Monday, May 25 2020

Day 16


We knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye to the West, so waking up in the wild desert of Utah as the sun rose over the red sands of Moab was bittersweet. We stretched and packed our gear and looked at the white airport crew car with some amusement—the desert winds and dusty sands had done a number on the interior and exterior of it. We made sure we gave it a good wipe down when we got it back to the airport.

We’d gone back and forth about the route we were planning to take back East and had settled on crossing the final Western mountain ranges by flying North through some passes that would take us into Wyoming and back through the Midwest, rather than descending to the South again or attempting to cross peaks that reached over 10,000 ft MSL by flying directly East.

We made it back to Canyonlands and leisurely repacked the plane and took off into the morning sky. Today we’d be crossing the Rockies over northern Colorado and into Wyoming. Our route didn’t take us over any peaks that worried us, but if the winds picked up, we could be dealing with some serious up and down drafts, and with the predicted warm weather, there was the possibility of some unstable conditions. Our early departure was in service of avoiding this, and our planning and sleepiness paid off—the conditions we calm and stable and the plane’s performance was solid, even at our maxed out density altitude of 14k.

It was lovely flying over the snow capped peaks of Colorado. We marveled at how the terrain changed rapidly after departing Utah, and the temperatures at altitude over those snowy expanses, even with the heat going, chilled us to the bone. Some hot black coffee helped—doesn’t it always? We crossed the final expanse of mountains as we entered Wyoming, and the land grew flatter and green.

We touched down in Torrington, Wyoming, a sleepy field with a couple beautiful Grumman turbine Ag Cats and an Air Tractor 7 miles from the border of Nebraska. Jim, the FBO overseer, came outside to unlock the 100LL dispenser and we fueled up, tied the plane down and took the old airplane car out for a drive around town. I suggested we take it for a joy cruise out into some Wyoming wilderness, and about 10 miles out the engine overheated and we pulled over, laughing. Of course! The classic airport jalopy was resistant to my forced road trip. It really didn’t want to start so we added some water to the coolant after a spell on the side of the road (complete with people stopping to ask if we needed help almost immediately), and carefully drove it to the nearest automotive store where we added an entire jug of coolant to the thirsty engine and bought a replacement lightbulb for the plane.

Back on the airport, we took the plane up for an hour at sunset to shoot, then landed and had a typical flamping camp chair picnic under the wing complete with avocados, brie, and seltzer.Two guys landed around this time in a great little yellow tailwheel aircraft, a 220 hp fat tire Scout. We got to talking and it just so happened that they were flying cross country as well, to Connecticut! Tiny beautiful aviation world, it is.Night fell and the day was done. Good to be in Wyoming. We slept well, and prepared for our journey East.

Photo Gallery

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

Flight Path