If you’re reading this blog, I think it’s safe to say that you’ve spent your fair share of time on airplanes for pleasure and for work. These days, airline travel doesn’t hold nearly the same appeal and status as it did in the 1950’s when people actually tried to look nice and treated the experience as a privilege when they took to the skies. It seems that more and more of the passengers on my flights are in sweat pants, UGG boots, and sunglasses, their hair suffering from a long night before the flight. More frequently than not, air travel feels a lot more like a burden than a privilege. For the past three months, I’ve driven everywhere on my travels and I’ve logged A LOT of miles on the road. To be honest, it’s been pretty nice avoiding airports, TSA security lines, and full body scans, but it was probably time for a change.
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest and it’s exceeded my expectations, which, I have to admit, were very high. Oregon and Washington are an intense variation of scenes: dramatic coastlines guarded by rocks and cliffs, dense forests with fairytale-like trees, and rivers that flow strong and clear with runs of salmon and wild trout. Needless to say, the opportunities for adventure are nearly endless even for the most avid explorer.
In contrast to the wild areas of the PNW, Victoria, BC offers a relaxing departure from cold lake baths and nights spent boondock camping off the grid. The city of Victoria sits on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island, separated from Seattle, WA by the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There are basically two ways to make the trip from there directly to Victoria — ferry or float plane. While I hated leaving my adventure mobile behind, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to break up my trend of driving make the trip by floatplane to the island and return to the US by high-speed ferry.
The most epic of all the workhorse float planes is the de Havilland line. They’re classics and daily drivers at the same time. de Havilland was founded in late 1920 and created aircraft that revolutionized aviation, completed military missions, and set air travel standards worldwide. My flight was not so wild or extraordinary, but for me, it was a milestone. I’ve wanted to fly in one of these puppies for a long time, and next time I’m hoping that it will be taking me and a quiver of fly rods to a remote lodge in Alaska.
Friends and colleagues who have flown in float planes before say that the takeoff and landing was a little like a controlled car wreck, that the ride itself was slow and awful, and that the cabin smelled like exhaust. I didn’t know exactly what we were in for, but I was pretty sure we’d have to make a crash landing in order for me to be disappointed with the experience. Our flight was nothing short of flawless, with only a little bit of exhaust mixed in to fit the scene. It wasn’t first class and there was no beverage service, but the experience was worth the loss of the niceties of your traditional aircraft.
We departed Seattle, using Lake Union as our runway. We taxied onto the lake, past fishing trawlers and yachts, past floating home communities on the lakeshore, and made what is normally a three hour ferry ride to Victoria in just under an hour by air. While the opportunity for photography wasn’t the best (plane windows are never that clean), it was a thrill taking images out of my window and peering out at the remote islands, some settled, but many unmarred by man. Maybe next time I’ll be able to be strapped in the cabin while we keep the door open and fly at low altitude while I hang out the door with my camera.