Kieran and I rented a C182 G1000 at Palo Alto and flew with Scott Stauter who was there to keep us safe :) Just as luck would have it, most of the autopilot was dead on departure though. That kind of sucks for a TAA, but oh well...
FOG/Flyoutgroup trips are typically organized by Dan Dyer from San Carlos Flight Center, and trips can also be found on the yahoo page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FlyOutGroup/ or http://sancarlosflightcenter.com/fog/ .
Day1: Palo Alto to Sedona and Durango
Our first day, Kieran did the first leg to Sedona. We flew direct doing over high Sierras peaks, at peak level. This was the closest to peak level I've ever crossed, but since the weather was nice, it was not an issue.
Our route went close enough to Vegas that we overflew it, and then lake Mead and the Hoover Dam:
Old Town Las Vegas
From Sedona, after lunch, I took over for the leg to Durango:
Nice little runway at Durango
Landing in Durango had a special meaning to me since I had been there a few years earlier commercially when I went to Silverton during snow season. With the distance, in good weather, I could have actually made it there in one leg probably as fast as it took me to fly there commercially considering that it requires going to SFO and then changing planes in denver, but it's unlikely that I'll ever be able to fly there in the winter, especially around a storm like I did back then, but eh, it's still nice to be able to pretend :)
We checked in Durango, and I walked around a little bit before joining the rest of the FOG team for dinner:
It's a long train ride to silverton: 7H return (or more than twice as slow as driving)
Day2: Durango to Eagle Country/Vail via Telluride, Gunnison, Alexander Field, and Leadville
Our second day was the day for highest altitude airports in the continental US. We had to get around TFRs due to the multiple fires that were in Colorado.
we saw a lot of fire fighting crafts
We first landed at Telluride, the highest commercial airport ($6.20 a landing, but you can also buy a shirt to take home :). It's a nice airport that almost looks like an aircraft carrier, then we eventually headed for Leadville, the highest airport in the US.
Got a bit of rain on the way and flew around mild weather
Leadville, the highest airport in the US
The previous year, some planes were barely able to take off Telluride. Despite our plane being close to gross and very high density altitude (about 12,000ft, off the takeoff performance charts in the POH), we actually took off without problems, even if our climb was obviously not stellar. In my limited experience, the much newer C182T we were flying just had more oomph than some older C182s, including the carburated one I flew to Mammoth a few years back.
Yes, I also got the T-Shirt :)
A bit more weather started in the early afternoon.
After landing in Eagle County, close to Vail, we drove to Glenwood Springs, where we had our hotel for 2 nights.
Hi TSA, how I so didn't miss you during this trip.
They had a huge naturally heated pool right next to the hotel
I used the rest of the day to hike hanging lake trail along beautiful I70 (thanks to Scott for driving me there and back).
Day3: Local Flying from Eagle County: Aspen, Granby County, Walden-Jackson County, Steamboat Springs
On the 3rd day, we went local mountain flying off Eagle County. Like Durango, I had recently flown to Aspen earlier this year commercially, and it was nice to land there myself (putting aside the hefty $31 landing fee).
More local exercises and fire fighting from Eagle County
Local Aspen Race Track
Snow was very scarce for such altitudes in June
We did a pass by leadville
Back to Eagle County
Back in Steamboat Springs for the afternoon, I went to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park up the cable car and took advantage of the view up there, the few rides they had (including the highest roller coaster in the world, altitude-wise), and a visit of the nice caverns they have up there.
The caverns were a nice 70mn tour (they were a great place to use my firesword flashlight):
Hotel Colorado, where we stayed
this is unofficially called bacon :)
Day4: Eagle County, overfly of Aspen Mountains, and Grand Canyon towards McCarran Las Vegas
On the 4th day, we departed the area and Kieran flew over Aspen so that I could take pictures of the ski slopes while I wasn't flying:
that's a pretty sad looking half pipe without the snow
Aspen/Ajax Mountain and the town of Aspen
After leaving Aspen, we went on course for the Grand Canyon Airport
Grand Canyon Airport
I flew the next leg through the Grand Canyon and to Vegas:
Chilling at Grand Canyon Airport before our next leg
West Grand Canyon Skywalk
Rich gamblers bring their own private 747 to vegas
While I was pretty exhausted due to multiple too short nights in a row, I only had enough stamina to see 2 shows, Copperfield and Terry Fator (there are many other shows in Vegas, but I've already seen them), and I went to the Wynns for a good buffet between the 2:
We parked walking distance from our hotel, the MGM
desserts are the best part :)
David Copperfield is obviously getting older, but his show was still good. Terry Fator's ventriloquist show was good.
Day5: Sky Combat Ace Flying off Henderson, and flight back home via Death Valley Furnace Creek Airport
That morning, I got up early and went to Henderson for dogfighting and acro with Sky Combat Ace.
After the fun, Kieran and Scott came to pick me up by flying from McCarran to Henderson, where the flight was shorter than their time on the ground :) and after that Kieran flew us to Furnace Creek (Death Valley) airport where I also did a landing in order to have landed at both the highest and lowest (-200ft) airports in the US.
It was a slow climb from -220ft to 14,000ft to cross the high sierras, but we made it and we had limited headwind.
And that was it, after 5 days of great flying and lucky good weather, we got home.
A big thanks to Dan and the organizers, as well as our CFI, Scott Stauter.