Archive for the 'Trips' Category

Nov 14-15 Death Valley

Nov 14-15 Death Valley: Furnace Creek Ranch- Land below sea level and relax at the Inn.

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.

99s International Meeting 2013

Bozeman, Montana

From Sand Point Don and I kept to the odd flight levels and turned our prop towards Montana. You wind your way through dense ridge lines of the Continental Divide following rivers and passes much like the early explorers. How they ever managed to pierce this huge wall of terrain was an amazing feat.

The scenery is so inspiring the crossing goes by quickly. Soaring east you quickly swap cloud piercing peaks for the descending plains of the ‘Big Hole’ country. These lands and water are the headwaters of the Missouri River. The Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson Rivers drain the lands of Yellowstone creating the link of waterways from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. The magnitude of our continent is so impressive from the 12,000′ flight level.

We made an overnight stop in Great Falls, MT.. When I read Lewis and Clarks expedition notes they were utterly blown away by the falls of the Missouri. They thought it was a huge fire/smoke from afar. I wanted to experience the sting and spray of water from its edge. Alas the Army Corp of Engineers got there first and brought the mighty river to heel. Sadly five dams have tamed the once magnificent falls of the Missouri River. What compensates for the lack of drama is a well done interpretive center detailing L&C’s entire route into the western wilderness. Also in town is a museum dedicated to Charlie Russell, one of the early artists of the west.

When you park at Great Falls airport be sure to stay at the Front Range FBO; Super nice people, courtesy car and good gas prices. There is also the added entertainment of the Montana Air National Guard and their F18s screaming across the skies.

Onto Bozeman we followed the trail of Lewis and Clark, winding our way up the Missouri River and its tributaries. You can’t help but ask, did the wonder, the amazement, the joy of scenery never before witnessed ease the burden of hauling canoes up river? Did they sink to their knees in the mud as the ropes bit into shoulder sinew? Did the mosquitoes attack with the same vengeance? Did the awe of the evening light slipping from mountain peaks soften the cost of the unknown? Truly what undaunted courage!

The Missouri River is one of the few waterways that flow north from their headwaters. When we were flying over Three Forks, Mt, where the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin rivers converge to form the Missouri, I felt the thrill that explorers must have celebrated. Where rivers begin, knowledge flows.

Bozeman, MT has to be the most liberal town of Montana. Anywhere ranching is king you know there is a conservative bent in the politics. Yet Bozeman is blessed with a university, lively art and music venues, close to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and adventure capitol of Montana. Best of all was a congregation of women pilots from all over the world. How cool to sit and talk with a young 83 year old who is still flying. The spirit of these conventions is so “can do!” We enjoyed some really interesting speakers, cheered on 36 Amelia Earhart Scholarship winners, honored Kitty Houghton with the Award of Inspiration and bathed in the light of women who make the most of life.

During the business meeting I was corrected on my interpretation of the amendment I wrote to you about earlier. (Having to back pay dues if you want to be reinstated) What this amendment was referring to was if you wanted your ‘original’ initiation date on record, ( instead of when you rejoin after a lapse in membership); you would pay for the past years away. OR If you want to rejoin there is no penalty of arrears payment to restart your membership with a new start day. The rationale for this is that it’s important for some people to say they’ve been members for 20, 30,40 years or more.

The score card on the 4 Amendments were:

  • Amend 1: Passed: reinstatement after lapsed membership (discussed above)
  • Amend 2: Failed: Associate members being allowed to vote. Amendments need a 2/3 majority to pass. There were enough people voting who thought voting privileges should only go to licensed pilots, (not student pilots). I don’t agree with this. Our future Life blood of the organization are these women. We need to understand their concerns.
  • Amend 3: Passed: Was just house cleaning on a statement regarding the AE Birthplace Museum
  • Amend 4: Tabled: Was referred back to the BOD for clarification. This was about Life Membership
  • Ratification of Standing Rules: passed: just a house cleaning change in verbiage
  • Ratification of Standing Rules: Passed: Publication- If you want a directory you will have to pay for one and its shipping. All info is Online now so we don’t necessarily need directories. (I bought one any way)

July: 2014 99’s International meeting- New Orleans!!!
Bon Temps Roulez!

We then had an hour of reports of all the committees which you can also access online.

Besides all the fun of flying and gathering with friends, the meeting once again restores my commitment to our organization and our goals of promoting women in aviation. It really is an inspiration!

After 4 days in Montana it was time to find home. I had left CA back in April and felt the pull of the hearth. Lift off was crisp, early Sunday morning, as I climbed to 12.5 to navigate the Continental Divide once again. The fun of mountain flying isn’t just the sights but the navigation around peak and cloud, the flurry of virga on your wing, the “where are we?” and all the WOW factors. Five hours and 17 minutes later, multiple mountain ranges, geography changes, wx systems, vast plains and the wealth of the west we were home again. What a joy to call this gorgeous piece of the west home!

Independence Skies

One of the high lights of summer has been a fly-in trip far enough away to feel like you’re in a different part of America; away from the hurdy gurdy of the Bay Area. The 4th of July is probably one of the prettiest holidays for small towns in the western states. Bunting gussies up even the plainest houses, flowers burst out of hanging baskets and local folk revel in their Independence Day festivities.

This year we chose Sand Point, Idaho for our flying, fourth, fun. Its way up in the panhandle of ID, not far from the Canadian border. The state has a weird profile up there. One minute you’re passing from Washington into Idaho. Within a few minutes if you don’t turn it around you’ll be in Montana. I’m sure it had to do with getting a port into Canada. Even more important is a huge, glorious lake, ringed by multiple mountain ranges and national forests.

Pend Oreille, (Golden Lake to early French trappers), has been hosting summer living as its premier season. Wonderful old houses, docks and flotillas of boats pepper the shore line. Public beaches give everyone access to the water and bike trails radiate out of the hub of Sand Point like a wheel. The downtown is old brick, still looking good with small shops, pubs and eateries. Their parade was the classic… shiny fire trucks, lots of veterans honored, marching bands, politicians and lots of kids on floats. The fireworks were huge and we got to enjoy them right under the boom boom and screaming rockets as they soared overhead.

Five planes made the trip; Beth and Rich Behrens, Sarah and Gerry Fogarty, Julia Amaral and Mark Stratte, Pat and Joe Pittelkow and Don and I. We took up one whole wing of the ramp at Sand Point Airport. ( SZT). The airport is easy to find and land. It’s just up from the lake shore on the north edge of town. Car rentals are available right from the airport and courtesy bikes ready to roll.

For most of us it was a 4 plus hour flight. Early fog started to shred by 8:00am and we punched out into a calm and hazy sky. Joe and Pat got the early bird special…. They managed to get aloft before the dew point and temp point converged. A band of wx to the east provided a nice, cool canopy from the sun until we moved north into WA.

Eastern Oregon seems like a land that time forgot. There’s little society out here. When you need a book store or shoe store you turn on the internet. The land is a patchwork of dry, upwelling plateaus and deeply carved waterways. It’s exciting to come up on the big rivers of the northwest. The Snake and Colombia bring an immense supply of water to the thirsty agriculture of the eastern Cascades. The waterways were also the first path that allowed eastern explorers access to the manifest west.

We had rented a house for a week to really get into the spirit of the area. Play time began at sunrise and continued late into the evening. There was kayaking on the Pack River, mountain biking, hiking, golf, kicking back in comfy chairs on the terrace, water sports at the beach, water warm enough to swim in, (just a little chilly), and even a day on the Hiawatha Trail.

The Hiawatha Traill is part of the Rails to Trails system and is one of their crown jewels. It follows the Milwaukee Rail line that serviced Seattle to Chicago. The trail head starts deep in the mountains of the continental divide and winds its way downhill for 17 miles. There are 9 tunnels with the first one being 2 miles long. Inside the tunnels it’s really cool, foggy and you definitely need head lights. Numerous trestles over arching canyon walls and vast wild scenery make the pedal a great ride.

Along the trail are lots of stations with displays educating one about life and times of the railroad in the early 1900’s. Passengers dressed up for the journey with elegant dining cars, observations decks and champagne fun. We on the other hand, dusty, tired and saddle sore, tramped into a local pub in Wallace, ID for excellent food and remembering a swell day.

There’s just nothing more wonderful with friendship than to share these adventures. Hope to see you on the next 4th fun flight. Great friends, great fun, great flying.

1Q2013 Update

The moment has come… I’m now one of those aging pilots who find something else to do instead of fly. Gone is the enthusiasm to jump in the plane and go no where. Winter came and went, lots of days of clear, brilliant sunshine. Days flow downstream without a lift off or touch down. The plane remained tucked away in the hanger for it’s long winter nap. What a pity party! I managed to remain current with the basics. Yet there was no great adventure to write about.

This lethargy had to stop. We rediscovered some fun flights that didn’t cost days or a bundle of money.

ANGWIN, which is just a 20 minute flight away has some of the best hiking minutes from touch down. The Sonoma and Napa valleys were carpeted in luxurious mustard while vineyards remain skeletal prior to bud break. On Saturdays Angwin is a ghost town. It’s their sabbath day so no traffic in the pattern. The airport environment is great for special effects. Downwind feels like the airport is at your altitude, short final has some very tall trees and a really long displaced threshold. Runways like these shake out the cobwebs and remind me why I love to fly. On the east side of the airport follow the trails beyond the hangers where the trail drops down into a valley and miles of single and double track. Head easterly and you’ll end up at a rocky promontory overlooking the Pope Valley. It’s one of the prettiest views of our CA coastal range. Take a picnic and lap up the sunshine.

MONTEREY has another great secret. Call ahead to the Monterey Jet Center and let them know you’re coming and would like to reserve a car. They loan out crew cars for free. By having them top off your tanks it’s a nice reciprocal of their generosity. The Jet Center is at the west end of the airport. You park, pick up a warm, just baked cookie, hop in the car and off you go. Our destination was Garland Park in Carmel Valley. Drive east from the airport then head over Laureles Grade to Carmel Valley. Garland Park has trails that climb up and out of the valley into some of the most beautiful native wild flowers, oak forests and redwoods. Hours of great hiking to enjoy! For something more urban you can always stroll the cliffs of Monterey or Pacific Grove and the aquarium. Or for a wilder aquatic experience drive north to Moss Landing and rent a kayak to explore Elk Horn Slough. You’ll be surrounded by sea otters and seals in languid waters. The Jet Center lets you keep the cars until 9:00. Lots of time to play and then a coastal sunset flight home.

So no more whining, dusty, aging pilots. Flying is our E ticket to joy and fun. Don’t let life get in the way of your flight time!

Sunday April 7th, 12:00, Gnoss Field terminal building

Bring a lunch food to share
Kristin Winter will be our guest speaker about I-pads in the cockpit (Foreflight)
Bring your I-pad if you have a navigation app

Spring Migrations – Moab

Lift off from O69 to Canyonlands, Utah was on the wings of angels; no teeth of turbulence, no evil glower of mountainous build-ups, no anxiety of “What next?”. My destination is Moab, Utah a place where you wash your soul in the wind, where night skies are thick with galaxies and where the history of the ancients can still be heard in the red sandstone rocks.

There were four hours of soaring over a land so vast and profound only time can remember the details. Upheavals, cliffs and mesas are furrowed into creases like ancient faces leathered by the sun and wind. A light so brilliant reflects off dry lake beds, silent reminders that they too yield memories of an aqueous time. The west, our west, a land where the spirit knows no confine, where the connection between all that lives in our souls.

The beauty of this landscape can be subtle and alien. Your eyes strain to rationalize a land so without water. But look closer, sink deeper to the understanding that lives persistent and ancient have known these wild lands as home. Humans, animals, insects, amphibians, reptiles and fish have all adapted, by trial and error, to become a superior genetic line that can endure the harsh demands. You get a sense that there is a wealth of knowledge deep in the bones of the land.

My good buddy, Mosley, our 11.5 year old Neufie is with me again on the flight. He’s not too ambulatory anymore and getting him out of the plane was a real challenge. I take the back seats out so he has lots of room wedged between my bicycle, gear and house supplies. I don’t know who was more excited to land, Mo or I. Taxing to the ramp a couple of “welcome back Cindy” came over the mike. The airport community has become a new family since I’ve joined up to fly for Redtail Aviation.

The best way to get Mo out of the plane, after 20 hot minutes of failing to get his 145 lbs. up, was to pull him out backwards onto the wing, then slide him down to the ground. My back has barely recovered from that circus!

Besides the excitement of a new job the new house construction, which should have been finished by early April, will probably wrap up around early June. Some days a blizzard of sand beats at the doors and windows. The crew are all wonderful. It’s been a pleasure having them in our lives. Wake up is usually a concrete truck’s back up horn around 7am. Many details to decide in a split moment, many details of planning dropping into play. I’ve loved every moment of it.

Moab is a place so special, I’d like to share it with all of you. If you’re in need of a get away, looking for vacation destination, need a spiritual renewal, please come stay with us. You too will rejoice in your wings soaring above a land who’s beauty is as vast as time itself.

Soaring Autumn Skies


Finally the a.m. fog has retreated, the afternoon howlers have subsided and we’re into the gracious skies of fall. If ever there was a time to travel by air or take to the hills this is it. My excuse was a friend in need of a get-away. We decided on the ‘4 Corners’ region to learn about Ancient Puebloan culture and current tribal lives.

Our flight east bound to Moab, UT was flawless. Not entirely ‘cavu’; we had the early afternoon buildups to work through as we moved into the mountains of Utah. Not that you get cavalier about these mountain peak denizens. The turbulence wasn’t too bad under the smaller cells; nothing was flying around the cabin. The bigger, darker beasts we stayed clear of by winding our way through their palisades. There should always be a mental fall back, a safe port, when crossing the cumulus lines. The closest airports with nearby facilities are always on my list of alternates.

Once clear of the summits it’s downhill and clear air into Moab airport. The scenery is awesome and inspiring to our coastal minds. Massive ‘reefs’ of sandstone, caught up in compression and upwelling million of years ago, now stand sentinel along the San Rafael Swell. Their jagged mass have been cut by eroding water ways, creating slot canyons only recognized from the air. What a treat to be given the chance to see the fast forward of geologic time.

Moab is bordered by 13,000’ peaks to the south, the mesas of Canyonland National Park, the meandering flow of the Colorado and Green Rivers and the delicate bridges of Arches National Park. All of these vistas are surrounding you on approach to land. That’s a lot of gawking while you are trying to land the plane. Folks at Canyonlands Airport are wonderful. While taxing in I get the “Nice to see you back Cindy” over the radio.

By the next morning Catherine and I had picked up our emerald green jeep ‘Ozzie’. We were off to Mesa Verde National Park where Anasazzi cultures lived in alcoves high up on cliff walls. The docent led tours take you down stairs and ladders to get into the cliff palaces and balconies to learn how and why the people lived here. The general consensus is that they disappeared from the cliff faces 700 years ago. Yet you still see Hopi, Zuni and Navajo tribal people living in Arizona and New Mexico.

The Puebloan communities moved to land easier to farm and survive. Why they had to move is the question no one has the answer to. There are numerous tours to take all day long. You sign up at the visitor center and drive out along a ‘table top’ to get to the trails down the cliffs. Scrub oaks, cottonwoods and native brush were all beginning their journey into fall foliage. When there’s less sun light to stimulate chlorophyll production the secret colors of the leaves emerge. Each day a page turns into a deeper, fuller spectrum of autumn colors.

After an afternoon of tramping up and down the ladders of the cliff dwellings we headed southwest to the town of Chinle, AZ. To get there you pass into tribal lands where federal and state laws are suspended for the native nations. The rock monument formations are so stunning you have to stop and gaze. Other times your soul cringes from all the liquor bottles and litter thrown out along the roadways. The best emotional position to take is just to accept without the intrusion of your values.

Chinle,AZ is the center of Navajo people. The National Monument of Canyon de Chelly is just to the east of town. A Holiday Inn is right outside the park and a great place to stay. Most guides meet you here in the morning for your tours. To get into the park you must have a Native guide. Many of these people grew up in the canyons and were sent away to schools outside the reservation. This epoch of their lives was a sad time. There was the effort to exorcise their Indian culture from them. Now schools are local and their heritage is revered.

Our guide was Sally Tsosie; a Navajo woman, who was born in the north canyon of Canyon de Chelly. Because water levels have dropped so low they no longer allow families to live up canyon. One has to bring in their own water to camp out for short periods. Horses, sheep and goats still graze the canyon floor as they have for centuries.

Back in the 1800s the U.S. Calvary tried to remove all native people from the canyons. I suppose the army thought of them as ‘terrorists’. Many people were massacred but much of the canyon community survived by secret steps, ‘Moki’ steps, carved into the vertical walls to escape. The Ancients have left petroglyphs and pictographs all along the walls. Silent talismans to a people long gone make you wonder what the message was. Sally used a mirror to high light the carvings way up on the stone that we would not have seen with a quick glance.

Early on we had let Sally know that we wanted to do some hiking not just spend the day in a jeep. We got permission to enter a local’s land to hike up his canyon and see some of the rock art. The only ‘open’ area of the canyon is the floor of the main channel.

You need special permission to explore the side canyons. Horses grazing up canyon came trotting to us thinking we had treats for them. The alcoves of petro and picto graphs were dense with many generations of design. Like modern day graffiti, peoples would carve or draw on top of other’s creations. Sally had heard a rumor that there might be a trail climbing out of the canyon in this area. We kept hiking deeper into the narrowing walls of rock and finally picked up a faint track that led up. The vertical wall seemed impossible at first to climb. Yet carved at regular intervals with corresponding hand holds were the ‘moki’ steps we had heard about earlier. At times ancient trees had been felled and chiseled with foot steps to climb to higher ledges. The vertical ascent was a good thousand feet of picking our way up cracks, steps and transparent trails. What an engineering feat! Getting down was equally challenging because it was harder to see down the vertical wall as compared to climbing up. Returning to the car the three of us were bonded to an amazing experience. What a rare treat this has been.

Our journey the following 4 days took us east and north to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. There is a reason why artists, for the last 100 years, have flocked to this region to work and live. There is a quality of light, a uniqueness of culture and a beauty of being you will find no where else. Consequently the towns are full of galleries and museums show-casing some of the greatest American art ever produced. In Taos we stayed at the El Pueblo Lodge; a wonderful motel two blocks from the plaza with shady, relaxing grounds and generous hospitality.

Taos and Santa Fe both have airports and car rentals for easier access by air. It’s just that being on ‘the road’, seeing and sensing the land and people, gets one closer to the knowledge of what their culture means. West and north bound we entered into the southern limits of the Rocky Mountains with fall in full throttle. These are the scenic roads deemed by calendar and travel posters as the places to explore. Cowboys, with their working dogs, were moving cattle down from the high pastures of summer to more secure winter lands. Fishing folks cast their lines in graceful arcs, into the waters of the Rio Grande, San Juan, Animas and tributaries. Pine trees, redolent with that rich scent of the last heat of the year, were releasing cones to impatient ground creatures. A time of harvest, a time to prepare was pervasive.

Back in Moab we enjoyed 2 big days of hiking and climbing. Ancient rock art is everywhere in these lands. The Ancients have left us a history difficult to decipher. As Sally taught us; “Use your imagination”. Our flight home early Monday morning wove through some local virga before stepping out into the clear skies of Nevada and CA. The hues of autumn have deepened in brilliance and volume. The north slopes of mountain ranges blaze in neon glory.

Unfortunately, after crossing the Sierra crest, we noticed some wild fires popping up. I got on the radio with Flight Watch and gave them the radials and distance to a local VOR. They then put out a call to Cal Fire to summon the spotter planes. This is one of the many services general aviation can share. Your eyes are often the first to pick up forest fires.

Home again to O69 to my familiar runway, warm hugs and friends. What a gift this life is! Great friends, great fun, great flying.