Alan & Teri's Travels travel blog

Smokejumper's DC-3

Smokejumper Gear

Start odometer: 43,961 End odometer: 44,038

When we woke up this morning it was 50 degrees in the camper and in the mid-40's outside. We have changed time zones again.

Since we had no electricity, it was instant coffee this morning. YECHH and BLECH. It’s only saving grace is that it contains caffeine.

When we started the van, A noticed that the “check engine” light was on. Oh joy! We continued to travel east toward Missoula and a Chevy dealership.

In travel literature and on the trip west, T had noticed a National Smokejumper Center. We visited the National Forest Service Aerial Fire Depot and Smokejumper Center and were given an hour or so tour by Chris, who has been a Smokejumper for 5 years. It was fascinating and we really learned a lot.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, Smokejumpers are highly trained specialists who parachute into remote areas of national forests to fight the spread of wildfires. The nation’s largest training base for Smokejumpers is the one in Missoula.

We toured the parachute loft and training facilities and even sat aboard the DC-3 that was modified with turbine engines and is always packed and ready with the supplies needed to fight a fire. It can hold up to 22 Smoke jumpers.

We learned that the packs these firefighters jump with, which contain some water, dehydrated foods, sleeping bags and everything they need to put out fires, weigh about 100 pounds.

We got to see the room where they check and repair parachutes. An auxiliary chute was being checked and repaired and Chris explained all of the parts of the chute. We found out that individuals who pack and repair chutes must be FAA certified to do so.

The Smokejumpers, both male and female, are accomplished seamstresses (or sewers). Since their field is so specialized, they sew a lot of the gear bags they use. They also appear to sew some packs for sale to tourists.

It was an amazing learning adventure.

Now that we saw something of interest, it was time to face the vehicle problem. We stopped at Karl Tyler Chevrolet and they were very helpful in fitting us in for a repair. They suggested the KOA in Missoula so we could drop the trailer and provided a courtesy car while they had our van in the shop. The intake manifold gasket needed replacement. Parts where cheap, but the labor was intensive. As of this evening, the van is repaired and we’ll be on our way again tomorrow.

The KOA in Missoula is pleasant enough as are the owners and people working there. Unfortunately, Missoula has “mushroomed” around it. It’s next door neighbor on one side is the back of a large shopping mall and townhouses are rapidly being constructed on the other side. The location is not what we prefer in campgrounds but we did need to get the van repaired.

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