When did it start getting dark at night? It didn't seem like we travelled all that far today, but apparently we have not only re-entered so-called civilization, we have re-entered a land of real sunsets and sunrises. While Fairbanks may still be a long way from home, it is also feels a long way from our camp at Raven Bluff.
The day began, as many of ours have over the past two weeks, with the not-so-gentle pitter-patter of rain on my tent around 5am. When I heard that sound I was glad we had spent the time last night cleaning and packing all the archaeological equipment. Now all I had to worry about was packing my personal gear.
The clouds hung low while we ate breakfast and got a jump-start on the day with some coffee and tried to finish up some of the 4 dozen bagels that were left over in our camp food supplies. Were we going to be able to fly today?
As it turned out, the weather was a bit better outside of our camp area and we were able to get all of us and our gear to the landing strip at the Red Dog Mine. We went through the piles one more time. Every item had to be weighed and labeled so that the loads would match the capacity of the helicopter and plane that carried it.
Stan Hermen's R44 could carry some of the gear, but we also used a larger helicopter, an A-Star to ferry one load of people with a 'sling load' attached below--gear hanging in a spider web below the helicopter.
Natasha and I were the first two to go--and even had the added bonus of showers at the Mine dormitory while we were waiting for everyone else and everything to arrive. There just didn't seem to be any reason to stand around outside on the runway in the rain--why not go inside and take a shower??!! It certainly seemed like a good idea.
At 3pm our charter flight arrived, a Bering Air Service Cessna Caravan. 6 of us and most of the gear loaded up and headed south to Fairbanks.
The other 4 members of our group went on a different flight to Kotzebue, where they would store some gear at a BLM warehouse before returning to Fairbanks on the 9th.
The flight to Fairbanks took around 3 hours. We stepped off the plane into the relative summer 'heat' and sunshine. We were standing on 'real' pavement by 6:30. By 8PM, after spreading all my wet gear across every available surface in my hotel room, I was surveying the benefits of a second hot shower. According to my careful research, it was a very good thing!