13 July 1991

Yellowstone Revisited

June 29 - July 13, 1991

June 30: Dry lightning. Another Walls/Kindred adventure. The plan was to fly from Madison, South Dakota to Glacier National Park, Montana, with one stop between. Unfortunately the Madison FBO was out of gas, so we planned another stop within 100 miles. There were some scattered thunderstorms in the area, but we thought my 210's radar could guide us through. We flew into some clouds fifteen miles north of Mitchell, South Dakota. Before we knew it we were surrounded with lightning bolts. The turbulence was not bad, but we obviously did not want to be there. The problem with radar is it only picks up precipitation. It does not pick up lightning and turbulence. Many thunderstorms out west do not have that much moisture, but they do have turbulence and lightning. I made an immediate turn to the south and landed at Mitchell.

An hour later we flew south around the scattered thunderstorms and finished the flight with a DME-arc approach to Miles City, Montana. The weather to the west of Miles City was getting ugly. We had to climb to 24,000 feet to get above the clouds on our leg to Glacier National Park. We heard a poor Cherokee 180 struggling with the clouds, rain and turbulence below. For once we were very happy to have a Turbo 210. We flew another DME-arc approach into Glacier Park. The approach was by-the-book, but knowing we were flying over mountain peaks made it a little more exciting.

July 3: Best scenic flight ever. A great advantage of flying a light airplane is that you get to see things from a unique point of view. With wings you can also see many things in just one day. That morning we flew over the mountains of Glacier National Park. We took in a tremendous view of blue sky, mountains, glaciers, snow and lakes. After our tour we picked a compass heading and just flew for an hour and a half.

Loran and VOR coverage were poor. There was not a cloud in the sky, and visibility was greater than 100 miles. In the distance I saw a small puffy cloud, but there was something different about it. It did not take long to realize that it was Mt. Rainier. According to the sectional Mt. Rainier was still 140 miles away. After a quick stop at Ephrata, Washington, we flew around the southern side of Mt. Rainier. It is 14,400 feet tall, and rises from a flat plane that starts at 2,000 feet. I think Mt. Rainier is the most scenic mountain in our country. (Mt. McKinley in Alaska is a close second.)

Just a few minutes to the southwest we circled Mt. St. Helens. Even eleven years after this volcano erupted, the area was still devastated. Millions of dead trees littered the north face of the mountain. Spirit Lake was one-third full of dead, floating trees. A several-hundred-foot tall cinder cone stood smoking in the crater.

We flew due south from Mt. St. Helens, admiring all the volcanoes of the Cascade Range. Near the end of the Cascade Range is the nine-mile wide, 2,000-foot deep Crater Lake. Crater Lake has the deepest, clearest, 'bluest' water in the world. I would have circled the lake several times just to admire it from all angles. But by now it was late afternoon and the turbulence was building. My passengers insisted that it was time to land, so I pointed the plane to Klamath Falls, Oregon.

It was still an unforgettable day. In one day we saw Glacier National Park, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, the Cascade Range and Crater Lake. You can only do that with your own airplane.

July 12: Vne 65. Sometimes it pays to make a few phone calls. This was our third trip to the northwest. Each time we had based ourselves in Rapid City, and had driven 100 miles east to see the Badlands. Do not get me wrong. Badlands National Park is worth the 200-mile round trip. But according to all our information, there was no rental car available in Wall, South Dakota. Wall is home of the famous Wall Drug Store, and only about five miles from an entrance to the Badlands.

When Liz called the Wall airport manager, he said that we could use his car. He assured us it would be ready, free of charge. When we landed there, no one was at the airport. Fearing the worst, Liz called the manager. He said the keys were in the ignition of the car right behind her. It was an old car, but clean and mechanically sound. On the dash he had a placard that read, "Vne: 65 mph." Vne means "Velocity never exceed." He was right, if we tried to go faster than 65 mph it would shake like crazy.

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