Thursday, May 28, 2015

365 True Things: 61/Helicopters

The first time I rode in a helicopter was in 1990, flying from (as it was then called) Leningrad to a lake in Karelia—part of a month-long stay in the USSR hunting mushrooms. Later on, we had another round-trip helicopter ride between Irkutsk and Tuva. Аэрофло́т does (or at least did) helicopters. These probably started life as troop transport helos. Comfy, they were not; but they got us to remote places without landing strips.

More recently, we've taken a couple of sightseeing helicopter rides in Zimbabwe, over Victoria Falls, and in Kauai ☜. There really is nothing like seeing the land from not too high up.

These days when I find myself in a helicopter, it's because I'm getting picked up or dropped off in the backcountry, for a Search & Rescue operation. We often have to hike many miles into the wilderness. And although strictly speaking helicopters aren't allowed in designated wilderness areas, at the end of the day I say rules shmules, especially when it comes to getting a ride back out.

In the case of this ride ☞ (a Blackhawk), we were dropped off deep in the John Muir Wilderness on the shore of Pearl Lake ➷ at 10,500 feet. Our assignment sheet said we'd be picked up—but if anything happened to make that impossible, we'd have to walk out. Our map was not sufficient to guiding our way out, plus we were talking a hike of thirty-plus miles. I was a teeny bit nervous when the helicopter left. But confidently hopeful that nothing would happen to make its return impossible. And as things turned out, it was back within a couple of hours! Our subject had been located, in fact very near to where we were dropped off. He was spotted from the air. Yes, helicopters come in very handy in Search & Rescue. (Sadly, we know that all too well from the recent plane crash in the French Alps.)

Growing up in Los Angeles, I used to associate helicopters with freeway traffic jams. Now whenever I hear the whump-whump of a chopper, my heart tenses and I wonder who's in trouble, who's getting rescued, and if they'll be okay.

No comments:

Post a Comment