Wrangell Mountain Air
Flying Wrangell-St. Elias National Park since 1992
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Journal

Journal entries by Wrangell Mountain Air staff and friends sharing fun flight adventures, backcountry explorations, discoveries, memories, and local news.

We've Seen Fire and We've Seen Rain

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…we’ve seen sunny days we thought would never end…

But they did! Thankfully, a couple of beautiful rainy days have come our way. There remains a fire in our distant neighborhood (outside Chitina a little ways) but the danger here in our valley, at least according to Smokey Bear, has been reduced to “moderate”! And we could barely be more thrilled.

The only thing dampening our enthusiasm about the rainfall is the low ceiling that has come with it. Flights today were mostly cancelled due to the low-hovering cloud cover which means we’ve sent a number of vans to transport people in-and-out of Chitina and the Kennicott Valley. It’s a bummer, but as they say, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” The guests driving out today were able to fly in with us and we are hoping to fly each of the incoming visitors out on their departure date.

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So, what happens after a dry and fiery summer up here? Fireweed happens. This lovely flower was so named because it is the first thing to grow following a forest fire or, alternatively, because its leaves turn an intense burning red in the autumn making entire mountainsides appear ablaze.

Fireweed thrives in recently disturbed soil. The photo here, taken days ago on a flightsee, shows fireweed in full bloom 12 miles south of McCarthy where a fire consumed 12,000+ acres in 2016. Strangely, this area had just burned in 2009; rarely does a fire occur on the heels of another but, as seen here, nature sometimes breaks its own standards. It’s cyclical: first emerges the fireweed, followed by green ground cover, then alders, willow, cottonwood, and decades from now this area will become a spruce forest which will be food for the spruce beetle. Lightening will strike again and a year or two later our descendants will take photos like this of fireweed fields.

For now we are enjoying the stage of reforestation we are in. Here’s to finding beauty in the rain and being thankful for flowers following fires.

Shannon Robel