Archive for the 'Trips' Category

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.

Trip to the Pacific NorthWest


I departed Smith Ranch Airport (CA35) at 0755 on 7/29/11 direct to Willows Glen Airport (WLW) flying over miles of rice fields and then on to Redding Airport (RDD) for fuel. Lunch was had at the Kla- math Falls Airport (LMT) and I was held up for takeoff for 6 minutes while 5 F16s made their approach and landings. After heading North I turned West at Cresent Lake Airport (5S2) and flew down a beautiful green river valley to Hobby Airport (77S) in Creswell, OR in the Willamette Valley for fuel. I had planned to stay there that night but as it was early I continued North to Kelso, WA and landed there for fuel and motel. The bike was off loaded and I rode to town.

The next morning the rain began as it does in the green Northwest so I lay around and read from my Kindle 3 which saves me from carrying my usual large supply of reading material. After check out time I rode to the airport and arrived thoroughly soaked. There I talked with other weather held pilots and read a lot of flying related coffee table books in the flight office.

Finally at about 1530 I decided the weather to the North was better than that at Kelso. Flying North up and over US I 5 at 2000 msl the weather did get better and skirting West around Seattle I landed at Everett WA, Paine Field (PAE) full of parked Boeing aircraft for fuel. Then heading West after contacting Whidbey Island Naval Air Station ( NUW ) for clearance I flew on the Friday Harbor Airport (FHR) and landed about 1900 in welcomed sunshine. I biked to a near by motel and down to the waterfront for dinner. And so to bed.

The morning of Friday, July 22 was spent biking around the harbor and then at 1100 I went to the UFO’s (United Flying Octogenarians) luncheon at the airport. There I talked with a group of old pilots and met Ernie Gann’s widow an active pilot with whom I sat at the
same table. Ernie Gann is one of my favorite authors specializing in flying stories. In the afternoon I took the ferry to Anacortes where I rode into town for dinner.

The next day there was a small airshow at FHR and about noon I took of and landed at Lopez Island (S31) and at Roche Harbor (private) for lunch. After that I landed at East Sound on Orcas Island and then headed South to land at Skagit (BVS), where by chance, I met a UFO member and then on to Boeing King Airport (BFI) in Seattle where the FBO found me a fancy hotel. The next morning, Sunday July 24th, Grandson Patrick R. Mullen picked me up and we dropped some of my gear at Boeing Field and proceeded to Lake Union to view a wooden boat show. After that Patrick took me on a tour of the University of Washington above Lake Union were he attends during the school year and continues to stay in his fraternity house while working two Summer jobs of 45 hours per week. He looked very good and seemed pleased with his life.

For lunch we stopped the the original Ivar’s Restaurant on the Seattle waterfront. Then it was back to Boeing Field were we spent the remainder of the afternoon viewing the Boeing Museum of Flight. As I learned the weather might turn bad on the next day I elected to take off that evening and fly South towards Portland and cut East up the Columbia River Gorge intending to land at the Dalles (DLS).

Enroute I viewed Mt.St. Helens and the devastation. As I was flying up the Gorge I passed over a small airport surrounded by orchards and a nearby town, Hood River, which looked too good to pass up. At the airport, Jernsted (4S2), I was loaned a car and drove to town for dinner and hotel. The next morning thunder and lightning extended to the town from the West so I drove to an air museum next to the airport which I found to be a real gem. It is privately owned by Terry Brandt who opened up the new museum for me an hour early and gave me a personal tour. There were about 75 aircraft and about the same number of cars all of which were operational and in mint condition. Most of the collection ranged in the period between WW1 and WW2. Terry has flown all of the airplanes and his favorite is a 1918 Curtiss Jenny.

As the rain had stopped by then I took off in a strong West wind and headed out of the Gorge and then turned South. The flight was very bumpy so I flew rather slowly. To relax a bit and refuel I stopped at Madras, OR (S33). From there it was to Chiloquin (2S7) for pie and ice cream.

The next stop was Willows (WLW) for fuel, but this time I walked over to the nearby Walmart for exercise. Then I traced my way back to my home base, Smith Ranch Airport (CA35), arriving about 1700 on Monday, July 25. It was a great trip and Cessna Cardinal N29520 performed just perfectly.

Totalflyinghours:16.7 Totalfuelconsumed:151gal.Totalcost:Toomuch!

Music and Airplanes

August 8, 2011: by Julia Amaral

Music and Airplanes are two of our favorite pastimes. We got to have both on our recent travels around the country. Mark and I left the Nevada County Airport (GOO) on July 19 and enjoyed an uneventful flight to Burbank. That evening we attended a LA Philharmonic symphony at the Hollywood Bowl with 10,000 other lucky people. We were treated to a very special rendition of Mozart’s Fifth Concerto with the violinist, Gil Shaham, giving a sublime performance with Gustavo Dudamel enthusiastically conducting. Next day we met the LA Philharmonic Librarian, the son of a friend of ours in Grass Valley, at the new, incredibly unique and stunning Disney Concert Hall in LA and were treated to another hour of music in the new concert hall as we watched Dudamel rehearse the orchestra for the next evening’s performance. Then Steve, the Librarian, toured us around the facility and took us to his work area, the music library. It was very impressive to see so many stacks of sheet music so meticulously cared for. The room was like a huge vault that can be made fire proof in a few minutes while being open most of the time for access and work. We were thrilled by the experience. Continue reading ‘Music and Airplanes’

Valerie’s Oshkosh Airventure

We left Florida Friday before Oshkosh and spent the weekend with friends in Louisville. Flying up was uneventful. The Kentucky countryside is just as gorgeous as advertised – rolling hills, green pastures surrounded by trees. We knew we were getting close to Louisville when most of the other traffic in the area were UPS xxx heavy. We saw a clearing in the distance and thought we had the Bowman KLOC airport in sight. Nope – that is the UPS distribution center. The airport was several miles farther.

We headed out Monday morning expecting to make a fuel stop on route. As we got closer, everywhere that that had been VFR was going IFR. We diverted to Champaign Urbana IL, KCMI and got in = ceiling about 2000, just before it went IFR. We decided to drive the 5 hours from there
rather than wait for clearer weather and fly about 2 hours. As it turned out the weather was better as soon as we had driven about an hour, so we just drove the rest of the way. Continue reading ‘Valerie’s Oshkosh Airventure’