John & Anne Wiley

2014/05/18

Marble Marvels

As with every flight we’ve made there since discovering this marvel so close (by air) to the Grand Canyon, our views of Marble Canyon were among the most enchanting of this trip. After climbing out of the stifling Marble Canyon Airport toward Page (top-right), we followed the river on its cut through the high mesa where Lake Powell sits in the distance top-center.

6914 Toward PGA

6914 Toward KPGA

Though we didn’t know it then, that’s Horseshoe Bend at the lower-right. But more interesting to me at that moment was the sharper bend just up-river on the left. Also, that deep slot canyon between them.

6915 Bend & Slot

6915 Bend & Slot

That’s it at the bottom-right edge, and the depth of it fascinated me as I pondered what it’s like when a heavy rain makes a temporary cascade into the river there. As we passed, the rock shapes and colors on the outside bank of this tight bend just captivated me.

6907 Outer Bank

6907 Outer Bank

Since we got only a glance and Anne saw almost nothing on my side, we decided to continue climbing in a wide turn back for a closer look.

6932 Boater's Bend

6932 Boater’s Bend

It’s probably possible to make an arduous hike out to this point from the trail to Horseshoe Bend that ends atop the far bank off to the right of this pic. But I doubt many people do it, so most who’ve seen this magnificent spot do so from one of the boats we saw on the river. It was truly magical from our vantage point, where it’s even more impressive than its neighbor that attracts so many hikers. Though this flight from L41 to PGA was brief, there are more pix I’ll share…

2014/05/16

Small, Clear, Quiet, Hot

Compared with flying across the Grand Canyon the next part of our trip was small, clear, quiet and hot. Smaller because Marble Canyon doesn’t loom nearly as tall above the river. It cuts a deep groove by normal standards, but it tops out at a wide mesa that’s far from the higher cliffs beyond. Still very impressive though.

6676 Up Marble Canyon

6676 Up Marble Canyon

As you can see, the air is clearer. It also looks even more clear because we’re not required to fly so far above the top, so there’s less air between us and the view. The walls are sheer in many places, and quite beautiful.

6737 Shaded River

6737 Shaded River

I like how it looks at this spot, with sand bar and cliffs accented by the cloud shadow and one lit cliff. I have many more pix of this interesting canyon, but to keep this shorter I’ll skip ahead to our stop for the night at the Marble Canyon Airport. That’s the paved runway beyond the dirt road to the foreground buildings left of the river on this side of the highway. Despite the bridge, we were told there’s no way down to the river. The hotel is just across the highway at the base of the first step up cliff left of the bridge.

6837 Marble Cyn Airport L41

6837 Quiet Airport L41

We circled while Zubair landed, then fought heat exhaustion to help each other roll our planes off the taxiway uphill to the tiedowns. We never saw or heard another plane while we were there, nor anyone at the airport. It was so baking hot here at a relatively low elevation that Anne and I decided to pause for a rest in the shade while Zubair and family checked into the hotel. Even under this shelter we sweltered, with only the faintest hint of a breeze even so close to the river.

6783  H O T !

6783  H O T !

Check in was at the store next to the gas station, and the rooms are beyond the right edge of the pic. We were talking about whether to change plans and pay the extra cost of a hotel in Page, when Zubair came to tell us they’d found the rooms unsuitable and were thinking the same thing. As you might imagine, it didn’t take us long to be back in the air! The moment we turned on the big fan at the front end of Tripp, our mood brightened and we relaxed. Zubair was intent on reaching Page asap, but in our much improved state we decided to detour and tour farther up the canyon on our way. Tripp lifted off, and with the windows open we were again able to enjoy the beauty of this place. Boats on the river below the bridge looked cool and colorful.

6777 Different World

6777 Different World

Such a different world perhaps half a mile from where we’d been baking in the heat. We wondered whether the canyon would be as beautiful further up, and in the next installment you can see for yourself. 🙂

2014/05/15

Grand Memories

Decades ago after admiring it from the rim we hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and my memories of that are still powerful. As we reached the footbridge across the Colorado to Bright Angel Camp, dusk had deepened into night and lights twinkling like fairy dust beckoned us to rest under the sparkling stars. Climbing back up after two days’ rest was arduous, even with frequent pauses singing into the echoes. All these memories are clear, yet every view since (whether from the rim or forced too far up here by flight restrictions) has had haze like this.

6524 Over The Canyon

6524 Over The Canyon

In front of the distant clouds, Zubair and family reached the Colorado first. We’d all be excited to finally fly across the main canyon, yet it was less grand than our memories. I found myself yearning to fly it again after a rainy Spring on a crystal clear day. Still, the haze and smog diminished over the river on this our first flight across that river we first crossed on foot.

6527 Crossing the River

6527 Crossing the River

As always, looking back nearing the south rim the sun angle made a big difference in the camera’s view through the haze.

6545 Looking Back

6545 Looking Back

A rain squall on the horizon brushed this view that came closest to our memories. Many times since this flight, we’ve talked about making the four hour flight back on a clear day. Maybe even repeat our hike down, or try to find funds for a raft trip. But for now we’re enjoying these new additions to our Grand memories, and the in many ways more spectacular flight up Marble Canyon as you’ll see in the pix of that in an upcoming post.

2014/05/13

Air Day

Today was very special for us in so many ways. The most exciting part began when we saw this almost ominous shape appear coming in off the Pacific over SBCC evoking the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo in WWII.

2977 B-25 Mitchell Inbound

2977 B-25 Mitchell Inbound

We’d volunteered to help people tour a group of extremely rare aircraft visiting SBA for a few days. When we heard from the ground crew that they’d be arriving late, we took Tripp for a relaxing flight in the clear air. When I heard this guy contact ATC inbound, it was exciting enough to see it in the distance like this. But then it flew almost beneath us at double our speed, bringing no attack on the homes below but the bygone and all but forgotten distinctive song of two big radial engines once so common here.

2999 Forgotten Tune

2999 Forgotten Tune

We hurried back to the airport, landing just after this beauty so we could help on the ground. Before long a B-24 Liberator taxied in with the flight engineer perched on top like the cowboy in that old nuclear bomb movie.

3089 B-24 Liberator Business End

3089 B-24 Liberator Business End

This was not a welcome sight in the air around a Japanese held island when my dear late friend and father-in-law John F. Humphrey and his ace gunner Claude W. Hawkins sank one of their ships, and shot down some of their fighters and light bombers. Soon my favorite airplane of all time arrived with the siren song of a V-12 Merlin engine: the P-51 Mustang fighter.

3197 P-51 Mustang

3197 P-51 Mustang

This one is especially rare, being the only one built with two seats and dual controls plus the distinction of having flown Eisenhower over Normandy during the landing. It was a long and tiring day out on the hot pavement for us but very rewarding seeing awe in the eyes of children, bliss on faces of aviation enthusiasts, and tears in the eyes of the few remaining men who flew these planes. Then the real excitement began!

3146 Flying In Memories

3146 Flying In Memories

Because the ground crew had one empty seat in the day’s last B-24 flight, they offered it to Anne and me in appreciation. My Perfect Wife watched in delight as I got aboard, and I was awash in memories riding along our familiar coast in this icon of American air power. I climbed up front into the bow turret where Claude spent hours surveying the open sea, and protecting our dear Dad. I surveyed the gauges and controls where he sat for hours using all his exceptional flying skill and youthful wisdom protecting dear Claude and the rest of his crew.

3161 New Mission

3161 New Mission

Now instead of flying young men doing their best to destroy the enemy that had attacked Pearl Harbor, this Liberator faithfully carries a middle-aged pilot and his female co-pilot touring the country so that we can all remember the sights, sounds and smells that were once so familiar to that dwindling generation of quiet heroes. We owe them so much, and miss them so dearly.

2014/05/11

Little To Grand

So back on the day we flew from Flagstaff to tour the Grand Canyon, we began small. Specifically, by flying along much of the Little Colorado River’s two forks. This is a beautiful part of the whole Grand Canyon area, because it’s both smaller and less smog seems to reach it and also we’re allowed to fly lower here. This makes it quite striking from the air.

6443 S.Fork Little CO

6443 S.Fork Little CO

We’re actually higher in this pic than we need to be, because we’re already climbing to traverse the main canyon. Even so, we wonder how many people drive that highway not realizing the remarkable views they’re missing. Gradually as we go, the canyon gets deeper and more beautiful. Brown water nurtures the swath of green life at the bottom, contrasting with the stark desert on top.

6459 Building Suspense

6459 Building Suspense

You can almost hear a crescendo of music as the Grand Canyon appears in the hazy distance, when the south fork joins the north fork and the Little Colorado bends toward it. Now the river changes from brown to a bright milky turquoise and the rocks blush red in anticipation.

6471 Color Shift

6471 Color Shift

As we climb higher still and turn across the Colorado River the water flowing far below us changes again, to the cool green flow issuing from deep in Lake Powell.

6480 Lower Marble Canyon

6480 Lower Marble Canyon

In the distance you can see where the Little Colorado joins and the combined flow bends to the right where it will enter the main canyon. Now we’re flying nearly parallel to that strengthened Colorado, gazing down at myriad seldom-seen “side” canyons with their own creation stories, hiking trails and interesting formations.

6492 Huddling For Crossing

6492 Huddling For Crossing

As you can see at the top of the pic Zubair’s now flying fairly near, giving a feeling we’re huddling together in preparation for crossing the immensity of the chasm. (to be Continued…)

« Previous PageNext Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: