Con Trails

Our winter, besides being colder than anyone likes, has provided some stellar opportunities for flying adventure. In spite of not being able to fly in the left seat (hand issues), I’ve had a few thrills.

In November Sarah and Gerry Fogarty and I traveled to Lodi to see our feathered friends, the Sand Hill Cranes. These aviators travel all the way from Siberia and the tundra to spend their winters in the central valley of California. The farmers are paid to flood their fields by State Fish and Game. The inundated fields provide a safe haven from predators for roosting birds. (They don’t have rear claws to perch in trees.)

Every year the cranes, snow geese and tundra swans arrive by mid September flying thousands of miles with their young. It’s a truly inspiring scene to be there at dusk. There’s a major ruckus of birds greeting one another after a busy day of hunting and soaring the skies of the wetlands. Hundreds of bids, circle the setting sun and glide to their nightly roost. The sunset washes over the horizon in crimson, persimmon and golds. Such a rich show of light as the evening hues blend into the night. You can appreciate all it takes to fly our way, year after year. Inspiration on wing.


After being grounded for the last 3 months I needed a fix of low-lead and the sound of six happy cylinders. With Don in the left seat we headed down the coast to Maina airport, loving the smooth air, brilliant, clear water and nary a flash of surf. The big treat was the whale activity between Santa Cruz and Monterey. There had been a huge influx of anchovies the month of November and marine mammals were at the pig trough. The first thing you notice are all the sea birds floating on the water. They too are enjoying the door buster specials. Next you’ll see spray from blow hole spouts, tail fin salutes, leaping dolphins, breaching whales of all different sorts. We saw Orcas, Blue, Humpback and Grey whales. Just absolutely jaw dropping.

Later as we walked along the cliffs of Monterey the pelicans were soaring along in ground affect (sea affect?) right next to the waterfront. The water was so still their reflection of wings met up with the actual wing tip beat. It was one of those magic, once in a life time images of the bay. We felt so lucky to be a part of the day, the bay and the sky.

With the Marine Sanctuary in place all up and down the coast the regulations are for no flight below 1,000′ and in some places 2,000′. Be sure to check your charts when going out for a coast cruise.

Low flying planes have caused much damage to marine life. One plane disturbed so many nesting sea birds that they abandoned their nests along the rocks and the chicks starved or were never hatched. Even from 1,000′ you have a great view of all the circus below.

Get out there while the weather remains a gift.

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