Jul 20, 2006

PACK CREEK, Alaska: Our Cessna 206 skims into an Admiralty Island cove. The pilot wades in his Xtra Tuffs – the ubiquitous brown rubber boots of Alaska – yanking the Amphib's tail until it grounds about 15 feet from the cobblestone shore.

“Don't you dare carry me,” I grouch. “I used to be wilderness guide and I haven't degraded into a complete cream puff.” I crunch barefoot across the barnacles. Scratches tendril pink into the clear water: smoke signals from my childhood on a Pacific Northwest beach.

But I'm elated – giddy like a freshly licensed 16-year-old with Mom's Miata. For eight years, I've dreamt of floatplanes, ever since one nearly parted my hair, as I cowered, a novice kayaker on Lake Union in Seattle. The props' drone, the rooster plumes of spray, the bootleggers' turn on the water: these machines embody both grace and grit.

"You have a crush on a plane," my friend Edward notes. "You, the woman without a car."

"Yes," I admit. "But unlike my taste in men, I picked a good one, at least."

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