Monday, October 26, 2009

Chasing the Volcanos (part 6)

Today is the last day of our Chasing the Volcanos flying tour! 7 Days ago we left Livermore (CA) in our Cessna C172R, on a flying and photography adventure. Today we plan to get back to Livermore in the late afternoon. Time flies!
The take-off at South Lake Tahoe airport (density altitude +8500ft) in our 160 horsepower Cessna, is not going to be a spectacular one. You pilots, will know what I'm talking about… Making things worse we're having a dilemma. Taking off with a 15 knots tailwind towards the lake or taking off, into the wind and accepting a rate of climb of about 200 to 300ft/min towards high ground. After seeing a fully loaded TB20 taking off downwind we go for the latter one. A spiraling climb to 9500feet over the lake brings us high enough to safely cross the surrounding mountains and we leave beautiful Lake Tahoe behind us. We need to get back to this place. Today's flying covers a large part of the camper tour we plan to do after this trip, in opposite direction.
First interesting viewpoint is the Gold Mining town of Bodie. A very special place in a great location. More on this in our "Back to Nature" camper tour blogpost in the coming weeks.
After passing Mono Lake we climb to an altitude of 12500ft… pretty much the maximum altitude we can get to in the current conditions. ChasingVolcanos
We need the higher altitude in order to pass the east entrance to the Yosemite national park, the 10000ft Tioga pass. Overflying Yosemite is limited to having a minimum of 2000ft terrain clearance but provides us with some great photo opportunities. ChasingVolcanos
We can clearly make out El Capitan and Half Dome. The latter being "The icon of Yosemite".

Leaving Yosemite to the West we start our descend into Pine Mountain Lake, a very nice airpark which we visited earlier in 2001. Airparks are places where people live on the airport and have a car and an aircraft parked in the hangar. Retirement paradise, if you ask me!
After filling up with some cheap gas, we hop across to Columbia airport and walk over to Columbia State Historic park. A very nice and well preserved Gold Rush boom town.ChasingVolcanos

It is closed to all automobile traffic and is only open to pedestrians, horses and carriages.ChasingVolcanos
Just after our last take-off of the trip, we overfly the artificial New Melones Lake and have a nice view on some of the bridges. Less than an hour later we handover the keys of our faithful Cessna 172 to its owner at Livermore, CA. We finished our amazing weeklong "Chasing the Volcanos" tour with a total flying time of 23 hours over an estimated 3700km. It brought us great views of the North West Pacific and the Sierra Nevada and will give us lifelong memories.

I have a busy upcoming 10 days, so the next blog segment with the continuation of the trip and the "Back to Nature camper" tour only be online after the first week of November.

Till then,

Fly safe and happy shooting,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chasing the Volcanos ( part5 )

After breakfast in the Quality-inn Albany, we walked the 100m to our Cessna 172 for another great flying day, this time chasing lakes…ChasingVolcanos
We climbed straight away to 9500ft (2895m) and headed for Crater Lake Oregon. ChasingVolcanos
With its 1948ft (594m), it is the deepest lake of the US and its crystal clear deep blue water would be the highlight of the day.
Just before lunchtime we made a brief stop at Klamath Falls, an US Air Force F-15 Eagle base.
Just North of Klamath Falls is the 20 mile (32km) long Upper Klamath Lake. A large shallow freshwater lake in South central Oregon, with bordering colorful dry lake beds which look pretty boring from the ground but are very spectacular from the air.

We stopped for fuel at a small airport called Fall River Mills and then continued along the Sierra Nevada to the South Lake Tahoe airport (6300ft elevation). ChasingVolcanos
Lake Tahoe is after Crater Lake, the second deepest freshwater lake in the US and is a major tourist attraction for both California and Nevada. It is also home to a number of nice ski resorts and is a great place to live! 
We stayed the night in the eco-friendly 968 park hotel. 
A perfect place to start your Tahoe adventures. 

More flying & photo news shortly,
Fly safe and happy shooting,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chasing the Volcanos ( part4 )

After a nice 2 night break in Seattle it was time to move on! Taking off from Seattle's Boeing Field, we headed Southeast bound to our first close Volcano encounter. ChasingVolcanos
The first one on the list was the +14000 ft (4392m) snowcapped Mount Rainier. 
Even though almost 90km away, it dominates the SE horizon in downtown Seattle. ChasingVolcanos
Just half a hour later, we had a great view Mount St Helen, which erupted in 1980 and until today is the deadliest (57 people died) and economically most destructive volcanic event in the history of the USA. One can clearly see the blown off cone, which reduced the pre-eruption elevation of 9677ft (2950m) to the current 8365ft (2550m).ChasingVolcanosMeanwhile we passed Mount Adams, 12281ft (3743m) on the right hand side. The second highest Washington state volcano after Mt Rainier. 
Our first landing of the day was at Hood River airport, along the famous Columbia river Gorge where we attended the first day of the annual WAAAM Antique aircraft Fly-in.ChasingVolcanos
The WAAAM (Western Antique Aircraft and Automobile Museum) houses +60 old timer aircraft and over 100 vintage cars, tractors and motorcycles. A great collection for anybody to have look at when traveling in the Portland area.ChasingVolcanos
Even though Friday was the first day of the event, there was already a steady flow of inbound visiting aircraft.  From a very rare Curtiss Robin J-1 to this beautiful 1937 Lockheed 12A Electra Junior. A small aviation paradise!ChasingVolcanos
We flew through the Columbia Gorge with its +30kts winds until approaching Portland and then headed to Mc Minville, the homebase of the Evergreen Aviation and Space museum. This museum has the original Howard Hughes Spruce Goose, the worlds largest aircraft by wingspan that only did 1 brief flight in 1947.  Due to time constraints we didn't enter the museum but will surely do so whenever we're in the area again. ChasingVolcanos
Looking for a convenient airport for the night we stopped at Albany (Oregon), where the Quality Inn hotel has its own aircraft parking right outside the hotel. Bottom right hand side of the photo above.

More volcano action shortly,

Fly safe and happy shooting,

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chasing the Volcanos ( part3 )

After an excellent night sleep in the B&B "The Craftsman" in Pacific City we moved on. The final destination for the day was the city of Boeing and Starbucks Coffee, Seattle, Washington.

Checking the online aviation weather reports after breakfast, it looked like we would have to do without the sun for most of the day. After a short hop along the Pacific ocean, we landed at Tillamook (KTMK). ChasingVolcanos
The main reason for the Tillamook visit was an interesting aircraft museum housed in a World War II Blimp (Zeppelin) hangar. Because most aircraft are kept in flying condition it is not your usual aviation museum experience...


We were told it is the largest wooden structure on Earth and even only the building is surely worth a stop if you're in the neighborhood. 
Leaving the museum a few hours later, we noticed that the weather had further degraded with some low cloud but still good visibility below.  After flying Northbound for about 10 minutes we found ourselves with a cloud base below 500 feet and decided to head back to Tillamook where we topped up the fuel tanks. The famous aviation expression, "You only have too much fuel when you are on fire" , obviously held a lot of truth...
After a brief weather check, it looked like the weather was worsening along the coastline while the inland Portland area was clear. We decided to scud run across the mountains to the East and made a safe landing at Chehalis-Centralia airport between Portland and Seattle.


On the last leg to Seattle we were sailing through clear air again and touched down at the very busy Seattle Boeing Field runway 18 left.


We stayed  at the art hotel, Hotel Max, for 2 nights and were pleasantly surprised by what the capital of the Pacific Northwest had to offer. Blue skies and perfect late summer temperatures made the experience even better. Who told us it always rains in Seattle?

Fly safe and happy shooting,