My eyes darted to and fro as I desperately tried to imprint the image before me into my brain. This wasn’t necessary. Little did I know that the view–and the day–would be one I could never forget.
It was 10:30 in the morning of June 25th, 2015. My mom, brother and I were all in the small city of Ketchikan, Alaska. It’s a cute little place, with colorful houses on stilts and fishing boats battered from their many years of use. We, along with hundreds of others, had just come off our cruise ship, excited to stretch our legs on land and see what this part of Alaska has to offer us. After a brief walk around town and a quick stop for a souvenir, my family and I made our way to the water’s edge. My head buzzed with excitement as I saw the floatplanes lined up along the dock, awaiting their next eager passengers. We were about to take a journey to nearby Misty Fjords National Monument, a stunning space filled with glacial valleys, evergreens, and mountains.
After signing some papers and being given the usual safety talk, we were loaded onto the small plane and sent off. Headphones on my ears and a camera in my hand, I was simply awe-stricken as we soared under, through, and above the misty clouds. While we curved through the mountains, our amiable pilot pointed out small waterfalls and wildlife below us. It was easily the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Just as I thought it couldn’t get any better, the pilot slowly lowered the plane onto the water beneath us. We climbed out onto the floating pontoon and stood there for a good five minutes.
It was completely silent.
It was completely beautiful.
In my bright yellow raincoat, I stood in the middle of a quiet ocean inlet, surrounded by vast mountains covered with lush trees and hugged by the clouds. It was breathtaking.
Later that day, after we had returned to the cruise ship and the excitement had died down, we sat on the deck and awaited our departure from Ketchikan. It was late to depart and for good reason: eight of its passengers had not yet returned from their floatplane excursion. They never would.
They left less than an hour after we did, flying with the same company and through the same mountains. They probably gasped at the same views.
The plane crashed into the side of a cliff. They say the mist was too heavy. Nobody on board survived.
As the cruise ship captain announced this over the speakers, my family and I stared at each other in shock. We didn’t say anything for a long time. There was simply nothing to say.
Half and hour later. This was all I could think. How could there be death in a place so beautiful?
Perhaps it was a reminder. A reminder to never let your guard down in the wild.
Perhaps it was revenge. Nature’s way of telling us that she, too, can kill.
Or, perhaps it was an accident. Maybe mother nature simply took the word “breathtaking” too literally.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.