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Logging near Cascade

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Logging near Cascade

Yup, sure is ugly!

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Snake River

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Snake River

The double canyon is interesting.

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Johnson Creek Idaho

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Johnson Creek Idaho

Well, I’m finally here! The flight up from Twin Falls this morning was beautiful, taking me over the vast agricultural area on either side of the Snake River. The Snake cuts a deep channel like a scar through the topsoil, and provides the water that allows such abundant harvests of hay, feed grains and potatos.

Passing to the east of Boise, I cut into the mountains across to the north, then northeast after crossing the Cascade Reservoir. The mountains are lower here, but still impressive. I cross several deep valleys with rushing streams carrying the snowmelt towards the Payette and Boise Rivers. There is a lot of logging activity in these mountains. While I know it is necessary, it sure does “ugly” up a beautiful area.

After a little over two hours, I enter the deep valley formed by Johnson Creek and follow it downstream towards the airport. No wide patterns here because the wider you go, the higher you have to be to miss the terrain. The airport is at almost 5000 feet MSL so I made a quick descent from my cruising altitude of 8500, threw the flaps out and landed on the 3400 foot groomed grass runway. It looks like a golf course. I taxi into the tiedown area and shut down. There are only a few other airplanes here now, but they expect over 100 for the National Bushwheel Awareness Week event beginning on Thursday. Like many of the back country areas, there is a webcam for the strip. Search for Johnson Creek Idaho webcam and check it out. You should see N9496D sitting there unless I am out flying. Very Cool!

Judy and I spent several days here last summer so it is wonderful to be back. I really miss her not being here with me though. The rushing waters of Johnson Creek are right beside the campsite. Temperature is in the 80’s which feels warm in the sun but delightfully cool in the shade. I set up my Kelty tent, unloaded everything I expect to need and toted some firewood. The caretakers do a marvelous job of keeping the whole area in great shape, including splitting a mountain of firewood for campers to use.

I’ve met a few of the other camper/pilots so far and look forward to lots of flying stories and a few tall tales over the next few days. I plan to borrow one of the courtesy vans and drive into Yellow Pine later for groceries. Yellow Pine is worthy of an article by itself, so I’ll try to add some info in a later post.

I’m writing this sitting at the small shelter building where there is internet service, a freezer for ice bottles and picnic tables for relaxing

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Day 2: SLC

Posted by on Jun 9, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Day 2: SLC

Following the Interstate north across Salt Lake City. Class B airspace, an AF Base and Ogden airport. On the way to Brigham City for fuel.

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Day 2: Moab

Posted by on Jun 9, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Day 2: Moab

Passing over the Colorado River near Moab, UT.

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Day 2 – North Pass

Posted by on Jun 9, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Day 2 – North Pass

Crossing thru North Pass between Saugache and Gunnison at 12,000 with a whopping 60 knots

ground speed. I am flying at 12,000 MSL, which is the highest altitude so far. In fact, it may be the highest

of the entire trip. The Super Cub really struggled to get this high, often needing a bit of help from updrafts

in order to gain altitude at all. As I entered the pass, the ground was less than 2000 feet below with terrain

on either side rising above my altitude. Suddenly I heard a radio call “airplane in North Pass do you copy?”

I was on 122.80 and answered the call. Turns out, there is a pilot who lives in the canyon who has an

aviation radio. We visited for a few minutes about my trip, then he wished me a safe journey and we

disconnected. Once through the pass, I descended slightly as I entered the Gunnison River Valley.

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Day 1: Burnet to Alamosa

Posted by on Jun 8, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Day 1: Burnet to Alamosa

Departure at 6:40 AM with calm wind but storms nearby that required deviating north of course. The flight to Levelland took about 3.5 hours across the high plains past Abilene and Lubbock. Windmills and vast fields being tilled by toy John Deere tractors pulling enormous implements necessary for so much ground to cover. Speed is around 85 mph but a slight tailwind helps. Levelland is quiet this morning with only a couple of guys working on a turbine spray plane. I fuel up at the self serve pump and after a quick restroom break, it’s back in the air.

Second leg from Levelland to Santa Fe, NM takes another 3 hours, plus. The ride becomes bumpy as the thermals stir the air aloft. I cruise at 6500 MSL only 1500 feet or so above the surface as the terrain gradually climbs in elevation. Mountains appear first as rugged foothills rising from the plains of eastern NM. The clouds slowly disappear and the sun warms the small cockpit until I open the window to let in the cool, fresh breeze. At 85 mph there is plenty of time to sightsee. There are two temporary flight restrictions near Santa Fe due to some early season wildfires and the ramp at KSAF has several heavy lift Sky Crane helicopters coming and going fighting the fires. It appears that all of this is contract work and there are lots of support people and equipment present. Again I buy gas at the self serve pump and reposition over to transient parking. Judy had packed lunch for me so I took a short break before loading up for the last leg into Alamosa. The temperature had climbed into the high 80’s and combined with the 6500 foot field elevation, the density altitude was at 10,000 feet. The Super Cub accelerated slowly and started a very anemic climb as I reversed course to the north. Typical afternoon thunderstorms blocked the route north of Taos and I thought I might have to divert there or return to Santa Fe. But as I flew along watching the XM weather it looked like I could squeeze between the storms and the high terrain to the west.

The airplane struggled to climb in the thin air as I took advantage of any up drafts to add to my meager store of height above the rugged terrain below. This is hard on the engine and I keep a close watch on cylinder head temps. I finally level off at 10,500 MSL and begin to relax slightly. Every downdraft steals precious altitude and brings the rocks and trees below closer. The nearby storms have the air rumpled up as well, adding to the jostling ride. Ahead lies Antonio mountain requiring a deviation to the west slightly. As I round the corner, the skies begin to clear and the ride smooths out some. Up ahead I can see the rich farmland and bright green alfalfa fields of the San Luis valley surrounding Alamosa. The AWOS reports a gusty wind with some crosswind component as well. I decide to land on the dirt runway which is slightly more aligned. As I turn final, I see deep ruts in the surface so I add power and land long to use a better section of the runway. I clear and taxi into the ramp.

This ends today’s flying after over 9 hours logged. Despite the fatigue and dehydration, I am happy with the day, but I’m ready for something to eat, a cold beer (or two) and a visit with my son, his wife and Granddaughter Zoe.

Trey picks me up and we meet Casey and Zoe for dinner. Trey lives outside Fort Garland on a beautiful site overlooking the valley. I get the grand tour, take some pictures, visit with Zoe and get to bed. No flying tomorrow which is fine with me.

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Why Alaska?

Posted by on Jun 6, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Why Alaska?

My friend Richard called a few days ago with a question that has caused me some difficulty in formulating a cogent answer. “Why Alaska?” he asked, then added “and if you are insistent on doing this, why go in that little yellow airplane when you have a perfectly usable Bonanza that is twice as fast and much more comfortable?” I also know there are other friends and family who probably have the same thoughts although they have been kind enough not to confront me with their likely opinion that this is a really bad idea and I must have lost my mind? In some way, I agree with the sentiment that if you have to ask, I probably won’t be able to give you an answer that makes much sense, but I’m motivated to try. As I considered the possibility of flying the Super Cub all the way to Alaska, I tried to balance the excitement of this “trip of a lifetime” with the reality of risk, cost, time away from family and work while wondering if I had the skill, knowledge and judgement  necessary. The tipping point came when Lou Furlong explained that a group of pilots would be travelling together and that several of them are very experienced Alaska veterans. deep survival

I had also just read a fascinating book, which should be required reading for anyone interested in any sort of an adventure. In it, Lawrence Gonzales discusses his own motivation for flying aerobatics at low altitude. He describes a friend and fellow pilot who died in the crash of her Pitts Biplane and whose friends lamented the unnecessary risks she took. But, I had a friend who lived a careful, conservative life, avoiding risk as much as possible, only to die in weeks from cancer. We all need to realize that to live at all carries a substantial risk. Gonzales points out that in one year, 640 people died choking on food and 320 drowned in their tubs. In a way, we are all flying low level aerobatics upside down, so we may as well turn on the smoke and have some fun.

This does not mean we shouldn’t take precautions. Nor does it mean being foolish or careless. After all, it’s easy to get yourself dead. All it takes is some lack of preparedness coupled with some bad luck. Here is Lawerance again..”The perfect adventure shouldn’t be that much more hazardous in a real sense than ordinary life, for that invisible rope that holds us here can always break.” Knowing this, we can choose to live intensely. “According to Gonzales, he believes in the Gutter Theory of Life. It goes like this: You don’t want to be lying in the gutter, having been run down by a bus, the last bit of your life ebbing away, and be thinking, ” I should have taken that rafting trip…”

surviving uncertaintyFor another perspective, I recommend the writings of Lane Wallace who used to write a column for Flying magazine. She published a book about surviving uncertainty and taking a hero’s journey. Lane endured a terrible car crash that almost killed her. She went on to give up a promising corporate career to pursue life as an author. She basically agrees with Gonzales, saying that we all face challenges and crises in our lives from injury, health, financial and relationships. It is how we meet them that matters and it is in part, how we define our lives. She promotes the concept of being willing to tackle the unknown and to enjoy the uncertainty that comes with it. Check out her website at www.lanewallace.com.

On a much lighter note, I have also begun reading “Coming Into the Country” by John McPhee. Although I am only a few pages into his book, it is like sipping a fine wine. His descriptions of Alaska and the people who live there are unforgettable. McPhee paints with prose that captures the rich tapestry of the Alaska wilderness. I highly recommend all of the books to you.coming into the country

Many of you have wished me Godspeed and fair winds on this journey. Some have offered suggestions which I have duly entertained. My buddy Dirk had some sage advice, suggesting I not wear my Texas Longhorns tee shirt to Colorado but instead consider buying one that said “Canadians Suck!” With friends like that, how could this not be an amazing experience. Welcome Aboard!

 

 

 

Dr. Brett is a Private Pilot!

Posted by on Jun 3, 2013 in Aviation News, Promark News | Comments Off on Dr. Brett is a Private Pilot!

BrettMatzekDr. Brett Matzek completed his Private Pilot Check Ride with me yesterday. He had a difficult time getting this accomplished through no fault of his own. First, the weather wouldn’t cooperate with high winds on the first scheduled attempt. We did complete the Oral portion before discontinuing. Then he came back and we finally got to fly. Just when we thought everything was going to end well, the airplane’s tach began a wild dance from stop to stop. He decided wisely to stop the ride and arrange a ride home. I applauded his decision and we re-scheduled for yesterday. Finally the stars aligned and he finished up the last couple of required tasks and I issued his Temporary Pilot Certificate.

Brett completed his training despite being a new dad, as well as a busy Army doctor who is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan very soon. He will be one of those dedicated docs who take care of our young soldiers in harm’s way. As a father of one of those soldiers who served with the Marines in Sangin Province, I can appreciate the special dedication that Brett and his team bring to this brutal part of the world.

Congratulations Brett! Well done.

Alaska Trip Prep Underway!

Posted by on Jun 1, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Alaska Trip Prep Underway!

20130601-174759.jpg20130601-184308.jpgWell, I finished up my last tailwheel student today and I started prepping the Super Cub for the Alaska trip. I began by washing the mud and bugs off the airplane. Then, I removed the rear control stick and rear seat cushions to make more room to store the massive amount of stuff I seem to think I need.  I then installed the cargo pod and began loading some of the gear. Figuring out the weight and balance is certainly part of the effort, but it is made more complex because some items have to be accessible while others will not be needed as often. I suspect I’ll pack and unpack the various boxes and bags several times before I feel like everything is where it belongs. My plan is to do some test flights in the next couple of days just to see how the airplane performs with everything aboard. The guys at Faulkner’s will bring the airplane into the shop on Monday to change the oil, change the main tires and give everything a final “look-see” before Friday morning’s planned departure.

The planned route is Burnet to Levelland (fuel stop), Santa Fe, NM (fuel stop) to Alamosa, CO on Friday, June 7th. I’ll spend the weekend with my son and his family who live in Ft. Garland. Sunday morning, June 9th, I plan to head for Idaho where I will meet the rest of the seven pilots who have joined the Alaska adventure. We will meet at Johnson Creek, which is a famous backcountry airport in central Idaho. I will try to upload photos and e-mail updates as I can. Internet access will certainly be spotty, so some of the entries will probably be out of sync with the calendar, but please post comments as you wish. When I return, I will clean up the blog entries and add the best photos and videos. For anyone interested, the website for tracking our progress is https://share.delorme.com/kenwittekiend. That should allow you to see where I am throughout the trip.

 

 

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