, Urs let Nancy take the controls (briefly) which was pretty exciting. We were all disappointed when we returned to the Lodge and were amazed when we touched down on the water without even a bump. The only way we knew we were down was the fan of water coming out from the pontoon. It was a wonderful flight, even if only for 30 minutes, and gave us a chance to see the landscape off of the Alaska Highway.
Later, it was time to check the cars. Jennifer had had a little problem with the coupe misfiring and Ross had heard a funny clicking noise in the pick-up. They checked and tightened and oiled and examined. They found a loose wire in the coupe that probably caused the misfiring. Unfortunately,they found a problem in the pick-up truck that was more serious. We had joked about finding a problem with one of the cars that could delay us in Muncho Lake but it was supposed to be on Ross’s car and it was not supposed to be serious. They found a chip in the rear axle shaft that was causing the wheel to be loose. It could have led to a breakdown like the one Ross suffered out on the road to Prudhoe Bay. In case you were wondering where we would ever find an axle out in the middle of nowhere – Bruce had brought one from England in his luggage! (When Ross had broken his axle on the way to Prudhoe Bay, he had called Jennifer Pardue, our friend who works for us in Bryan. Jennifer had called Bruce with the list of parts Ross wanted,. Bruce carried a bag of parts, including an axle, with him on the plane.)
Urs, our pilot, has a wonderful hanger for his planes which he had shown us earlier. Ben talked to him and he allowed us to move the pick-up into the hanger to work on it. That got us a level floor, a clean work area, and out of the rain that came later in the afternoon. The car was repaired and running again by 9:00 pm that night. We didn’t get to take the boar ride around the lake we had talked about but we avoided a potentially dangerous breakdown on the road through the mountains tomorrow.
We met for dinner afterward and celebrated the successful repair. This group has become like a pit crew in terms of the speedy repairs. Ross commented that he wouldn’t really know what to do with himself if we got in some evening and there was nothing to do to the cars. The rest of us wouldn’t mind him being a little bored.