Having recently embarked on a fair number of adventures around the world, one of the questions I sometimes get asked is what my favorite airline is. No one expects the answer: Yakutat Coastal Airlines.
Never heard of them? I’d be surprised if you had. Their fleet is pretty limited, at two aircraft, and they only have one full-time pilot, Hans Munich. The passenger experience is a bit different as well. The seats are uncomfortable. There is no food or drink available on board. You even have to load your own luggage into the hold. But you’re not going to find many others operating the charter routes they do, and the in-flight views couldn’t be any better.
Our flight was the culmination of a grand adventure my wife and I took, along with a small group of friends, in the summer of 2012. The main reason for the trip was a twelve-day whitewater rafting trip on the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers through Glacier Bay National Park (Alaska), Kluane National Park and Preserve (Yukon Territory), and Tatshenshini-Alsek Park (British Columbia.)
Just getting to the starting point of the rafting trip was a logistical adventure in and of itself. It all started with a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Seattle, followed by an Alaska Airlines flight to Juneau, Alaska. Then, we hopped on the Alaska State Ferry for a spectacular four-hour trip up the Lynn canal to the small town of Haines.
In Haines, we stocked up on food, rented rafts and other gear, and hired transport for the final 100-mile drive to to the north. Our launch point into the wilderness was at the end of a rough road in Yukon Territory, at a place called Dalton Post. We spent 12 days on the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers running rapids, watching Bald Eagles soar overhead, embarking on some magnificent hikes, and trying to avoid grizzly bears.
The last few days of the trip brought us over the international boundary and into Glacier Bay National Park, where we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with glaciers. The highlight of the river trip was floating on Alsek Lake, surrounded by dozens of towering icebergs. Once we reached the end of the river trip at Dry Bay, there was no road to greet us – a grass landing strip was our only connection back to civilization.