Outsiders: Tom Milliron

Juneau's outdoor lives

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2007

Age: 51.

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Occupation: principal at Floyd Dryden Middle School.

Favorite outdoor activities: hunting, fishing, snorkeling, diving, outdoor stuff in general.

Favorite sports: In general I love college football and NBA playoff time.

Favorite outdoor spot: sitting on a Sunday morning in a cafe in Amsterdam and watching the city wake up.

Close encounter: We were hunting caribou in the Alaskan Range south of Fairbanks, and we flew into what's called King's Bench area. There are three long benches and we always land on the middle bench in a wheeled Cessna.

The weather was really nice. We spent three nights out, had our caribou. We boned out all the meat so we don't have as much weight to bring back in the plane and don't have to make as many trips. It was raining the last night we were there, and we had prepared to fly out first thing in the morning. We had the plane sitting there next to the tent.

In the middle of the night, I woke up and noticed it stopped raining and thought: "Oh that's nice, we won't have rain to fly out in tomorrow and don't have to worry about low-lying clouds." A little later, I got up to go to the bathroom and went out of the tent and realized the reason the rain had stopped is 'cause it turned to snow and was coming down very hard.

By the time it was first daylight there was no way we were getting the plane out, so we radioed into Fairbanks and asked if a plane could fly in and drop some skis so we could change the wheels from the plane ...

Nobody could fly in. ... So we ended up spending one more night there, and the snow continued to come down, and we weren't sure how much longer this was going to last. So we made the plane as light as we could by taking all our gear and the meat out, and we stomped in the snow to try to make tracks for the tires to roll on.

We started up the plane and gave it a lot of throttle to get it to move forward, and my two buddies were pushing on the struts of wings to give it the momentum to pad down the snow. ...

We decided we were going to go for it. We got in the plane, and I gave it full throttle. ... I was hanging on to one strut at this time and another buddy is hanging on the other strut to give the plane some wing traction in the snow and the other friend is sitting in the pilot seat, full throttle, and I jumped the front seat, my buddy jumped in the back seat.

My friend in the pilot seat yelled, "Lean forward! Lean forward!" so we are all leaning forward, and we hit the side of the bench, and the stall warning is going.

He put the nose down to dive down along the bench ... and it picked up enough momentum to bring the nose up, and we got out.

A day later we went back in. We did not think our meat would be left, but it was. So we picked up our meat and made two trips back. So that whole thing was scary but also exciting at the same time.

•Outsiders is a weekly profile in the Juneau Empire's Outdoors section.

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