John & Anne Wiley

2010/08/02

Burns Out

We almost reached our goal of Smithers today, but a wall of storms rose to meet us at Burns Lake so we’re settling for the night. Here’s our track West so far:

Track West to Burns Lk

Track West to Burns Lk

This has been quite a day, and it seems impossible we woke yesterday in Regina! We slept in the deserted Jasper Hinton airport with permission, and woke early. Since the mountain pass entry into the Jasper park had patches of low cloud beneath a high solid overcast, we rode into town for a delightful breakfast with Pete & Nadine. Not only do we share a love of adventure and flying, but we talked psychology with former therapist Nadine. After a fruitless search of Hinton for the “archetypal cafe” where locals go, we relented and chose Smitty’s (Canadian equivalent of Denny’s) where it turned out there were lots of locals mingling with a biker group that stopped in. Despite the forgettable food, the company was fabulous. Our next stop was a supermarket where the gals got supplies while the guys tapped into an open wifi hotspot and my main focus was online weather info. Back at the airport I filed the daily flight plan and got a weather brief to supplement what I’d seen online and was about to experience first hand.

0198 Climber's Challenge

0198 Climber's Challenge

Minutes after our fond farewell, we became Jasper gaspers. The sheer enormity of the features is truly astounding. I didn’t get many good pix due to the lingering clouds and the smoke from myriad regional wildfires, but I hope you can get some sense of how amazing this place is. I’d been through on the train once, but flying it is orders of magnitude more astounding. Having only heard about it, poor Anne was even more unprepared.

0204 Bird's Eye

0204 Bird's Eye

At the edge of the village the road near a small pond framed a perfect blue bird’s eye.

0221 Unseen Falls

0221 Unseen Falls

High up the steep slope is a raging waterfall that few other than aviators ever see.

Anne’s blogging right now so I’ll close by briefly describing our passage to Burns Lake. We decided to stay high across Prince George and stop at Fraser Lake. Then we noted that the GPS said nothing about fuel or other services there, so we diverted toward Vanderhoot. Descending to land, another pilot kindly informed us that though there was plenty of fuel the only two people who could pump it for us were not available for at least four hours.

Now my personal choice is to always have at least an hour of reserve fuel. Climbing back on course I calculated 90 minutes’ fuel remaining. While that could have carried us beyond our goal of Smithers, it wouldn’t work for me. I asked our friendly local pilot about Burns Lake and he assured us it has services including fuel. It left me right at the edge of my hour reserve and there were plenty of alternatives within half an hour, so we pressed on. Now we started noticing rain showers ahead. Dodging between those while constantly checking and triple-checking fuel burn against time and distance remaining (and reassured by cross-check with my recently fine-calibrated fuel gauges) we hugged closer to the road and at last made it into Burns Lake. With exactly an hour of fuel remaining. After looking at the sky and the internet, talking to the Flight Service weather briefer, and looking at each others’ haggard faces, we decided to accept the kind hospitality of the airport angels here. We’re snug in a borrowed room, typing away as our eyelids droop ever lower ahead of the 9pm sunset. So all this by way of context on how tired we’re feeling right now. Happy tired. 😉

Into Alberta

Filed under: Flying,Happiness,Has Photos,NxNW Adventure,People,Random — John @ 17:21

Every day is different, every day divine. Yesterday there was something special about the way sky reflected in water.

0141 Bird's Eye

0141 Bird's Eye

Many times a small pond next to a farm house would shimmer with sky as we passed, creating a powerful illusion of the portal of pond revealing another world beyond. Though I saw that effect many times, it was so mesmerizing and fleeting there are no better photos. Even video could probably only capture a hint of it anyway I guess. So much of what we experience flying is impossible to capture or even describe.

0143 Lost Home

0143 Lost Home

An old abandoned farm house on the Saskatchewan prairie miles from any other structure seems to whisper stories of struggling families and improvised repairs.

What would explain these circles? Was there something in the center of each that attracted milling cattle? Were they deliberately carved by a tractor for some reason?

0146 Evidence Of?

0146 Evidence Of?

Approaching Edmonton we noticed what seem to be massive parks and green areas along the river.

0163 Approaching Edmonton

0163 Approaching Edmonton

With all the fires in Western Canada, the air is very smoky in places but the views are still spectacular.

0168 Window On Edmonton

0168 Window On Edmonton

As we descended to land at the downtown airport, our small room provided a grand view of the skyline. We heard that there had just been a car race on one of the runways, and the viewing stands were still there. We also heard that some in the city would like to close this airport. The property must be very tempting to developers, but it would sure be a big loss.

After a brief stop we flew on to Hinton, just outside Jasper, where we stopped for a night of “camping” inside the empty terminal building. Maybe Anne will post some photos, because I didn’t get any here. We met Pete and Nadine, who have explored in their own plane and are now exploring with a small camper and bikes. Thus ended another day of discoveries and delights. Today we hope to make it through the pass to Smithers, though weather may bring other plans.

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