North of the Border

Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on North of the Border


Northward Bound

Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Northward Bound

We crossed the border yesterday as a flight of four airplanes. Eight hours of flight through amazing scenery along the Frasier River, we stopped in Prince George, BC, landing at sunset which occurred at 9:40pm. Our little band of explorers are having the flight of a lifetime. It is 5:00 am now and already light outside. We plan to try for Watson Lake today. Weather has been incredibly good. There are lots of stories to share when things slow down a bit. Frustrating that the photos do such a poor job of illustrating the awe inspiring views. Thanks to all for the Father’s Day wishes!

More posts will be coming soon.




A Cold Day an’ Hell

Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on A Cold Day an’ Hell

Last night, a group of heat seeking pilots gathered around my campfire to share the warmth and a generous helping of smoke, most of which was generated by the participants. Dawson, JJ, Toby, Canyon and a couple others kept us all going until midnight. The skies had cleared and the temperature plummeted once the sun slipped below the west ridge. By the time I zipped up the tent, I had decided long underwear, wool socks and a fleece overshirt would be required bedtime apparel in addition to the sleeping bag. By this morning, the mercury was bouncing off 30 degrees and the airplanes had acquired a heavy covering of frost which lasted until around 9:00 AM. As the sun burned off the ice, five Super Cubs including N9496D, launched on a grand tour. We began with a
short jump to Elk City for breakfast. It seems a stretch to call it a city, but the cafe/general store was appropriately funky and the food was good. We climbed the hill back to the airport to visit with the retired San Diego cop and his lady carpenter. They have built an amazing shop/man cave beside the Elk City airport. The runway is a dogleg downhill dirt track of 2600 foot length and sits on a bench overlooking the town which has some of the best elk hunting in Idaho. It is situated in the Nez Perce National Forest surrounded by millions of acres of forest. There are somewhere around 400 residents, most of whom work in the timber or mining industry. The town was established in 1861 when miners discovered gold, pushing the population to over 1000.

Then, we moved to the Snake River Valley and Hell’s Canyon which is deeper than the Grand Canyon, for some more landings at some of the remote strips. I will post photos later.


I Love a Rainy Night

Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on I Love a Rainy Night

Sometime in the night, I woke to the sound of rain pummeling down on the tent. Then there was one crack of thunder and flash of lightning. I turtled down deeper into the sleeping bag and went back to sleep. The rain continued all night and we woke to clouds across the west ridges so no flying this morning. I don’t know the forecast for later but no one will be arriving for the National Bushwheel Week event until things improve.


Wild Ride!

Posted by on Jun 12, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Wild Ride!

Tom & family invited me to tag along with them on a small tour of some of the backcountry strips nearby, so I readily accepted. Tom has a lot of experience in the area, having flown into all or almost all of the famous strips here. We departed around 8:30 this morning, with the air temperature in the mid 40’s, calm wind and a clear sky. The cub climbed quickly with most of the weight out and we left Johnson Creek, elevation 4900, and leveled at 6000 which was well below the ridges. We flew in a loose formation, taking some photos and video. I don’t yet have a way to post the video from the cockpit camera, but I hope to find a way soon because if the video is anything like the flight, it should be amazing. Skimming along the benches and through the saddles of the peaks lining the Salmon river is simply awe inspiring. We turn up one of the forks and descend towards our first strip at Reed Ranch. This is a 2000 foot grass and dirt strip used for firefighting operations and by pilots looking for a secluded place to camp.

After a short walk around, we departed for our next stop at Mackay Bar. Although the ranch and airstrip at Mackay Bar have been in existence for many years, a young couple has just purchased the property and is restoring the lodge and grounds. The setting, right on the Salmon river, means they can offer guests a variety of experiences from jet boat tours, to guided hunting and fishing trips. Many guests arrive via the lodge’s jet boat from the closest road access 20 miles away. Their website is The approach is typical of many of these strips. get down low in the canyon, fly over the strip to check for problems and reverse course to enter the pattern. The difference is that you are surrounded by really big mountains really nearby. The general rule is to land upstream and takeoff downstream. This works well unless you decide to go around late. In many cases there is no going around once on short final because you can’t outclimb the terrain. It seems very challenging because it is, but it gets easier with experience. We make the turn, and touchdown on the 1900 foot grass strip. After meeting the owner and the resident hound “Dauber”, we get the grand tour and settle in for a wonderful breakfast of pancakes, bacon and fruit.

After an hour or more of relaxing, it is time to head a short distance away to another remote landing area, Wilson Bar. This is a 1500 foot strip with a steep uphill section at the end. The approach is blind, meaning that after you pass over the strip and turn upstream you need to remember where it is because coming back, you cannot see it until you round the corner on very short final. If you are too high or too fast, go arounds would be tricky at best. There is a very useful book called “Fly Idaho” which has descriptions, photos, history and a “hazard index” for many of the backcountry strips. For Wilson Bar, it says “use at your own risk. recommended for use by mountain proficient pilots using high performance aircraft. No go arounds. Strong downdrafts prevalent on approach.” Johnson Creek, where we are camped is rated as a “14” on the hazard index. Wilson Bar is a “27”. By now the day is warming up and a breeze is building. We decide to get going, knowing the air will be getting rough as the winds pick up. So, Tom tries to start the engine in the Maule, which will not start due to vapor locking. This is a common problem which goes away with a bit of time for cooling. We talk it over and agree that I should go ahead since the Maule is so much faster and Tom will likely catch me before I get back to Johnson Creek. So, I start up, take off, turn around and begin climbing to gain the necessary altitude for the return. As I climb above 5000 feet into the increasing wind at the ridge tops the air becomes very turbulent, bouncing the little cubmobile mercilessly. Plus the strong wind means significant updrafts and downdrafts so we gain and lose altitude constantly. After about 30 minutes of this, I make the turn across Yellow Pine, enter the pattern and fight my way through the bumps to an uneventful and relatively good landing. The combination of terrain and rough air made for a dramatically challenging ride back, proving the importance of flying only when the winds are light and trying to finish early in the day before the thermals get going. All in all, a real learning experience. Tomorrow it is back the McCall for gas and then maybe a couple more strips. One sounds particularly interesting with natural hot springs nearby.


Back Country Flying

Posted by on Jun 12, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Back Country Flying


Idaho mountains are flat out intimidating. I flew from Johnson Creek to McCall today for fuel and groceries. The valleys are deep and the ridges are steep. There are not many places to go if a problem develops. Still, it is exhilarating to fly here. The scale of the landscape is foreign to those who have not been here. The Super Cub is a speck of yellow in an ocean of rock and snow and forest. Yet, pilots fly out to a variety of forest service strips, private lodge strips and public back country airports with nary a thought to the very real danger of any sort of problem.
Tomorrow morning, I am scheduled to fly along with Tom, a Delta pilot,who wants to go to Mackey Bar for breakfast. In his Maule, he will be faster, but I need the benefit of Tom’s experience in the back country. I’ve unloaded much of the gear to make the Super Cub lighter so it will have the performance necessary. I want to explore some of these strips with the advice of those who have “been there, done that! There are a variety of back country runways with varying degrees of difficulty. As a newbie, I have a lot of respect for the required experience needed to make this safe. The Super Cub is unloaded to make it lighter so I’m confident that tomorrow”s flight will be fun and educational.

Being “In the Moment”

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Alaska 2013 | Comments Off on Being “In the Moment”

As I sit here this evening, reflecting back of the first few days of this journey, I find it necessary to remind myself to be “in the moment”. It is all too easy to look ahead to our departure on Sunday, crossing the U.S. border, outbound for Alaska. Instead, I need to savor the small things that have already happened and appreciate the singular opportunity that each day brings.

It is 8:30 PM and the sun is below the west ridge, but reflected light illuminates the Super Cub in the near distance. The creek is providing its delightful white noise and the few campers have started their campfires against the cooling temperature. The aroma of woodsmoke drifts my way. There is a rain shower to the south which may force us all into our tents early tonight. There is a fragrance of the forest in the coolness that reminds me how much I love being here. All in all, it is a John Denver moment in time.

Yesterday was a long, hot and tiring day. By the last hour, my back had just about had all it wanted of that front seat. I was regretting the decision to push on past Utah. Arriving in Twin Falls in mid 90’s heat to find the FBO closed and, at first, no taxi to help me get to a motel added to the pain. In short, I was not having fun! But, then the taxi lady called back, I got a ride to the Shilo Inn and the air conditioning and shower was certainly ample compensation. You simply appreciate the simple pleasures more when you have to work a bit for them.

Now the light is fading, a light rain is starting to fall, and it is time to stow the gear, move into the tent and read for a bit before lights out. So ends Monday and it truly is a great day.



Johnson Creek. Ahhhhhh

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

After the rather stressful and strenuous flight yesterday, I decided a bit of R&R was in order so I grabbed my pillow, found a secluded bench beside the “crick” as they pronounce it here, and proceeded to read and doze to the schussing of the white water rushing by. The air temperature is around 90 but with a nice breeze and in the shade, it is perfect!


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

Front and center. Now the unpacking and set up begins. The airplane breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled stuff out of it.


Johnson Creek, Idaho

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

Looking north. The webcam is on top of the pole in the distance. Strip is 3400 feet long at an elevation of 4900 MSL.