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Live Free and Fly 24

August 8, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve had this plan in the back of my mind for a couple of years – fly to all 24 of the public use airports in New Hampshire in one day. It finally all came together on July 26, 2017 – I was ready, the weather was (mostly) ready, I had no pesky flight students lurking around and a plane was available all day.

I had spent a bit of time optimizing the flight route based on minimum distance – you can see the route in the figure. I would take off from my home base at Keene (airport ID: KEEN) in the southwest corner of the state and either go clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on which way the weather was developing for the day.

The straight line point-to-point distance is 433 nm. The planning chart shows straight lines between successive airports for all legs but one – the leg from Moultonboro (5M3) to Gorham (2G8) has a couple of pink dot way points that are off the straight line. In fact, one of them had me venture into the alien territory of Maine (OMG!!).  This was done to stay away from higher terrain to the west and to reduce the need to climb.

For the day of the flight, the point to point time was estimated at 4 hours 2 minutes with a fuel burn of 42 gals. This did not take into consideration the time it would take to maneuver to enter the traffic pattern, land and takeoff from each airport. I guesstimated it would add an average time of 10 minutes per airport for this. So 24 airports would add 240 minutes, or 4 hours. With stops I would have to buy fuel at some point since Cessna 36C can only carry 53 useable gallons of fuel, roughly burning 9 gph.

You can see on the log sheet that I’ve circled the “Leg Remaining” distance of 199nm and the “Leg Tot” of 2:11 for the airport at Moultonboro (5M3). This is the halfway point of the trip and where I ultimately planned for a fuel stop.

When the day actually arrived, there was morning fog-plus statewide. The winds were calm and were forecast to be light all day. The fog is usually slow to burn off at KEEN, and this morning was particularly slow, delaying my departure until about 10:30. It looked like the weather would be clearing sooner on the coast, so I launched heading counter-clockwise to give the western part of the state a chance to clear before I got there.

Part of the consideration for using Moultonboro as a fuel stop was based on the lengths of the runways I would be using and concerns about weight. It was not an extraordinarily hot day, but it was warm. Density altitude would be of some concern (those conditions when the plane thinks it is higher that it actually is, and the plane’s performance is correspondingly poorer.) Bristol (2N2) has the shortest runway of the group at 1900 feet, which is why I circled it on the log sheet. (Runway length is over on the right in “Notes” also noting if the runway is asphalt or turf.) By the time I got to Bristol I would have already burned off a bit of fuel so the plane was lighter. After re-fueling at Moultonboro, I would soon be using the grass strip at Gorham which is only 2600 feet long. So I didn’t want to take on too much fuel in order to keep the weight down – just enough to get home.

Bristol was interesting. It’s the only field where I had to do a go-around. In fact, I did two. I didn’t see the wind sock until the second pass when I realized there was a pretty good tailwind landing to the north on runway 03 which is why I was coming in too high. So I turned around and landed in the opposite direction. Landing 03 I felt like I was flying through a parking lot….

Some of these airports are really close to each other, and I’d find I was no sooner climbing enroute when I needed to start descending and join the pattern for the next one. This was particularly true departing Hampton. It is only 7 miles to Portsmouth. You have to tune in the ATIS (weather) and contact the Portsmouth tower all in a hurry. I did a circle over the beach to give myself a bit of time.

Departing Concord (KCON) I contacted Boston Approach as soon as I was clear of the pattern and told them my intentions were to do a stop-and-go at Manchester (KMHT) and then continue on to Nashua (KASH), so when I was handed off to Manchester’s tower they knew what I wanted and had me depart with a right turn to KASH.  (I squeezed in between arriving and departing jets, but was too busy/forgot to take photos.)

Then, departing KASH, I asked the tower for flight following and a squawk code so I could cut through Manchester’s Class C airspace enroute to Hampton. No sweat. Departing runway 32 at Nashua the tower had me do a right turn into Manchester’s airspace on course to Hampton.

I had planned to take a photo on short final for every landing, but I often forgot and/or I was too busy flying the airplane. But I got enough to give you a feel for the variety of the airfields in New Hampshire.

The trip took 7.2 hours on the Hobbs meter. My estimate of 10 minutes for arriving and departing each airport was a bit conservative. Assuming the estimated trip of 4:02 point-to-point was correct, then the time arriving and departing each airport averaged just 8 minutes. I burned a total of 56.1 gallons of avgas for an average of 7.8 gph. Not bad for a 180 Hp Cessna, especially considering a good bit of time was spent in full power climbs, and I rarely had the opportunity to lean it out.

The airport with the lowest elevation is Hampton (7B3) at 93 feet. Twin Mountain (8B2) is the highest at 1459 feet. The shortest runway is at Bristol at 1900 feet (asphalt). The shortest grass strip is Hampton at 2100 feet (though there’s a parallel paved runway).  Interestingly, 13 of the 24 airports use 122.8 for the CTAF frequency; 4 of them use 122.7.

Oh. Did I mention it was a beautiful day? Check the pics.

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The route.

 

Log sheet

Navigation log listing airports, runways,  runway lengths, elevations and radio frequencies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KPSM - Pease

Aligned to enter the right downwind leg at Portsmouth/Pease (KPSM).

KPSM - Pease 16

On short final to runway 16 at Portsmouth/Pease (KPSM), the longest runway in the state at over 11,000 feet. You can do several “touch and goes”!

KMHT - Manchester

Approaching Manchester (KMHT) – a Class C airport. I’m lined up here for a straight-in approach to runway 17 coming south from Concord. They were using runway 06 which is the perpendicular runway, so here I’m actually lined up to enter a left downwind for runway 06.

KLCI - Laconia

Short final to Laconia (KLCI) runway 26.

KERR - Errol

Maneuvering to enter left downwind for runway 33 at Errol (KERR)

KERR - Errol 33

Short final for runway 33 at KERR.

KCON - Concord 35

On final for runway 35 at Concord (KCON). You can see the state capital dome on the left center.

KCNH - Claremont 29

Approaching runway 29 at Claremont (KCNH). Vermont is beyond the first hill.

Dixville Notch

Not an airport, but overflying Dixville Notch.

8B2 - Twin Mountain 27

A bit high, but landing runway 27 at Twin Mountain (8B2). Not in the greatest shape, the asphalt is 2660 feet long.

8B1 - Hawthorne-Feather

Hillsoboro/Hawthorne Feather (8B1).

7B3 - Hampton

Lining up for rwy 02 at Hampton (7B3). You can land on the asphalt or the grass – 2100 feet.

5M3 - Moultonboro

Entering a left downwind runway 20 at Moultonboro (5M3). The halfway point.

8B2 - Twin Mountain

Not just a pretty view of the White Mountains – Twin Mountain airport (8B2) is over there perpendicular to our flight path (the last horizontal line you see before the hills).

5B9 - Dean

In the pattern for Haverhill/Dean airport (5B9)

4C4 - Gifford

That green field in the center is the 2466 foot long runway at Colebrook (4C4).

4C4 - Gifford 22

Approach to landing runway 22 at Colebrook (4C4). It was a beautiful day!

2N2 -Bristol 03

On the turn to final for runway 03 at Bristol (2N2). The shortest field in NH, but paved.

2N2 - Bristol

Overflying Bristol (2N2)

2G8 - Gorham

The 2600 foot long turf/granite strip at Gorham (2G8).

2G8 - Gorham 12

Turning final to runway 12 at Gorham (2G8).

2B3 - Parlin 18

Approaching runway 18 at Newport/Parlin field (2B3).

1P1 -Plymouth

One of those fields is Plymouth airport (1P1).

1P1 - Plymouth 30

Short final for the 2380 foot long runway 30 at Plymouth (1B1)

1B5 - Franconia 36

On final for runway 36 at Franconia (1B5). 2300 feet long.

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Taxiing at Franconia (1B5) with Cannon Mtn on the left. (A different day from the circle adventure.)

 

 

 

 

A Ferry Flight

July 28, 2017 4 comments

This isn’t a daredevil exploit, but merely a description of a trip ferrying a Piper Warrior (N138DC – November One Three Eight Delta Charlie) from Farmingdale, NY (Republic Field – KFRG) to Ellensburg, WA (Bowers Field – KELN). There’s a short glossary for non-pilots at the end as it seemed too cumbersome to add explanations in the text.

THE PLAN, Part 1

Planning for this trip began about a week before the actual departure – looking at routes, weather forecasts covering the subsequent week (looking for a good window to depart), and potential fuel and lodging stops. Although I have 1500+ hours in Cherokees, I wouldn’t have the chance to meet “Delta Charlie”, or fly her before I went to pick her up. So even though she had a WAAS enabled GPS with current database, I would fly VFR-only and would always get flight following from ATC. (As we shall see, “always” did not always translate to always.)

The “plan” was thought out with the idea that it was unlikely to be carried out as planned and would be changed – most likely due to weather. The direct route from KFRG to KELN is 2047nm. Looking at that route, it would take me through Ontario and over the Great Lakes. Some rules and caution entered here.

RULES: 1) A US-registered aircraft cannot enter Canadian airspace with a temporary registration certificate. 2) I wasn’t sure if the plane had an FCC radiotelephone station license (required for international travel, but not within the US). Either way, the temporary registration made Canadian airspace a no-go.

CAUTION: The idea of flying an airplane I hadn’t even seen yet over a large body of water was not appealing.

Nav 0B
Smooth blue line is direct route over Canada and the Great Lakes. Magenta line is direct route from Chicago. Segmented blue line is actual flight path.

The rules and caution prompted me to modify my proposed route to the south, more or less directly to Chicago before turning to the northwest. This increased the distance by a couple of hundred miles – estimated now at 2200nm.

THE PLAN, Part 2

In a Warrior flying at 100 knots true airspeed (perhaps not overly ambitious), 2200nm translates to 22 hours of flying with no stops and no wind. Adding 15% to guesstimate stops and wind, makes it 25 hours of flying. With a useable fuel capacity of 48 gallons, conservatively burning 8 gph with an hour reserve means the plane can go for 5 hours between fuel stops – though my bladder cannot. So I figured I’d fly roughly 3 to 4 hour legs with extra urgent stops as needed. All this translates to six, four hour-ish legs. The initial plan was to do two legs per day and if I fueled the plane to the brim at each stop I would always have ample reserves.

I used AOPA’s flight planning web page to lay out the plan and massage it to fit. Their planner has a provision to check fuel prices along the route and to query what services are available at airports along the way. Though fuel was often cheaper at smaller airports, I figured services would be less available, so I decided to aim for overnight stops at Class D or C airports which would have more generous operating hours.

Once the lines were drawn, I printed out the navigation logs that AOPA’s software generates for use during the flight.

Legs 1&2: From Republic Field (KFRG – Farmingdale, NY) to Porter Co. Regional (KVPZ – Valparaiso, IN) with a fuel stop in Clarion, PA (KAXQ). Total time 6:47

Legs 3&4: From KVPZ to Rapid City, SD (KRAP) (gotta love that identifier) with a fuel stop at Quentin Aanenson Field (KLYV – Luverne,MN). This was chosen because fuel was just $3.83 (!!). Total estimated time 7:33

Leg 5: From KRAP to Helena, MT (KHLN) with no planned fuel stop. Estimated time 3:51.

Leg 6: From KHLN to Ellensburg, WA (KELN) final destination with no planned fuel stop. Estimated time 3:34.

The total estimated time that AOPA came up with was 21:45, which did not include time for taxi, takeoff & climb, and approach to land, or wind. The reality, as expected, was slightly different as you can see in the daily summary charts.

DAY ONE – MEETING N138DC

Arriving at KFRG, “Delta Charlie” was ready to go. She was a 2001 Piper Warrior with 5000 hours on the airframe and 1000 hours on the current engine. She looked to be in pretty good shape, and the logbooks looked clean and up to date. After a bit of consternation I found the temporary registration and airworthiness certificate so all the paperwork was in order. Her instrument panel only had one communications radio and no other navigation capability than the GPS – no redundancy. So it would be strictly a VFR adventure.

A very thorough pre-flight inspection turned up some suspicious green-ish stuff coming out of the gascolator that smelled like oil mixed in with the gas. The next sample looked like clean 100LL avgas. This would be checked repeatedly enroute and was never an issue. She started easily with just a short squirt of prime. Otherwise there was nothing of concern noted.  I did a complete run-up three times in the course of taxiing to the end of the very busy runway at Republic.

DAY ONE – OFF WE GO!

There was a big TFR around the NY area (perhaps some Russians were visiting Trump Tower?), but it wasn’t significantly different than the boundaries of the Class B airspace that exists there. So, I took off and headed north to the Carmel (CMK) VOR to avoid it all before heading due west toward Clarion.

Getting up above the scattered clouds at 6500 feet made it a pretty smooth ride. From CMK I flew to Williamsport (FQM) VOR and directly to Clarion for my first planned fuel stop and found the first hiccup in the plane’s systems. When cancelling flight following going in to land at Clarion and told to “squawk VFR” I pushed the “VFR” button on the Garmin transponder to transmit “1200” and nothing happened. No sweat. Just punch in “1200”. Well, that would have been a solution, but the “2” button didn’t work. Consternation. More, harder, frantic button pushing ensued. Eventually it worked and cleared itself up during the course of the trip.

I had started a bit late today, but I figured the length of the July day would allow me to make it to my proposed first night at Valparaiso, IN (KVPZ).

Not to be.

Findlay, OH (KFDY) was my “planned alternate” in case I couldn’t make it to KVPZ. I had flight following, talking to the Mansfield departure controller. About 30 miles from Findlay I was about to query her about the storm I saw building ahead of me when she called to warn me of the now extreme precipitation which was just moving over Findlay and there was no real way around it. So, I had my first diversion. It had been a long day already, so I just elected to turn back and land at Mansfield (KMFD) for the night.

The friendly FBO (Richland Aviation) was open and gave me overnight use of their courtesy car. Town was basically dead on Sunday evening, but the Holiday Inn welcomed me, and I found a TGIF.

Nav 1

Day 1: Farmingdale to Clarion (fuel) to Mansfield.

DAY TWO

The morning dawned solid IFR. I had to wait until about 10:30 before things cleared up enough to depart. It was unclear how clear it was, so I planned to just move on to KVPZ and check the weather again. Once I was airborne at 2500 feet it seemed improvement was in the wind. I climbed up to 4500 feet to have a better look and it looked pretty good indeed. So I advised ATC that my new destination was now Dubuque, IA (KDBQ). There were a few more clouds that pushed me up to 6500 feet, but I really preferred to be higher as I neared Chicago, anyway. And as soon as I got up that high I could see it was severe clear to the west.

DSCN7472ab

Chicago in the haze

Flying direct to the Joliet (JOT) VOR would keep me south of Chicago’s airspace, but it was still a pretty busy place to be. A friend had loaned me a Stratus box which would receive and display traffic advisories on my iPad. The WAAS GPS also offered traffic advisories, and I was getting advisories from ATC. Interestingly, there was still traffic out there that NONE of these aids warned me of.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Look outside. I’ve experienced the same thing many times around Boston. It really is important to not rely on the gadgets.

IMG_0163a

West of Chicago

Chicago behind me, the skies were much less busy. In case you didn’t know it, it’s flat out there. Dubuque (KDBQ) was just a couple of hours down the road. I wasn’t too overly concerned about finding cheap fuel, but I figured I’d go for it if it was convenient. KDBQ was advertising $4.06 and it was on the way. Imagine my surprise when I discovered their advertised fuel price was exclusive of the tax ….. The net cost was $4.58! (At least it wasn’t $7.00).

Nav 2a

Orwellian tower east of KFSD. Top is at 3445′ above sea level, 1984′ above the ground.

An hour laze in the FBO, checking the weather and recharging my tablet, I launched with the aim of making it to Sioux Falls, SD (KFSD) for the night. It was extraordinarily flat. Quite a change from New England (where there are no straight roads), all the roads here go N-S or E-W. At one point the clouds were building a bit and it was getting fairly murky, but still VFR. ATC dropped me out over the corn fields somewhere, so I flew without them into Luverne, MN (KLYV) for a cheap fill-up ($3.83) before the short hop into KFSD. Well off my route, but just southeast of KFSD is an Orwellian tower – 1984 feet tall. It looked pretty enormous in the evening haze.

0717171937a

BBQ in Sioux Falls

KFSD is a busy Class D field. I did a tight pattern and landed short to get off the runway at the FBO at the north end of the main runway. Maverick Aviation is a fabulous FBO. No tie down fee, no landing fee, no minimum fuel purchase, great lounge, awesome vending machines, good coffee. Nirvana in South Dakota! They arranged a hotel for me and off I went to explore the sights and sounds of Sioux Falls. There actually are falls.

Oh, and barbecue. Pretty good barbecue.

Not really a “problem”, but one of the problems of traveling in a light plane is that you’re always checking the weather. It’s constant. After you land you no sooner than get the plane tied down and you’re thinking about what’s coming the next day. You check after dinner, and before you go to bed. It’s the first thing you do in the morning. Then check at breakfast. Checking again when you get to the airport.

Nav 2

Day 2: Mansfield to Dubuque (fuel) to Luverne, MN (fuel) to Sioux Falls

DAY THREE

The modified plan for Day 3 was to get all the way to Helena, MT (KHLN). There were convective SIGMETs in effect northeast of KSFD and north of my western route. Pierre (pronounced Peer) north and west of my route had advisories out. So I launched with the thought that I’d be looking for a place to land anywhere enroute and run away when appropriate. All that flat terrain is comforting when you’re considering the possibilities of not making your destination.

I departed and climbed to 4500 feet and the first hour was uneventful. I could see the dark sky to the NW of me that was the weather over Pierre, but it wasn’t directly in my path. ATC called to advise me there was severe weather at 60 miles at my 2 o’clock – Pierre. No issue, but something to watch. A layer of scattered clouds was forming around my altitude so I climbed to 6500 feet.

The scattered layer was clumping up to an overcast layer and I climbed to 7500 feet to stay VFR advising ATC of my non-standard altitude and that I was prepared to go higher. It was starting to get murky across my entire field of view. The controller told me the storm was now from my 10 to 3 o’clock. Being the observant lad that I am, I had already noticed this and had been reviewing my chart and my options. I had just passed Chamberlain Field (9V9) and thought that would be a good spot to put down and wait for the storm to pass. (I also knew it was severe clear behind me and I could easily outrun the storm back to the east if I had to.) I advised the controller of my intentions and he said, “That sounds like a good plan.”

Nav 3a

Artist’s rendition of running away from a thunderstorm and landing at 9V9.

0718170943a

Convective SIGMET north of my route to KRAP

Doing a U-turn to get to 9V9 was OK, the problem was getting below the cloud layer. I headed off toward the edge of the clouds and found a big hole to descend through while tuning in their ASOS. The field was just VFR with a ceiling at 1500 feet but visibility greater than 10 miles. The wind was reported at 350/15G22. The hard runway ran 13/31, so there was going to be a bit of a crosswind on landing, but this was handled without incident. The FBO was a room attached to a guy’s house, but there was a comfy lounge chair. I dipped into my reserve of granola bars and hung out for about an hour while the storm moved past before saddling up to move on.

Upon departure the wind was 050/14G22 – storm passage had shifted the wind to a direct crosswind beyond the demonstrated crosswind capability of a Warrior (which is 17 kts). But I had another option. A grass runway pointing 18/36. Taking off 36 reduced the crosswind component to 11G17 – right on the limit. The grass was a bit long and the plane slow to accelerate, but I got up in ground effect well before the mid-point of the runway, corrected for the crosswind and was on my way.

It was beautiful. I had views of the Badlands to the south as I approached Rapid City

DSCN7474ab

The Badlands

(KRAP) on the eastern edge of the Black Hills. It was really hard to make out the airport, but I finally figured out where it was, entered the traffic pattern and made my landing. Rolling up to the self-serve pump, a younger pilot in a Cessna pulled up behind me. He turned out to be a commercial student pilot from Denver doing his long cross country solo. After refueling I stopped in the FBO and chatted with a couple traveling around the west in a Commanche and now heading east toward the weather I left behind. We exchanged pointers from the road that we had acquired. (It was an early joke when GPS first came out that when ATC asked your position, you could tell them you are something like 1279 nm east of Peoria…. I heard ATC instruct the Commanche pilot to report 210nm west of Sioux Falls…)

The field elevation at KRAP is published at 3204 ft. Preparing to depart I tuned in the ASOS. It was a warm day and the ASOS was reporting a density altitude of 6200 ft. Those of us who live close to sea level normally takeoff with the mixture full rich. Under these circumstances I leaned the engine for best power during the run-up and took off with that mixture setting.

DSCN7476a

The Black Hills from the east.

During pre-flight planning, I had looked at the Black Hills on the chart and pondered going around them since I didn’t know what the winds might do and how quickly I could climb over them in what I assumed would be high density altitude.

Ultimately, I took off and turned directly on course in the climb. I climbed to 8500 feet to give ample margin over anything in the area. I requested flight following from the tower and they handed me off to Ellsworth (AFB) departure control who informed me that Denver Center would not be able to see me on radar at that altitude once they handed me off. So I climbed up to 10,500 feet also hoping to find smoother air. Eventually I fell off the radar, anyway, and was picked up later in the day by Salt Lake Center.

It was smoother, for a while. It turned out to be a bumpy afternoon. I had planned a winding route through the passes from Bozeman to Helena, but now that I was up so high this wasn’t necessary, and I re-plotted a more direct route to Helena to save a little time.

DSCN7497

Somewhere. You don’t usually get to see a Warrior’s altimeter reading 10,500 feet. At this particular moment, my indicated airspeed is about 92kts and ground speed (on the GPS) is 94.6kts. We’re pointing west. I’m not talking to ATC since the transponder is set to 1200.

The winds were keeping me busy. At one moment I’d get the plane trimmed out with about 95 kts indicated and 109 across the ground and a few minutes later I’d have the nose up to 79 (Vy) with extra power in order to maintain altitude while my ground speed was at 80. It was mountain wave activity or thermals or wind shear that shifted back and forth every few minutes for a couple of hours. I kept looking at the hills to my left/west trying to conceive how the local topography could be doing this, but knowing that mountain waves can extend for great distances from their source I might not have been able to see the offending hills. The country below me was a uniform color, so I couldn’t convince myself that it was pockets of thermals – though it was warm below. The air was so dry (I theorized) that there weren’t any clouds forming due to thermals. Regardless of the cause, the wind shear or up and down drafts were right on the edge of the Warriors ability to maintain altitude. I just resigned myself to slower progress and kept an eye on my fuel consumption. My diversion earlier in the day cost me a bit of fuel, and the wind was taking it’s toll, but I still had oodles, and there were many options along the way.

No radar contact coming into Helena, so approach/departure control uses position reporting to separate traffic – my first report was at 30 miles to the east. Helena is a nice spot nestled among hills to the north, west and south and a nice lake to the east. The field has a Beck’s U-Pump for fueling. Next to the pumps is a small place called Mickey’s – it’s a small FBO with a full kitchen and a bunk room where you can stay for free. Never seen anything like that at an airport before. I couldn’t find a hotel that had a shuttle service, so I ended up staying at The Carolina B&B (highly recommended) in the historic district of town across the street from the original governor’s mansion. The proprietress picked me up and recommended a great restaurant a short walk from the B&B. Nice town.

IMG_0195a

N138DC on the ramp at Helena

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High security at Helena. You’d never guess the combination.

Nav 3

Day 3: Sioux Falls to Chamberlain (storm) to Rapid City (fuel) to Helena.

DAY FOUR

The morning started off lazily enough in the B&B’s garden. An all-too yummy and plentiful breakfast (need to check weight and balance calculations) and a slow motion start began the last leg of this adventure. I departed slightly to the southwest to take advantage of the lower terrain heading toward MacDonald Pass as I climbed in the cool air of the morning. Helena is at 3877 feet and it took about 27 miles and 20 minutes to get up to 10,500 feet at 85 kts. Departure control advised me that Salt Lake Center would neither see nor hear me at 10,500 feet until I got past Missoula, so I settled into a nice smooth, quiet flight in contrast to the day before. There were TFR’s for forest fires south and north of my route which I had a front seat for. I had hoped to catch sight of a tanker working, but only heard them on the air and never saw them. The skies were pretty hazy all over the west – it has been dry and the fires plentiful.

Nav 4A

TFRs (the red areas) for forest fires west of Helena along my route

DSCN7508a

Forest Fire

I picked up flight following west of Missoula, cleared the mountains of Montana and Idaho (caught a view of Coeur d’Alene to the north) and arrived over the plain of central and western Washington at Spokane. Seattle Center asked me if I wanted to descend.

IMG_0210a

58 miles from KELN. The transponder is the lower box – I’m squawking 3112 for ATC to track me. The altitude I’m reporting to them is 10500. 126.100 is the frequency for Seattle Center.

“No. It took a long time to get up here, I’d like to enjoy the view.” So I stayed at 10,500 until 30 miles from Ellensburg. It was hazy. As I got closer I noticed something sticking up in the haze directly on my route. It turned out to be Mt. Rainier which was a pretty nice sight.

DSCN7534ab

Mt. Rainier growing out of the horizon.

DSCN7533ab

Rainier with Ellensburg in foreground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving at Ellensburg was uneventful except for the fact that after I taxied to the ramp and shut down, I couldn’t get the door open. I had to stick my arm out the pilot’s side vent window and flag a mechanic down in one of the hangars to help me get out. I really had hoped to get out of the plane at this point.

IN THE END

The total flight time was 25.6 hours to cover 2273 nm, which, surprisingly, was pretty close to my initial guesstimate of 25 hours. The flight time for each of the four days were 5.7, 7.5, 8.2 and 4.2 hours. I figure I burned 193.7 gallons for an overall burn rate of 7.6 gph. (Though on the 4.6 hour turbulent leg from KRAP to KHLN I burned 8.2gph.) It would have been more economical had the plane been equipped with an EGT, but I had to revert to the crude method of leaning to engine roughness and then enriching by sound/tach.

In the end, that’s a lot of time in a Warrior.

Nav 4

Day 4: Helena to Ellensburg

 

Glossary

AOPA – Aircraft Owner’s and Pilots Association – The largest pilot organization in the US. They have oodles of free information online as well as flight planning software and weather tools.

ATC – Air Traffic Control. The folks who provide the service to keep air traffic moving smoothly. From control towers at airfields, to “approach” controllers who manage traffic arriving and departing from airports, to “center” controllers who manage enroute traffic. They may or may not have radar capability.

ATIS/ASOS/AWOS – a recorded, sometimes automatically generated weather broadcast usually only reporting local conditions. The wind may be reported as 050/11G17 which means it’s blowing from the northeast (50 degress) at 11 kts gusting to 17 kts.

B&B – Benedictine & Brandy, or Bed & Breakfast depending on your preference.

Class B, C, D Airspace – Airspace carved out around airports that partitions the space to allow multiple controllers to handle traffic and manage flow. Class B is the largest and busiest (think Boston, New York, etc.) and restricts VFR traffic. Class D is much smaller only having a control tower.

Density Altitude – When the air is warm or humid, it’s density decreases. When air is less dense, it is all disadvantageous to flying – the engine generates less power, the propeller generates less thrust, and the wing generates less lift. Flying from high altitude airports by definition means you are at a higher “density altitude” and will have worse performance. At low altitudes, when the conditions are right, it “feels” just like being at a high altitude.  A calculated density altitude based on barometric pressure, temperature and humidity equates the condition to higher elevation. Performance charts for the airplane tell you the bad news. Longer takeoff roll, poorer climb performance.

FBO – Fixed Base Operator. Where you park, get fuel, find a lounge, restrooms, ground services. Some have no charges. Some are exorbitant.

Flight Following – A service provided by ATC to provide traffic advisories to VFR traffic on a workload permitting basis. VFR pilots are still responsible to “see and avoid”.

KFRG, etc. – a four letter airport identifier. Everyone worldwide uses a three letter identifier and then sticks a letter on the front for the country (in the US, we use “K”. Canada uses a “C”. Just to show there is logic to this, Angola uses an “F”). If the identifier begins with a number (e.g. 9V9) the “K” is usually not used since these are usually dinky little airports.

nm/kts – Nautical Mile/knots – At 6076 feet it is about 15% longer than a statute mile at 5280 feet. (It is derived from one minute, a sixtieth of a degree, of latitude – thank the Babylonians.) A knot is a nautical mile per hour. 100 kts is about 115 mph.

Piper Warrior – A four seat airplane in the Piper Cherokee family. It typically has a 160 horsepower engine and doesn’t go very fast.

Run-up – Performed on the ground as part of the pre-flight checks. The engine is powered up to 60% power, or so, and the dual ignition systems are verified along with oil temp and pressure, fuel pressure and the vacuum system. No blinking red lights allowed.

Runway headings – Published as 02 or 36, for instance. Just add a zero to the end and you get the magnetic heading of the runway. And you can generally land in either direction on a runway, so they will be designated 18/36 or 02/20.

SIGMET – An inflight weather advisory (SIGnificant METeorological information) of something bad going on in the atmosphere. A SIGMET can be issued for “convective activity” (read: thunderstorms), or specifically for tornadoes, volcanic ash, severe icing, etc.  A “Convective SIGMET” is an invitation to stay away.

TFR – Temporary Flight Restriction. These can pop up for multiple reasons – VIP travel, natural disasters (fires, hurricane damage/rescue), NASCAR races, football games. They are intended to keep traffic out that is not concerned with the event.

Transponder – A box in the plane that transmits altitude and a code to ATC. The code is displayed on ATC radar screens. “1200” is the normal code for VFR traffic buzzing around aimlessly. When you request and get flight following you are issued a discrete code to “squawk” (transmit), e.g. “3114” so that ATC can identify you quickly.

VFR – Visual Flight Rules. You fly by looking outside, visually. You use navigation aids (radios, GPS) to assist, but you are ultimately responsible to “see and avoid” other aircraft.  Under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) you can’t see nothin’ and fly by reference to your instruments only.

VOR – A VHF radio navigation aid identified by three letters, e.g. JOT is the Joliet VOR.

Vy – The indicated airspeed that gives the best rate of climb for a airplane.

WAAS – Wide Area Augmentation System are ground based radio signals that supplement GPS information to make it even more accurate.

100LL Avgas – In the aviation world, we still use leaded gas. It is “low lead”, but lead nonetheless. Avgas is usually 100 octane.

Wings, Wheels and Walking (or, Just Say ‘No’ to the $100 Hamburger)

The $100 hamburger was invented to give pilots a way to feed their hunger to fly. The burger is six bucks. The plane, $94. “Hey. Anyone want to fly someplace for dinner?”

All the Way to XiaHe, China for this Yak Burger

All the Way to XiaHe, China for this Yak Burger

I’ve been working as a part time flight instructor at Monadnock Aviation in Keene (KEEN), NH. The airport was shut down this June for about 10 days for re-paving, and owner Beth graciously offered me the use of the Cessna 172 during that period. Relocating the bird to Springfield/Hartness airport in Vermont (KVSF) allowed me to re-kindle a project I last made progress on 15 years ago.

The idea is to combine three things I enjoy – flying, cycling and hiking. The goal is to fly to the airport nearest the high point in each state, ride my bicycle as far as the road goes, and then hike to the summit (if necessary). The previous work toward attaining this (dubious to some) goal was when I lived in Pittsburgh, PA and flew with the Beaver Valley Flying Club based at KBVI. I’ve lost some track as to my progress, but I know Archer N47562, Monty and I bagged Mt. Marcy in New York’s Adirondacks, Mt. Rogers (Virginia), Mt. Mitchell (North Carolina and memorable for the 100F heat), Campbell Hill (Ohio), a corn field in Indiana, and Delaware’s high point (in a trailer park).

At Lake Placid, NY About to Head for Mt. Marcy

At Lake Placid, NY in the 90’s About to Head for Mt. Marcy

The flight planning for these adventures has always been diligent. I’ve done quite a bit of self-contained cycling (those guys you zip past in your car who are loaded down with saddle bags of stuff, often drenched in the rain), and the ground planning is often nearly absent. I usually remember to look at a road map before I take off, and may even refer to some trail maps. But I approach the ground transport with a “Lets Go!” spirit and often forget the planning that might make them more successful … or make me more prepared. (Two trips were required to find Mt. Rogers since the locals didn’t know where it was. This confirms what I’ve found during years of traveling – you can never rely on local knowledge. Inquire, but don’t rely.)

Some of the Flight Planning Info

Some of the Flight Planning Info for  the Flight to Millinocket

An airplane that can transform to a car comes with compromises that make it disappointing in both regards. For me all the compromises must bear on the bike, though the compromises are relatively slight. My ride is an old Montague folding mountain bike made back when they were marketed by Schwinn. It fits comfortably in the back seat of a Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee.

Much of what makes an airplane are the avionics – an inexpensive Cherokee with a modern instrument panel (worth more than the plane) can be a treat to fly, though some may wonder why you’ve made the investment.

The analogy for bikes are the “components” – the crank, rear gear cassette, derailleurs (the things that move the chains between gears) and the shifters and brakes. Most of the money in a good bike is in the rear wheel.

The old Monty has a slightly flimsy frame (due to the folding joint stiffness), though it is relatively light. In terms of riding, it’s primary attribute is the utter cheapness of the components, and the only reason I have it is because it folds in half. I’ve replaced the original rear wheel – the spokes pulled out the first time it was heavily loaded – but the most expensive addition I’ve made to the bike is replacing the saddle. I try not to go too fast downhill since I have little faith in the brakes which also means I have trouble not going too fast downhill. I haven’t replaced the gearing and shifters, and I curse the thing every time I shift, vowing to upgrade the components, though never doing so. (To shift down one speed, I have to shift down two and then shift up one, and/or vice-versa. And that works, sometimes.)

Only in 36C's Dreams

Only in 36C’s Dreams

I can’t see dumping money into it. It’s the same thing that goes through every airplane owner’s mind when they’re wishing they had DME (distance measuring equipment) but can’t bear to part with the thousand bucks since how often do they really need it? And it would be nice to have a glass panel, but a tablet works well enough and costs thousands less. (If you wait long enough, maybe Android will be FAA certified.)

So with that as the background, we’re off to Millinocket, ME for an attempt on Mt. Katahdin – at 5269 feet the highest point in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Nothing really went wrong on this trip, it’s just that everything took a lot longer.

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Millinocket and Katahdin on the Montreal Sectional Chart

It has been said that a pilot’s license is a license to learn and in my experience this continues to be true. I checked the weather and filed my IFR flight plan the night before using the government computer system, DUATS. During the morning weather briefing with a human (this service is contracted to Lockheed-Martin) I learned there was forecast icing at my filed altitude of 9000 feet, so I decided to amend my cruise altitude to 7000 feet to avoid any possibility of running into ice. I was surprised to learn that they do not have access to flight plans filed through DUATS. In fact, they couldn’t even view my flight plan so I had to repeat my route of flight and other info just to get the briefing. In order to amend mine, the briefer had to put me on hold and call “Center”. Good enough, but getting my clearance from Burlington Radio just before launching a couple of hours later, the flight plan had not been amended. “Oh well, I’ll ask for lower once I get airborne.”

This is the second time this year I’ve run into this situation where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. On a flight earlier this year with an instrument/commercial student we filed and activated a VFR flight plan and picked up VFR flight following from KEEN, through the New York Hudson River corridor and on to Cape May, NJ (KWWD). We did a practice ILS approach into Cape May talking to Atlantic City Approach (KACY). After parking, my student discovered that his phone had several messages from Flight Service asking where we were, since we were slightly overdue. Surprised that Atlantic City hadn’t apprised them of our situation, we cleared up that we were, in fact, alive and no search and rescue attempt was necessary. Departing Cape May, and re-initiating flight following with Atlantic City Approach, they asked us if we’d talked to Flight Service because they were looking for us. It turns out that having a VFR flight plan in no way connects to VFR flight following or other ATC functions. If you need to report your progress on your flight plan, you need to go off of center frequency to talk to an FSS, report your status, and then go back to center. This seems to be a rather serious flaw in the system, but what do I know.

Mt. Katahdin in the background

Mt. Katahdin in the background

I figured the flight to Millinocket would take 2.5 hours in N5136C – a 2002 180HP Cessna 172SP. Departing KVSF, only the low scattered cloud layers that were predicted were present, so I was only able to log 7.5 seconds of actual instrument time during my initial climb. After getting high enough to contact Boston Center, I was almost immediately given the opportunity to shave a corner off my route by flying direct to Kennebunk VOR when I was able to receive it’s signal. There were no clouds above me by the time I got to 7000 feet, so I just continued to 9000. Noting I had entered “VFR GPS” in the remarks section of my flight plan, the center controller asked me if I was OK going direct to Millinocket. I told her that I certainly was OK with it. This saved a bit more time. Nevertheless, I arrived in Millinocket 15 minutes behind plan due to the murderous 40+ knots headwind most of the way. The ride was exceptionally smooth, though.

Boston Center stepped me down to 6000 feet (the winds were no better) to set me up for a VOR approach to KMLT to get through the broken cloud layer below me. But when I was 30 miles out the clouds were breaking up, so I canceled IFR with Boston Center and went down through a hole in the clouds for a visual approach. Boston kept me squawking with them and on their frequency until I was about 10 miles out – this was comforting as it is pretty much wilderness up there and it was nice to know someone was watching. Tuning in Millinocket’s ASOS (Automated Surface Observation System), the surface winds were reported as beastly (that’s aviation-speak for bad), the heading varying between 350 and 030 degrees at 15 knots gusting to the 20’s. I prepared for a bumpy approach and was not disappointed. On short final for runway 34 I kept the ASOS tuned in to get updates, but didn’t really need confirmation to know that I was getting a bad ride. I was coming in 10 knots faster that my normal approach speed with just two notches of flaps. I saw the airspeed indicator swing between 60 and 80 kts and back in a matter of a second. The last ASOS report before touchdown (plantdown) was 010 at 13 gusting 28.

Plantdown was 2.8 hours after departure. All those shortcuts kept me from being even later. Jeff, who mans the FBO, came out to meet me and help me tie down. “Windy up there today? Well, at least it keeps the black flies down.”

DSC_0436a

No Sight of the Summit, Yet

It was on short final into those gusty headwinds when I noticed I was pointing directly at Mt. Katahdin capped in clouds. The realization that these were going to be the same winds I was about to ride against on my bike settled in. After “Three Six Charlie” was chocked and tied down, I unfolded Monty, loaded her up and off we went. Into the wind. I estimated it would take about 2 hours to cycle the 25 miles or so into the campground in Baxter State Park, but it took over three and a half hours. I stopped for a snack and to replenish my stock of Snickers bars at the North Woods Trading Post (last gas before the park). “Gettin’ blown around on that bike today? Well, at least it keeps the black flies down.”

Lean-To Accommodation

Monty and Our Deluxe Cabin Class Accommodation

I had booked a lean-to at Katahdin Stream Campground figuring it would save the weight in carrying a tent. I hadn’t really thought all this through even after my buddy, Roger, reminded me to stock up on DEET. Fortunately, I heeded his warning if not fully grasping the implications, and had a new, full, 10 oz. bottle. But no tent, nor the associated bug screen. My introduction to the imminent threat of death by blood loss due to insect bites was when I stopped at the park gate and presented my reservation form for the lean-to. The gatehouse was protected from the wind, and, therefore, unprotected from the bugs. I was immediately covered with mosquitoes. There were seven on my hand as I produced my reservation form. While the park rangers were distracted admiring my rubber ducky handlebar horn and debating whether or not it counted as a “pet” (not permitted), I quickly broke into my DEET cache and doused myself.

Eight miles of dirt road later, we arrived at the campground and my stream side lean-to. Still windy and the mountain was still covered in clouds. No chance to try for the top today – too late, anyway. The ranger I checked in with said, “It’s been too windy to hike today, but at least it keeps the black flies down.”

Fortunately, the winds kept up and the temperature dropped into the 40’s, so the bugs were kept to a low roar and it was cool enough to zip my sleeping bag up in defense. Hanging my food bag out of the reach of bears afforded the only evening entertainment after I took a short walk up to see some waterfalls. Liberal quantities of DEET were sacrificed on my behalf. It is probably bad for your health and knocked 2 years off my lifespan, but at least it kept the black flies down.

A Friend on the Trail

Easy to Make Friends on the Trail

View During the Ascent

Some Great Views on the Ascent

If I couldn’t hike the mountain on day 1, my “plan” was to hike the mountain, ride back to KMLT, and fly back to KVSF on day 2. I figured the hike was 6 hours round trip. An 05:45 alarm got me up, breakfasted, packed the bike to be ready to go after the hike, and on the trail at 06:47.

“Should be back noon-ish,” I thought, optimistically. Well. I was making steady progress on the trail, but had a couple of people pass me which is always disheartening. Two guys just blew past me which really hit my morale where it hurts, though I later caught up to them and passed them above tree line. The “trail” became a scramble, sometimes in a stream bed.

I caught up to a woman at 09:10, still below treeline, who said this was about half-way. “Can’t be,” I thought. I’d been on the trail over two hours. But she was about right.

Not "The Tablelands" and Not the Summit

Not “The Tablelands” and Not the Summit

Top of Maine

Top of Maine

“Climbing” mountains is often a misrepresentation of hiking a trail. Not so here. There were several short pitches of rock that were quite steep. And on the down climb I scouted many less airy routes around the “trail”. For those Appalachian Trail hikers starting in the south and ending here, this must feel like a final insult. Eventually I made it up the scramble to “The Tablelands” and across to the main summit at 11:48, just over 5 hours up. Nice view.

I was already patting myself on the back thinking about the iodine in my first aid kit and how that would treat the water at the first stream I came to on the way down. The two liters I packed that morning was plenty for a six hour hike …. not for 10 hours, though. “Thoreau Spring” is located on The Tablelands, but didn’t afford an easy means to fill my bottles as it would be better named “Thoreau Ooze”. I still had some water left, anyway.

View from the Summit of Katahdin

The Tablelands from the Summit (That’s Snow in June)

I continued down, down, down, through the rock scramble, finding alternate ways around places that required a scary-ish down climb. My legs were shot, and just in time I got to tree line and had some trees to hold onto as I continued to hobble down. Shortly below entering the trees, the path shared a stream bed and I was able to make some potable water. Sweet, with a hint of iodine and fruity undertones of Vibram boot soles.

I finally reappeared at the campground five and a half hours after leaving the summit – it took longer to come down than go up. I was knackered. There was NO WAY I was going to be able to cycle back to Millinocket that day. I thought about getting on the bike just to see how painful it would be, but decided to just imagine the pain. So I paid for another night at the lean-to and curled up snuggled with my bottles of DEET and Aleve after a chilly wash in the stream and awaited the onslaught of black flies which, fortunately, never came. I was glad I packed enough bagels and peanut butter and jelly to carry me through.

The next morning it was as painful to get on the bike as I imagined, but it was a beautiful day and the ride out was pretty pleasant – no wind to speak of, and no insects as long as I was moving. Going out of the park trended slightly downhill. I stopped to take a look at Stump Pond and there was a big furry rock drinking near one edge of the pond. Bear? Nope. Just a moose stumping around.

Stump Pond

Big Furry Rock in Stump Pond

The often overlooked virtues of having an airplane for drying laundry

The Often Overlooked Virtues of Having an Airplane for Drying Laundry. Katahdin in the Background.

 

I grabbed a breakfast sandwich at the North Woods Trading Post. “Winds are much better today! How was the hike?” “It was windy, so there were no black flies.”

Back in town Monty and I rolled through the airport gate up to 36C, and I hung my laundry out to dry while doing the pre-flight on the plane. I went into the FBO to take a sink bath, change my clothes and check on the weather for the return flight. It was going to be a great day – much lighter winds than the outbound trip. I didn’t bother with an IFR flight plan, but I filed VFR and would get VFR flight following to keep an eye on me over the wilderness.

 

DSC_0572

Flagstaff Lake and Bigelow Mountain, ME (Dead Bug on Windscreen)

Circling around the north and west of the White Mountains in NH, I could see the poor visibility hanging in the mountains and got a good appreciation for the ruggedness of these hills and the beauty of this lake country. Two thirds of the way home I had to descend a couple of thousand feet to get under a cloud layer and Boston Center notified me “radar contact lost”. No more flight following, but I was pretty close to KVSF and just followed the Connecticut River valley south to Mt. Ascutney and in to KVSF.

I didn’t even contemplate cycling the day after getting home. The second day, however, I was ready to do something. and I looked everywhere for my cycling shoes. I’m often confounded by the fact that I always find things in the last place I look, but I didn’t even find them there, so I went for a ride in my tennis shoes.

That night I thought, “Could I have left them at the airport in Millinocket?” I called and left a message on the answering machine hoping they were on the floor next to the computer I used to check weather. Jeff called me back. “Yes. I found your shoes. They were delivered to Jaffrey yesterday.”

“Jaffrey?” (KAFN is just on the other side of Mt. Monadnock from KEEN – 20 miles.) I have no known connection to Jaffery other I flew there once to get ice cream.

“Yes. Harvey was in here yesterday on a charter. You know Harvey?”

“Yes (not really), but …”

“I was telling him about a plane from Keene being in here and a guy on a bike and I think he left these shoes here. He recognized the tail number and said he knew Monadnock Aviation. So he took the shoes.”

“Seriously?!”

I called KAFN looking for Harvey, but spoke to his wife, Lee. “Um … Did Harvey happen to pick up my shoes in Millinocket the other day?” “…. Oh! You’re the shoe guy! Yeah. We’ve got ’em!” So I had an excuse to drive to Jaffrey to get some ice cream … err.. my shoes.

Too funny.

Clouds

Clouds En Route to North Adams

Mt. Greylock, MA

War Memorial on Mt. Greylock

There were still a few days before KEEN would re-open, so I plotted a course to try and nab the high points of Massachusetts (Mt. Greylock) and Rhode Island (Jerimoth Hill) in one day. It was not to be. Approaching Danielson, CT (KLZD) from the north, I was looking at the edge of a wide storm (a storm I looked at on radar before leaving home and thought I might be able to beat). The clouds were reported at scattered 300 with temperature and dew point at 19C. Not ideal for flying or biking. So over Southbridge,MA I diverted northwest to North Adams, MA (KAQW), unloaded the bike in full sunshine and grunted up the 12 mile road to the war memorial atop Mt. Greylock. Monty and I were passed by a few cyclists wearing team colors, sigh. I did manage to stay ahead of the woman walking her dog, though. A few steps down from the view at the top, Bascom Lodge offered a nice hummus and roast eggplant sandwich. The guy seated next to me had a yummy looking pulled pork sandwich. They had ice cream. The ride down was 95% coasting, wishing I had upgraded Monty’s brakes, and vowing to do so, someday.

One of Many False Summits of Rhode Island

One of Many False Summits of Rhode Island

I returned to Danielson for an attempt on Jerimoth Hill the next day in bumpy conditions. The round trip seemed like a ride in a washing machine. The “climb” up to the summit of Rhode Island at 812 ft MSL was pretty decent. It was just about seven miles from the airport along Route 101 which had a good shoulder and light traffic. I scouted out a good ice cream place just before leaving Connecticut. The highway sign for Jerimoth Hill is about 500 feet (horizontally) from the actual top. Walking through the woods of small boulders I thought it must have been a challenge to the surveyors to find the actual high point. The Nepalese prayer flags hanging in the trees around the top made it obvious, but I doubt they were there for the survey crew.

The True Summit of Rhode Island

Monty at the True Summit of Rhode Island

The brownie hot fudge sundae with cake batter ice cream and a cherry (yes, I will have the nuts thank you) consumed upon re-entering Connecticut had enough calories to maintain a family of four for a week.

Cessna 36C was patiently waiting for us back at Danielson, and the flight back to KVSF was uneventful though it was nearly impossible to maintain any given altitude – the vertical gusts were set on a heavy wash cycle. (Time to believe that AIRMET for moderate turbulence.) As soon as I could pick it up, I monitored KVSF’s ASOS. Some reports had the winds above the demonstrated crosswind capability of the plane. But by the time I was getting close to land the direction and magnitude of the winds had settled down a bit. It is important to note, however, that after a dozen trips flying into runway 29 at KVSF, I still hadn’t done a decent landing. This trip was no exception. I blame it on the crosswinds, but at least they keep the black flies down.

The Rewards of a Hard Day

The Rewards of a Hard Day

Both runways at KEEN reopened on schedule at the end of June and the students began to return. But July 1st arrived with no students on my schedule and the promise of fair, though hot, skies. A good opportunity to bag the high point of Connecticut. It was already getting hot as I loaded Monty into 36C. I launched later than I wanted to due to morning fog and arrived at Great Barrington, MA (KGBR) a little after 9. It’s a cute little airport with a 2400 ft paved runway in the southwest corner of the state. The approach end of runway 11 is highlighted by a clump of trees just a couple of hundred feet from the threshold. It was hard to avoid yielding to the temptation to go through the space around either side of the trees, but I think that might have been a losing game.

36C at Great Barrington Airport

Three Six Charlie at Great Barrington Airport

I parked on the grass and was greeted by one of the local instructors, Dante. As I secured 36C and assembled Monty, I described my project to him and inquired about the presence of a hose that I might desire upon my return from the summit of Connecticut. No problem.

Connecticut’s highest summit is Bear Mountain at 2316 ft., but the high point of Connecticut is actually on the southern slope of Massachusett’s Mt. Frissel at 2380 feet. (The summit of Mt. Frissel is at 2653 ft.) Off I rode into the heartland of Mt. Washington State Forest (with a quick stop at the South Egremont Deli to pick up a sub for lunch.)

How to Get to the High Point of Connecticut

Ground Planning to the High Point of Connecticut

It was a long climb up a peaceful road in low gears passing some huge homes enroute. Shortly after the pavement ended I found the car park (within sight of the MA/CT state line marker) for the trail head about 2 hours after leaving the airport. A couple was just heading off on their quest for another of the New England high points, but their major project was to hit New England’s 100 high points.

I love these projects. Maybe someone should start a project of climbing the highest point in each state which is not a mountain/hill top. Maybe it’s been done.

Locking Monty to a tree, I donned my day pack and headed up the trail which quickly became a scramble. I kept telling myself this is not Katahdin. This first part of the trail topped out on Round Top Mountain (and first point for some much needed breezes) where I ran into another highpointer – a guy from Michigan who was on his way home from Dubai and on his way down from the top of Frissel. This was his 32nd high point and he was hoping to get Massachusetts and maybe Vermont before heading home.

A slight down scramble from Round Top to the shoulder joining it to Frissel led to a longer scramble up to the tree covered, viewless, windless, hot summit. A hundred yards or so south-ish from there on the open shoulder of the hill led to the geologic marker at the state border and high point of Connecticut – about an hour and twenty minutes from the car.

High Point of Connecticut

Watch Where You Sit!! The High Point of Connecticut Really is a Point

Did I mention it was hot? The panoramic view over the Berkshires from the high point was a good lunch spot with some warm breezes.

The hike down was relatively uneventful and much faster than the scramble up. I’m usually on the lookout for snakes on hikes since I don’t really like them, but I hadn’t really thought about it much on this hike. Easing down an angled rock slab, a garter snake rolled past me down the slab which alerted me to set my sensor level a bit higher. Nearing the top of the scramble back up Round Top, I heard this high pitched chirping. Almost a squeal, it sounded like a big insect. I was looking around in the undergrowth to see the cricket that could make such a racket when I noticed the rattlesnake on the side of the trail a couple of feet in front of me. Yikes. It was a much higher frequency pitch than I’ve heard in other similar encounters. Made me wish that I hadn’t saved the weight of my ankle high boots and brought them rather than hiking in my tennies. One more garter snake on the way down, and I was safely back to Monty.

Note that DEET is ineffective against reptiles.

Final Battle of Shay's Rebellion

Site of Final Battle of Shay’s Rebellion

The ride back to Great Barrington was mostly downhill, so a treat after the heat of the ride in and the hike. Another stop at the South Egremont Deli for some cool drinks, and I was on my way for a short side trip to the site of the last battle of Shay’s Rebellion of 1787 on a side road to Sheffield, MA.

Back at the airport I folded up Monty and loaded her and the rest of the gear into 36C, then searched for that hose. The first few seconds produced solar heated hot water, but shortly it became ice cold – just what the doctor ordered. I doused myself with the secondary goal of washing the sweat from my cycling clothes. A quick wardrobe change and I was ready to be airborne again. Departing runway 29, I would fly over the same trees I flew in over, and I had hoped to snap a few pics of the departure. But the gusty, direct crosswinds on takeoff kept me otherwise occupied. I sailed back to KEEN through hazy skies with a 25 knot tailwind. It was hot, humid, and hazy – thunderstorm season is soon upon us.

The only New England summit remaining for me is Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield. Though, come to think of it, I haven’t summited New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington by flying there and biking to the trailhead….

 

Getting There is (Something Less Than) Half the Fun

February 10, 2013 3 comments

Days -3 to +1 of a Kiva Fellowship

Day -3: I know when to leave a party.

More Snow than Boston was Expecting

More Snow than Boston was Expecting

A big snowstorm was moving up the east coast of the US due to hit Boston on Thursday. On Wednesday night at 22:30 I boarded a Swiss International flight for the 6 hour run to Zurich.

This might seem like an unusual choice to avoid winter weather (there was snow on the ground in Zurich), but this was just the first leg of my journey.

Day -2: Getting There….

A few hours layover and I was snuggled into my seat for the 10 hour Thai Air flight to Bangkok. I was able to see most of the film “Argo” (which I recommend) before the entertainment system failed, seemingly only in my and my neighbor’s seats.

Day -1: Getting There….

Not there quite yet, a few hours after traipsing across the huge Suvarnabhumi airport, I boarded another Thai flight, this one only 5 hours long, to Denpasar on the island of Bali. I stumbled out of the plane into 32C/89F warmth. The surfing forecast was good (it always is), and no blizzard was in sight. Using a conventional calendar to track my position in the space/time continuum, it was Friday and was 2:00 in the afternoon local time, about 27 hours and 12 or 13 time zones after boarding the Zurich bound flight in Boston.

Having changed my original travel plans and not able to re-confirm my next flight over the internet, I quickly checked into my Kuta guesthouse. Then began a three hour epic taxi journey through the busy streets of Denpasar in search of Merpati Airlines office. Boarding the cab, the flag drop was only 5,000 Indonesian rupiahs – about US$0.50, so I figured this ride would be pretty cheap.

Typical, Boring, Kuta Sunset

Typical, Boring, Kuta Sunset

The traffic was reminiscent of Hanoi. Motorbikes everywhere during the fully developed rush hour. The only difference here was that I was in a Toyota taxi, not riding bitch on the back of a motorbike taxi in Hanoi bumping knees with other riders.

I took care of my business, buying a new ticket at slightly more than double the cost of the original one, and taxied back to Kuta. I was so tired during the ride back that I started to hallucinate as my mind wandered. Focus. Dropping me near my guesthouse, the taxi meter read 167,500 IDR – US$17. Glad this wasn’t NYC.

There are three main reasons I love Asia. The insane traffic, the food, and the foot massages. The first item was already checked off, so I took a quick walk along the beach, a short nap while having a decent foot massage, scarfed down grilled prawns in Szechuan sauce with a side of stir fried morning glory, a quick dip in the pool, and then tried to sleep.

Day 0: Getting Real Close

Finally on the way to my ultimate destination, I climbed on the frigidly air-conditioned late morning Merpati flight to Dili, Timor-Leste. It was less than two hours, and I wished longer because of the great views of some of the 15,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and the towering cumulus clouds of the rainy season. Beautiful.

From Dili

From Dili

So Abundant it Grows on the TreesSo Abundant, Fish Grow on Trees

The first views of Timor showed the rugged mountains (up to 3000m), torrential wet season run-off into the sea, and the small city of Dili hugging the north coast around a small harbor.

Checked into the Dive Timor Lorosae guesthouse and took the first orientation walk of town scoping out some longer term stay options.

Dive Timor Lorosae

Dive Timor Lorosae

In the next issue – Where to stay?

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