Sunday, May 17, 2020

Day 8


After a basically sleepless night in rather uncomfortable accommodations in Page, Arizona we awoke just before dawn and forced our sore, lifeless bodies to the plane. The world was awakening and the light was growing—it was time to take to the sky.

We fired up and taxied out to runway 33, which faces Glen Canyon and Lake Powell, and I took off and stayed low and level with the runway, picking up speed and not climbing, until we flew out and over the valley, the expansive vastness exploding around us, and I used the excess airspeed to rocket into the sky and follow the winding Colorado River down passed Horseshoe Bend to Marble Canyon, where we would eventually join up with the Grand Canyon. While Filip had been to this site before, it was my first time seeing it, and entering it from the sky was almost too profound to comprehend. The vastness was overwhelming and deeply moving. I flew down into the Dragon Corridor, the VFR corridor that took us down southbound through the canyon, at an altitude of 10,500’ (density altitude 13,500’) and reveled in the glorious beauty of it. Words somewhat fail me in accurately describing the feeling of flying over this landscape, of having the ability to maneuver through and over this land.

We monitored the radio frequency of the canyon–we did not hear or see anyone else flying. The tower at Grand Canyon airport was also closed. The virus has shutdown many places, and that includes this natural wonder of the world.

We finished shooting over the Grand Canyon and checked our fuel and ultimately decided we had more than enough to make it straight to Sedona, where we have tentative plans to fuel and grab breakfast. We’d been told by a lot of wonderful pilot friends that Sedona Airport was not to be missed and the sentiment was not wrong—the airport sits on top of a mesa with incredible red rock formations exploding around it. I audibly gasped as I approached the airfield to land, it was prehistoric, it grasped me firmly by the heart and soul and shook me to the core, even as I set up for landing in gusty mountain winds.

We had breakfast on the field and marveled in the beauty of the world around us. It has been quite the experience to witness the majesty of all these natural wonders, and almost psychedelic to witness it changing so rapidly.

We spent some time in Sedona, and then pressed onwards to our home for the night, Payson Arizona, an airfield with camping that promised firewood, a car, and views for days. It was rather intimidating getting out of Sedona, there was a direct crosswind and it was real gusty, topped off with high density altitude. We didn’t fuel fully to keep our weight as low as possible, and upon take off, stayed in ground effect as long as able, to gain airspeed and climb effectively into the mountain air.

Payson paid off, and we write currently beside a beautiful campfire next to our pitched tent and resting airplane. Filled with gratitude, we plan tomorrow’s route. A good hard day, in the books.

Sweet dreams, Arizona.

Photo Gallery

Click on the image for full-screen viewing experience. All photographs © Filip Wolak.

Flight Path