Outdoors in Maine: Even pilots are humbled by flying

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Grandiose delusions are not unknown to me.

As a young man, the challenges of a Navy carrier pilot appealed to me — until I joined the Navy and saw how inherently dangerous it is to land a jet aircraft on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier on a dark and stormy night. No thank you.

Later, as a civilian private pilot who owned and flew an antique airplane, I set out to be a high-time bush pilot. Then I had a taste of Maine bush flying in marginal weather.

From my book, “Backtrack”:

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Once on a return flight from ice fishing at Chemo Pond, my nephew and I ran into freezing rain. With the ice-laden windscreen obscuring my forward vision, we managed to get the airplane back to Brewer and on the ground by looking out the side windows. My nephew’s voice changed an octave during that flight, and he never flew with me again.

That same winter, during a bumpy solo hop to Seboeis Lake, a snow squall began pounding me over Alton. While struggling to maintain airspeed and get the airplane’s skis onto Boyd Lake, my backseat passenger — a pair of pickerel snowshoes — fell off the back seat and got jammed between the seat and the rear control stick. The situation became awkward. Since the front and rear control sticks are wired together, I suddenly lost pitch-up control of the flailing yellow bird. (This is not good, and especially not good in a windy, limited visibility condition.) Thankfully, my luck held. After some hair-raising moments, I was able to reach back, hold up the snowshoes with my right hand and control a landing with my left hand.

No thank you, again.

Charles Darwin nailed it: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

What does happen with shattered self-delusions, at least for me, is that you develop an abiding respect and admiration for those intrepid souls who do land on aircraft carriers or high-time Maine bush pilots — especially those who live long enough to write a book about their adventures.

Jake Morrel is such a man. A high-time Maine bush flyer, who ran Hardscrabble Lodge at Spencer Lake with his wife Beth, Morrell has a new book titled “Hardscrabble Lodge.” The book is full of true Maine bush flying stories. It is well done. I liked it a lot. You will, too.

Morrel is retired and, in his final chapter about reflections, he raises the rhetorical question: “Do I miss flying every day?”

His answer did not surprise me.

“Frankly, no! Great mental pressure accompanied those flights because often conditions were far from ideal.”

Truth be known, Morrel is not the first person who, having a vocation that had him on the edge too many times, looks back in head-shaking amazement. In this book, Hardscrabble Lodge, Morrel takes the reader with him and shares, in entertaining details, some of these flying adventures in the Maine back country.

Hardscrabble Lodge is a soft cover book published by Maine Authors Publishing, in Rockland ,$21.95, www.maineauthorspublishing.com.

The author is editor of the “Northwoods Sporting Journal.” He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News – Talk Network.” He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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