Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Greetings from Fort Simpson where spring has finally sprung and where we are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures of 24 degrees (75 for those of you still in the dark ages of scientific units) for the past couple of days.

More correctly I suppose I should say, greetings from Nahanni Butte, where I have flown to today and will be earning good money to sit on my butt all day and wait for my passengers to complete their work.

To pass the time today, I will be writing this blog for you.

Anyway….this great warm weather. It has been a long time coming and it signals many changes for life up here, surprisingly, most of them unpleasant. Oh sure, not having to endure bitter cold is all well and good, but it comes at a price. First, the warm temperatures mean melting snow…lots of it. And in a town where there are more dirt streets than paved ones, lots of melting snow means lots of sloppy mud. It also means lots of sloppy mud on and around our runway and aircraft parking ramp which are also unpaved.

This in turn leads to a great deal of ‘fun’ while trying to taxi and park the airplanes. Basically it turns normal flying into something of a hybrid of flying and off-roading. The result…..airplanes get messy and inevitably, stuck.

Oh mud, how I loathe thee. Thank god for rubber boots.
Another unfortunate side effect of all this muck and mire is cast upon responsible dog owners, such as myself. It would seem that my best pal Buddy, has a deep affinity for being as absolutely and thoroughly dirty as possible during this time of year. Until yesterday, I had done an admirable job of keeping him on a relatively short leash and quite clean. However, he’s an extremely energetic sort, and still does need plenty of off-leash exercise. Yesterday evening he just would not be denied his rite of passage into spring. You see, the lovely girlfriend and I went over to the crew house to enjoy the nice weather out on the deck with good friends and a frosty malted beverage or two. We decided we would bring the dogs (or, ‘the babies’, as she likes to call them) so that they too could enjoy the beautiful weather. Buddy was thoroughly enjoying his time, and engaging in his usual stick-obsessed, neurotic behaviour by running to the woodpile and returning with whole logs of firewood and laying them at people’s feet, hoping that someone would take the bait. Someone did. Despite my protests, someone grabbed that log and threw it as far as a normal person can throw a ten-pound log. It was game over. Buddy spent the next twenty minutes chasing and retrieving this mammoth hunk of wood, making unnecessary detours through the mud, just to piss me off, I’m sure. And finally, when he was too hot from all the running and heavy lifting, he located the biggest, deepest, most foul, mosquito larvae-infested puddle of standing water and laid right down in it to cool off while he slurped it up in big, panting gulps. If I wasn’t so sure he was in heaven and experiencing the most pure joy he possibly could at that very moment, I would have been mad. But all I could do was chuckle as everyone howled in laughter at the dejected look on my face, knowing that I was going to have to add ‘Bathe Dog’ to my list of things to do before bed.
Speaking of Buddy, he was able to spend some time with his son Brodie recently, as his master is out of town, leaving me with the opportunity to steal him away occasionally so he and his pops can enjoy some father-son time. Of course that consists mostly of the younger, bigger and faster Brodie running circles and taunting his older slower dad until Buddy gets cranky enough to put him in his place.

Then they come inside for a nap.
Brodie is a funny dog, and despite coming across like a big dumb oaf, I think he’s smarter than he lets on. For instance, when he’s hungry or thirsty, he doesn’t bark or whine like some other dogs might. He just picks up the appropriate doggie bowl and brings it to you.
The only one who doesn’t like Brodie is Rocky. She is definitely not a fan. I think it’s because of his size (he’s more like a cross between a dog and a moose) and the fact that he has no concept of personal space. Little ten-pound Rocky does not appreciate big six-foot-tall-when-he-stands-on-his-hind-legs Brodie getting right up in her face.
Another little unpleasant harbinger of spring reared it’s ugly head yesterday…
Yes, the dreaded mosquitoes are back. Not quite in full force yet, but the first few big bloodsuckers were out yesterday doing their best to make life miserable. Hopefully the weather gods will be kind to us and help us eradicate this pestilence early. We are forecast to enjoy this nice warm weather until the weekend at which time a little cold snap is supposed to occur. With any luck, the warmth will hatch most of the bugs just in time for a nice crisp cold couple of days to kill them all off, hopefully leaving us with a relatively mosquito-free couple of months. Fingers crossed; here’s hoping.
Perhaps the biggest change that the warm weather brings is that, as of yesterday at noon, all of us residents of Fort Simpson are somewhat trapped here on the island. Our ice-crossing has closed, limiting access to the outside world to strictly fly-in/out.
Good news for my paycheque, as now we will be getting very busy at work. Bad news for my wallet when I go to the store to buy a ten-dollar jug of milk thanks to the additional cost of having to sling all groceries across the river by helicopter. We all just have to grin and bear it now as we wait for the river to finally let go and (hopefully) start moving so the ferry boats can be put in the water.
Speaking of helicopters, I got to go for my very first helicopter ride recently. My friend Roger is a pilot for Canadian Helicopters here in town, and when he learned that I had never been in one before he arranged to take Susie and I for a ride around town.
Now I had always bugged Roger about being a helicopter pilot. You know, the usual jokes about preferring to trust the safety of an aircraft where the wings are attached to and moving at the same speed as the fuselage as opposed to whirling and gyrating wildly above. But really that was all just a front because I’ve always secretly thought that it would be super-cool to fly a helicopter. Well, the ride confirmed it. It was awesome. For me at least. Susie….well…..she’s a bit less brave and was hanging on for dear life with her eyes closed most of the time, despite Roger keeping the flying very tame, much to my dismay.
It was just a quick little ride, but Roger showed a bit of what the chopper can do, took it into a tight little snowy spot in the trees out of town and all that good stuff. For me, I don’t think anything will ever top flying the Beaver on floats, but if I couldn’t do that, flying a chopper would be a pretty cool and pretty close second.
Much free time lately has been split between watching play off hockey (GO PENGUINS!) and time at the shooting range. My friend Brett, who is a former Wolverine Air pilot, has come back after two years of flying on the west coast. He is an avid skeet-shooter so we have been out, throwing pop cans and whatever else we can downrange and blasting them out of the sky with the shotguns. It also gives me some time to enjoy my two new rifle additions to the arsenal, my Savage .22 and my Marlin .45-70.
I also spent some time recently going through some old pictures from a couple months ago that had been sitting on my camera’s data card, waiting to make it onto the laptop. I’ll leave you with a couple shots from a wintery scene in Nahanni Butte and my very beautiful and talented athlete of a girlfriend kicking butt at a hockey tournament.
Ah! I see a fly! I’m going to go kill it!

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