The Traveling Polosons
Explorers of the Yukon for three decades
In 1978, Bert and Grace Poloson, both licensed pilots, flew a wheeled Cessna 182 from their Montana home into northern Canada. From the air, they surveyed the expansive scenery and the myriad remote lakes, and they pondered what it would be like if they brought a floatplane on their next trip.
So in 1979, the Polosons, now licensed to fly seaplanes, purchased a Cessna 185 equipped with floats, and set course for the Yukon. Their plan was to explore the Canadian lakes for a few weeks, then sell the aircraft and return to “wheels.”
That journey was 27 years ago, and this summer—as they have every year without fail since that initial floatplane expedition—the couple will load up their Cessna 185 and point the floats north to explore isolated Canadian lakes and visit the many friends they’ve made in the remote regions of Canada, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
The Cessna 185’s logbook perfectly summarizes the nature of the floatplane addiction: Chief pilot Bert Poloson has 70 flying hours on wheels, but 3,700 hours on floats.
As in years past, the Polosons’ adventure will begin with a very fully loaded takeoff from Flathead Lake in northwest Montana. The first stop will be Porthill, Idaho, where the couple will file a flight plan (required for border crossing) and clear Canadian customs. Bert comments, “You call a minimum of two hours ahead of arrival, and then you wait in your plane for the customs inspectors. They’re usually surprised to find out that we’re...older.” Bert Poloson will be 80 on his next birthday.
From the border, the Polosons make an overnight stop at Egan Lake, then they continue on to Williams Lake for refueling at the Port Williams Seaplane Base. Next, they set course for Lake Athabasca in the remote northeast corner of Alberta, before flying on to the Northwest Territories.
At least, that’s the plan, but the advice of Grace Poloson carries wisdom borne of experience: “Don’t commit to a plan. Don’t have a schedule. You have to watch the weather; you have to be willing to change course and land at a different lake. And you have to carry enough equipment and supplies to just wait. You may be sitting inside a tent for several days, until the weather improves.”
To prepare for such situations, the Polosons reference the pages of handwritten notes that they’ve accumulated over the years. As Grace explains, “Make a list, then weigh everything on the list. It’s all a calculation of the weight of an item compared to how badly you really need it. And there are a lot of ways to save weight. We strip all the cardboard packaging off food before we leave. Our ax has a short handle—it saves a few ounces.”