Day 1 - Sullivan Lake
Marie and set this weekend aside for a flying trip. Even though we have both been busy we saw that either we went this weekend or, fall and winter weather being so uncertain for crossing the mountains, we would not go until next spring.
Oune of our motivations is to take our telescope to dark places and look at the stars. Two weeks ago we went up to East Sound on Orca island with this in mind but had little success. It was just about a full moon, washing out the sky and there are a lot of lights on an airport like East Sound, including the rotating beacon.
There are a lot of fires in the cascades, casting doubts on our ability to see the starts, let alone fly there. Originally, we intended to camp at Memaloose, a very back country strip at 6,700 ft in the Walawa Mountains in the NE corner of Oregon. This got rejected when I found there was a fire just across the Snake river from Memaloose. Instead, we turned our attention to Sullivan Lake or Cavanaugh bay in the NE corner of Washington.
We departed paine at 8:45 on Saturday morning. I planned a route north of Glacier Pk, south of Stehiken, threading through two fire fighting TFRs. Approaching the mountains I was a little apprehensive about the visibility and ended up climbing to 11,500 ft in an attempt to get above most of it. I think that help. Still, like most reduced visibility situations (as opposed to low), I have always had enough visibility to see the things in my vacinity and as long as I know where I am and were I'm going there is no problem. Today I estimated around 20 miles visibility, at 11,500 ft.
East of the mountains we had planned a stop at Anderson lake. Upon decent to 10,000ft there was more smoke so we decided to skip this and stopped at Colville instead. This is a nice little airport set in a beautiful valley in the hills of NE washington. The one pilot we met was very friendly and invited us to a fly in at a near by private strip (bruch and steak dinner!). They have a courtesy car or two. Definatly has a feeling of a friendly club.
From there it was a short hop over a ridge to Sullivan Lake. The hills around Sullivan were taller than I expected, but not so close as to be a problem for an experienced pilot. I flew up the lake and over the strip. It is not exceptionally long, but wide and with clear approaches on both ends. To the south is the lake, making for an easy go-around. Straight north, the terrain rises, but turning out to the west there is a descending valley which would also make for a reasonable go-around escape route. I elected to land to the south for the easy over-lake go-around and a slight head wind. I flew the approch up the valley - kind of an extended right base approach.
The one feature that is difficult to assess from the air is the runway slope. This runway is somewhat downhill toward the lake, making my landing roll a little longer and faster than I expected.
There are several picknick benches and fire rings along the west side of the runway. All were empty so we parked nearest the lake. I didn't see any signs of tie-downs and used my steaks in hard ground. There are camp grounds on both sides of the runway and day use by the water. The shore is gravley but the bottom firm and the water very clean. Good swimming. There were two or three motor boats buzzing around the lake.
Marie and I thought this so nice that we decided not to continue to Cavanaugh bay.
The layout is nearly identical to Tieton State airport (SE of Mt Raineer, which I went to last year), but the number of people and boats much less and the environment correspondingly cleaner and calmer.
Unfortunately, I had a headach and spent the mid-day reading and napping. At 3, Marie and I went for a swim and afterwards cooked our dinner. Then a long nap in the tent.
Marie finally woke me after dark saying she had managed to assemble most of the telescope. We are not very experienced or very good at finding objects. Sky charts never really match the sky above. Either they show way more stars than what I see or they show way fiewer stars, depending on weather I'm in a site with poor viewing or great viewing. The big dipper, little dipper, and Casiopia are easy for me so objects near those constallations are finable. I was able to find the Andromida galexy by naked eye and binocular. I just read that Andromida and our galexy are the largest in the local group and are speeding toward each other, eventually to colide.
We also spent some time looking for the whirlpool galexy just off the handle of the big dipper. This was significantly dimmer and I could not see it throug the binoculars. Star hopping with the telescope is nearly impossible for me - the image is reversed, the field of view much smaller, and the scope too difficult to manouver. On the verge of giving up, I aimed the scope at the empty spot which I had identified as where the thing should be. Looking throuh, there it is - a faint white smudge. Nothing as spectacular as the photos, but there is something exciting about seeing the actual light from the galexy.
Day 2 - Cavanaugh Bay
Sunday morning we decided that, rather than the granola we had packed, we would check out Cavanaugh bay. To check it out I came at it from the north along the shoreline and crossed out over the lake. Though an earlier pilot had used runway 16 - approaching over the water - I elected to use runway 34 to put the sun at my back, get a slight tail wind, and make my landing at the far end from the gathered crowd of spectating pilots. Turned out to be a very nice 3 point landing. Again, I ended up landing down hill. However, the runway was so long and my landing good enough that I was essentially stopped by the mid point.
At the north end, near the bay, there are tie downs for 12 or so airplans. And an interesting lot they were. About half were tail draggers. There is no reason a nose dragger can't land at a grass strip like this - but these strips seem to be where the tail draggers swarm and the nose wheel planes avoid. On the west side there is a crecent tie down area. Behind that, up a few stairs and in the forest, are several shaded camp sites. We tied down in a row on the east side.
Across the road, down by the water, we got a buffet breakfast and ate on a deck above the beach.
I'm not a very good journalistic photographer and didn't get any photos of this landing strip. I was too busy enjoying the morning and looking at all the planes.
From Cavanaugh we flew to Deer Park for gas. Like many of the rural fields near forests, Deer Park had some interesting older planes used in fire fighting. These were large flying boats. They would land in a lake to pick up a load of water then fly over the fire and drop it off.
I decided to go south of the Chelan fire TFR, crossing the cascades at Cascade Pass. From Deer Park I folowed the Columbia river east to the Grand Coolie dam then cut across the scab lands to Levenworth. We flew up Icicle Creek with views of the Enchantments and Mt Steward, crossed a ridge and dropped into the Hwy 2 valley.
This was my first weekend trip outside of the Puget Sound basin. I've done weekend trips in the basin and I've done longer trips to Utah. When I bought the airplane I thought I would be doing more of this. I think I've been blocked by the uncertainty of getting out over the mountains (and back) on any given weekend, the logistics of packing, and Marie's preference for hiking. Marie enjoyed the trip quite a bit and was more comfortable with the turbulance.
I enjoyed the flight back, crossing the columbia and farmlands at 1,500 ft AGL. Just like I've come to know the geography of the Puget Sound basin, I'm learned more about geography of eastern Washington - the hills to the north, the Columbia river valley, and the flat farm lands to the south.
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