Yesterday was the first day of my retirement, not counting the weekend since I would have had those two days off anyway. The morning weather was looking good and I was in the air by shortly after 8:00 AM. I decided to head up to Critter’s Lodge again. The big fly in starts Friday evening. It was a beautiful smooth flight but when I arrived the mower was STILL parked in the middle of the runway. This time I knew the frequency they plan to use during the fly in so I dialed that in and set up for a low approach just like before except I made radio calls. As I turned base leg I heard a familiar voice in the radio, “Hank, is that you?”. “Yeah Wendell, it’s me.”. He asked me how I was and I told him fine but I’d be doing a lot better if he could move the mower. He told me to just circle for a bit and he would.
He did and I was able to land on runway 24. Here you can see the runway and Niner-Zero parked off to the left side. It’s a beautiful site and it is really fun to land on a strip in the forest like this one where you descend below the trees on final approach. Wendell told me that they have not gotten any rain in a few weeks so they have been irrigating the runway and when the sprinklers are on they park the mower on the runway. Well, now I know!
The last time I flew out here and could not land on runway 6-24 I also made an attempt to land on the other runway. It looked pretty nice from the air except for some trees at the approach end. But, as I got closer on final approach I could see that there was a hill, a rather large one, at the other end so I broke off the landing and decided to head elsewhere. Looked a little dicey to me. Well, I was telling Wendell about this after I landed and he said it was a good decision and he took me over to show me the other runway. They are only connected by a dirt path through the forest. Here is a view from the top of the “little” hill. Wendell uses the three white pipes as an alignment aid when landing since the runway has a “dog leg”. He really discourages use of this runway as some planes would not be able to out climb the hill if they have to do a go around. Such could easily be the case since the runway is short and there are trees on the approach end that have to be cleared. By the time a pilot figures out they won’t be down and stopped by the end of the runway they are still going to have to clear the hill if they abort the landing. I was just over the trees at the far end when I added power and aborted to avoid just such a situation.
After taking a look at the other runway we took the ATV back through the woods to the “far” end of runway 6-24 and here is a great view of the entire length. Really nice. There are camping sites in several clearings along both sides. Also some small ponds, toilets, showers and trails between the campsites so the runway can be kept clear of campers. There is even a small tower set up to handle “Air Traffic Control” duties this weekend. If the weather cooperates I hope to meet lots of nice people this weekend. Thanks for the tour Wendell!
After visiting with Wendell for a couple of hours I took off and headed for home but stopped at Scot’s ranch. It is directly on the route back to Coulter so how could I not stop? I taxied back to the end of the strip behind his house and took this picture while walking back to my airplane. By the time I got back to Coulter I had flown over two hours, all before noon.
I went back up again in the evening and flew low up the Brazos River valley to Hearne to shoot some landings. This is the view about a hour before sunset. The river has meandered across the valley for eons and left behind this flat fertile bottom land. A bit of the river is visible in the distance and the land is hilly beyond. It does not seem like much of a valley when you are on the ground but it is quite obvious from the air.
I then headed to Caldwell for a couple of landings and on the way back to Coulter I took this picture out of the overhead windshield. Just a few minutes before the sun set. The air was smooth as I descended into Coulter and I made a pretty decent landing. In total I flew over four hours on Monday. Not a bad way to start my retirement.