Pacifica (autumnwinds) wrote,

Take your plane and go

Sometimes, being in the wilderness doesn’t really feel like being in the wilderness. Sometimes, that’s because I feel really connected to the outside world, as I do when I’m online. Sometimes, it’s because the outside world comes to us, perhaps with more frequency than we would really like.

For the past month, the airspace above us has been choked with recreational flyers every morning. It seems like as soon as the buzz from one aircraft dies away, another one comes along right behind it. The River of No Return Wilderness is a really popular place to fly small aircraft…Harrison Ford does it…but I’m really ready for it to stop.

The thing is, we have aircraft come here several times a week…our mail planes, visiting students, visiting professors and researchers, Idaho Fish and Game crew…all sorts. We have to meet those planes to get our deliveries, move equipment, or get people settled in. Therefore, every time I hear an engine, I have to stop what I’m doing, go outside (if I’m not there already), locate the plane, and determine if it’s circling to land or if it’s a plane I recognize (there are about five, although only two come here on any regular basis).

Normally (or ideally), I’ll have to do this maybe twice a day. Lately, I’ve had to do it maybe twenty or thirty times a day, sometimes while I’m still in bed in the morning. It doesn’t help that some nearby (30 miles) guest ranches have “fly-ins” for recreational pilots, or that some pilots are curious about who we are and will circle around and around our airstrip to get a look at us with no intention of landing, while we have to scramble for the ground-to-air radio and find out what their intentions are and if they’re in distress. If it’s a plane we’re expecting, a plane that circles and doesn’t land is either waiting for us to clear the runway (of people, equipment, or hoses), wants to know our wind speed at the ground level, or is probably having problems with their flaps.

Recreational users have priority over researchers in wilderness areas. If a researcher comes across somebody hiking or fishing while they’re working, we’re not supposed to interfere with the recreational users for fear of disturbing their “wilderness experience.” In the past, fishermen have gotten really angry when a researcher even says hello to them, since their perception of total solitude has been disrupted. But these aerial recreationalists are really putting some major holes in my wilderness experience. It’s like living in a airshow.

It won’t last forever. Soon the weather will get too hot for anyone to fly much, and we’ll only see planes in the cool hours of the morning and evening. But until then, it is aggravating.

You heard me, Harrison Ford.

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