Me and the old dinosaur attended the Backcountry Pilot's yearly fly-in and camping at Johnson Creek in the Cascade mountains in Idaho. This is a well established fly-in mainly attended by various iterations of bush planes and singles. A lot of Alaska tundra wheels in sight. You sleep in your tent or under the wing. I was the only twin in attendance, but last year a Baron was there, I was told. There were also some rather un-bush singles in attendance, such as a Cirrus, a Mooney and a Bonanza. I offset the $1000 in fuel used by saving the $50 on not having to buy a tent (as I could sleep in the cabin)...
Rwy is at 5000ft elevation and is 3500ft long pristine grass and is pretty much one way in and and one way out. It's at the bottom of a canyon/valley with towering mountains all around, so the approach can be a bit challenging. I have some slight mountain flying experience, but not in combination with tight canyons like this, so the first landing was rather nerve wracking.
We had a terrific weekend and I'll certainly be back next year!
She's ready! Oleo's filled with nitrogen, oil changed, washed and nose blown.
Purely for weight distribution. Obviously.
Flight up from LA to Johnson Creek took about 4,5hrs in moderate turbulence all the way. It was a beautiful day and I had great tailwinds, but it was bumpy as h**l. Did one stop at Lone Pine in the desert. Sweltering heat on the ground with close to 40 degrees Celsius, short-ish runway and full fuel after uplift. Climb was anaemic, to say the least. GS often hit 180kts, though. Cruised at 10500ft all the way.
180's were by far the most common attendees, followed by Maules.
First landing I took the big loop around the mountain and came back up the valley floor for a straight in, as I didn't know if I could turn within the distance of the mountains in the valley yet. It would be a bummer to start a turn only to realise there was no way you could complete it without hitting the opposite side mountain....
By a pure freak of nature, my landing is flawless on my first arrival. Someone even comes on the frequency to compliment me. The old girl is not easy to grease, but here the stars aligned when everyone was watching!
City ass**le. The instruction label still attached to stove is a dead giveaway that we're dealing with a rookie camper here.
That first beer was worth the $500 spent in fuel so far...
You get woken up at 6AM by planes flying off for breakfast at the Sulphur Creek ranch strip. Heaven!
Most of the pilots there fly to all the numerous challenging strips littered in the mountains and spend the whole day doing that. Google Mile Hi and Soldier Bar and you'll see what I mean. Pretty challenging flying well out of the capabilities of the Commander and myself.
But me and the dinosaur go to McCall for some groceries and breakfast and then we practice tight turns in canyons a bit as I want to do an approach within the confines of the valley next time, not "cheat" and come up the valley for a straight in. It's quite impressive how tight one can turn if one is willing to lose some altitude. Good to know, anyhow, in case of emergency, and I think we should all familiarise ourselves with the aircrafts we fly and make sure we're comfortable with its capabilities in such scenarios. Essential skill.
Beautiful Idaho and beautiful airstrip. Grass is like a golf course - immaculate.
Blue skies soothes the soul.
The most popular planes there were without a doubt the 180's and the 185's. Some of them had had so much money spent on them it was ridiculous. Many looked brand new and had full glass cockpits, with all the newest STOL-kits, bush stuff and blinking approach LED lights. 180's and 185's are not cheap to begin with... Second most popular aircraft was the various Maule's. They have impressive performance, but I've never cared much for how they look. The shortest take off was probably done by a Highlander with a 140hp Rotax. That sucker was off in about 50-100ft and climbed straight up. Quite a few Stinsons, Luscombe's, 206's, a Wilga etc, etc.
Saturday is an extremely lazy day. I doze off under the wing multiple times, only interrupted by people wanting to talk Commander. Another reason to get a high wing - free shade.
As the only twin there, many people come by and chat and talk about the Commander, which is great fun. I make a lot of new friends and the pilots are a varied bunch - from 747 captains to farmers and city dwellers.
Saturday evening there's a potluck dinner where everyone tucks in. As a Swede, I had to represent with some Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam, naturally.
The meatballs prove popular. However, my Libanese lentil salad is rejected. Not the right crowd for that kind of Southern California health stuff, I suppose...
On Sunday, many of the planes take off early as they have a long way to go. People came from all over. My neighbour in his Cub had come from Florida! I have a lazy start and depart closer to lunch.
Next year I'll try arrive a bit earlier and also try out some of the other mountain strips. Many are out of the question for us, but there are also quite a few that would work really well. Reason I didn't do it this time was that I didn't want to push my luck, and also my right engine seems to have a slight mixture problem as it often cuts out in idle when you come to a stop on the rollout. Doesn't like to restart at high altitudes and when she's warm. So what I've started doing is to lean her out slightly when the mains touch the ground. Seems to work.
Return trip is mad bumpy and I get nailed with a headwind all the way. Takes 6 hrs to get back home.
I heard a minimum of 5 chocolate biscuits can delay the onset of hypoxia...
Uncharacteristically, Joshua Approach clears me through the restricted airspace above Edwards AFB as it's a Sunday. The long rwy's can bee seen in front of nose.
Here's my slightly botched third approach with a turn inside the valley for landing. I turn too early and too high. It's pretty sporty, and I end up having to do S-turns and slips to get her in.