It’s a Bird…

Nope, definitely a plane:


N4768B Cessna 180” by Jerry Gunner is licensed under CC BY 2.0


This is a Cessna 185. One of the two planes I’ve bestowed upon a main character in the novella I’m working on. It’s also a top choice for bush pilots in Alaska who brave the wildness of “the last frontier” to fly the wide open skies of the “great land.” (The former quotation is the state’s nickname, which seems quite fitting, while the latter refers to “Aleyska,” the Aleut word for which Alaska derives its name.)

The Cessna can carry 5 people plus the pilot and fly at speeds up to 178mph with a range of about 830 miles. Because of the varied landscape, the plane can be equipped with sleds, floats, shown below, or nice robust wheels for landing on rough and rocky terrain. The high wings make it ideal for short runways that are common in areas without airports or airstrips.

The other plane my main character flies is a Piper PA-18 Super Cub:



This little beauty only seats two, including the pilot, but is another favorite. It’s smaller, slower, and a little less powerful, but it gets the job done.

Planes, and bush pilots, are an integral part of transportation in the state due to the lack of highways and roads, especially to more remote towns and villages, but there are also extensive marine transportation and railway systems in place to make up for it.

Another mode of transport that falls more on the traditional side of Alaskan culture is that of dogsleds, which have been used by Alaskan Natives for centuries.


Now, it’s more of a sport with the Iditarod being the most infamous dogsled race in the world. It’s held every year in March on a rugged trail over a thousand miles long that runs from Anchorage to Nome. The race is named after a trail that was named after a town that was named after a river, the origin of which can be traced back to “Haidilatna” the Athabascan word for “distant or far off place.”

The race is also a commemoration of the Great Race of Mercy in which 20 mushers and their 150 sled dogs relayed a cure for diphtheria to Nome during an outbreak of the disease. What’s more interesting is that the lead dog, Balto, that carried the serum into town has his own statue in Central Park.


Balto and his musher Gunnar Kaasen

Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco” by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0

He’s a quite famous dog, and you might’ve seen his statue, or a picture of it, before and not realized it’s history. That was the case for me. All this talk about sled dogs has me thinking about a reread of The Call of the Wild, a book a did a report on in middle school. Except I didn’t read the whole thing, oops.

I’ll leave you with this ridiculously adorable Alaskan Malamute pup: