Monday, June 23, 2008

Future Flying Trip: Big Bend, Texas

Big Bend, Texas is an area I have been thinking about going to sometime. It is pretty far south which would be great for a winter time trip, and it looks like it would be good for camping and other outdoor activities.

Credit: NPS/Eric Leonard

General Information

Big Bend National Park is the western area of Texas right on the board of the Rio Grande where it makes a big bend.

It ends up being in a very remote area of the country and great for camping.

There is a web site for the towns there and the Big Bend National Park web site. Going this time of year doesn't make sense, but maybe next fall or winter. We were relatively close when we went to Carlsbad, NM earlier this year. I ran into an old friend who got telling me about his fun times at Big Bend last Christmas.

I figure this is a chance to write some of this down and come back to it in the fall. As I suspected, he did mention that it is pretty hot from May through October.

Terlingua Ranch

You can fly into a The Terlingua Ranch dirt strip (1E2) and rent a cabin at Terlingua Ranch overlooking the airstrip. There is a small café (with country music every night), pool, short hikes, pretty scenery, not much else. Good mountain biking. They comment on their web site that there are no rental cars.

Study Butte

There is also a private strip about 2 miles west of Study Butte. I am not sure which one it is (81TX or 3TE8); I will have to ask my friend more since it looks like there are two private ones on the maps. There you can rent cars and jeeps there. He says expensive, but the location is great and worth the drive into the park or down to the Rio Grande river. You can rent a canoe in Study Butte also, and float the Rio Grande with 1,000+ foot canyon walls; paddle up, turnaround and float back watching the scenery (when it is low water). It looks like there are options for lodging and other activities in the town of Study Butte if you want.

Credit: NPS/Eric Leonard

I think the above picture I found on the National Park website might be the canyon my friend mentioned or at least one similar. This one is described as Santa Elena canyon.


Another spot to mention that I wondered was Lajitas and their private strip 89TE. He mentions that it is big money with Lear jets and overpriced. Maybe worth a one night splurge, but not something you probably want to do all the time.


There are also several car rentals out of Alpine about 1.5 hours north of Study Butte. A really pretty town with a nice FBO, and "cheap" fuel. Car dealers all have cars.


My friend was saying that some parts near the Mexico board feel a little iffy, but the Big Bend Park area feels ok. I don't know from experience yet.

Sounds like a good place to go to in the future.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Future Flying Trip: Yellowstone/Teton NP

I have been to Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park a few times and once by flying ourselves.

Last Trip

Flying in took a lot less time which was fantastic. 8+ hour drive turns into about a 3 hour flight (klmo-klar-kbpi-kjac). This turns what would probably be a week long vacation into a doable weekend trip.

One of the more impressive parts was flying along the Tetons on the approach to Jackson Hole Airport(KJAC). There was a small landing fee (very small), typical overnight fees, and rental car that was a little expensive. But not too bad for the location, and they were nice to us even though we were in a small C182.

Jackson Airport approach

Then along the road are continuous beautiful views.

Teton Roadside View
Last time we went (last Teton trip photos) , we went to Jackson Lake Lodge which was nice. The rooms were not cheap, but location is great and the lodge was really neat for the meals. The views were great, but we were a ways from the lake.

I think it is time to go back maybe trying some new stuff.

Colter Bay Cabins and Camping

Last time we were there, I briefly saw a location around the corner from Jackson Lake Lodge called Colter Bay. It is right on the lake and has a mixture of cabins, luxury tent camping, and normal tent/RV camping. It has a marina, rental boats, a restaurant, and what looks like maybe a more fun place for kids. The information that is shown on-line looks promising.

There is a nice brochure of activities that is for the Colter Bay and other Teton National Park areas.

There is on-line reservations for some of the lodging in Teton National Park including Colter Bay. I checked this, and I was a bit disappointed. Most of the stuff in Colter Bay is reserved at least for some of the dates I was thinking about. I wonder if there are ways to get cabins at the last minute, but that could be hard to plan for. There is first come, first serve on the tent camping, but what do you do if you lose out?

Maybe West Yellowstone Camping

So maybe a good alternative that I have heard of is West Yellowstone Airport KWYS (and camping). It is a decent sized airport, and it actually has camping at one end of the field. Availability is only to pilots and often has availability when no where else has space in the parks. The FBO website has information about camping on their hotel page. They have lots of space for tents and people share the picnic tables, fire pits, pit toilet, and hot showers. Lots of reports from people on the Cessna Pilots Association indicate it is very good camping. Also a special page in the AirNav web page specifically for the campground indicates great reviews as well!

There are a few websites with more information for the area. There is the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce page and West Yellowstone Internet Site. If you want hotels, there are proably there as well, but probably fill up quick.

Maybe driving down to Colter Bay could be a possibility if things work out during a trip into Yellowstone. I would be part of the way down there if driving through the park, and maybe I could snag a cancellation at Colter Bay in the morning.

West Yellowstone Kid Stuff

There is some kid information listed on the chamber of commerce page that looks interesting. It looks like there are some museums and ranger information in West Yellowstone that could be fun. It sounds like there is good fishing around too. And there is the Yellowstone entrance only a few miles away.

West Yellowstone Car Rentals

There are a couple of places to look for Car Rental information and possible discounts.

Info from Chamber of Commerce
Info from the FBO
Info from Airnav

There appear to be three rental places: Avis, Budget, and Big Sky Car Rental.

Flying over Yellowstone

You need to stay 2000' AGL over Yellowstone, but this is still low enough to see some very cool stuff. At least I have seen a few pictures here and there of the geysers and mudpots from the air that look very cool. A different perspective that you could not get from the ground.


This looks like a winner one way or another this year.

Some other small side notes:

Hopefully, this will be part of a fun summer. I will write a Pirep afterwards...


Friday, June 13, 2008

Local Flying Trip: Cabela's

The Cabela's store in Sidney, NE located near KSNY is a well known trip around the Denver area for a nice $100 hamburger and fun store to go to. Last weekend, I had a chance to make a trip back there. It seems I make it there about once a year, and it is a nice trip from KLMO to KSNY.
It is nice in a number of ways:
  • It takes about an hour one way.
  • It counts as a cross country trip.
  • There is a VOR on the field.
  • There is Metar and TAF for the field.
  • There is food and a fun store at the end with free, easy shuttle.
  • People at the FBO and Cabela's are super nice.
  • It is heading away from the mountains which can make for less turbulence.

The Store

The store is an outdoors store emphasizing fishing, hunting, camping, and boating. Lots of good stuff at good prices for the outdoor person. Their prices are much more reasonable than a lot of stores with lots of specials at times. They also have a good on-line and catalog to order from, but seeing things in person is always nice. This store is a newly renovated flagship store for them.

There is a nice display of stuffed animals put in a museum setting almost. You can see pictures on their store web site. Very impressive and fun for the kids. Polar bear, grizzly bear, moose, elephants, and others you don't normally see.

There is a large fish tank with many different kinds of fish that you might be able to catch, but larger than I ever would catch. Almost like the aquarium as far as my son is concerned. Not quite that big of course, but still nice.

There is a little spot for food that serves up hamburgers, buffalo burgers, and sandwiches. Definitely nice to have in the store so you don't have to waste time searching for food. If you want something different, there are places across the street including a steak house owned by Cabela's. I haven't tried them yet though.

When flying in, if you ask for "the Cabela's shuttle" on the unicom frequency, they will have it waiting for you by the time you land. Very nice and free!

Our Trip

The reason for our trip was a father/son trip: me, my son and my son's kindergarten friend and dad. The previous day, we were at the Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House, and we have been wanting to find a good flying trip to go together on. He mentioned he was thinking about driving to Cabela's the next day, and I quickly convinced him that flying was much more fun. It worked out nice. The other dad is thinking about getting a pilot's certificate and our kids certainly had fun. My son lately has been less than excited about flying, but having a friend along made a huge difference.

We tried a little dramamine for the kids which was good. It was a bit bumpy due to winds. The kids didn't have any problems and actually enjoyed the bumps. Giggling and laughing the entire way. Both directions they asked if we were there just there about the time that we were there. Perfect!


A nice first father/son trip. A success for everybody. Hopefully there will be another father/son trip soon, maybe West Yellowstone or Tetons soon?


Monday, June 9, 2008

Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House

Last Saturday was the Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House and Fly In at KBJC. It is a great local event to see planes on the ground and some aerobatic demonstrations. The last two years have been especially good. It is a free event with free parking which is a rare thing these days.

This airport previously known to us locally as Jeffco Airport has had an open house for a number of years. The fly in portion has been going for 12 years, and the open house has happened for many of those years.

This year, the Metro Airport Open House was especially important because the Rocky Mountain Regional Fly In will not happen this year. The Front Range Airport and EAA will no longer host that fly in, so they are scrambling to find an alternative.

The Location

The location is great any time. Great views of Denver, the continental divide, and the Boulder Flatirons in the distance. The Runway Grill Restaurant is a great place to eat there as well. Probably not an easy place to eat during the show though.

Saturday, the entire airport was especially nice with the open house happening.

Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House F-16s Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House B-17Flying In

Getting to the airport was easy. We fly there often, and it is very close. Actually from Longmont, it probably takes less time to drive than fly by the time you preflight and do everything else. Although today, I think the airplane parking was easier than the car parking.

We did have a bit of a surprise on our way through Boulder to KBJC. A B-17 was giving rides and came pretty close to us. With the mountains right there, it was a little constricted maneuvering with a huge B-17 close by. We did grab one picture though...

B-17 aerial

The air traffic otherwise was very easy for a fly in. One other person coming in for the parallel runway and a quick easy taxi to parking. Leaving was just as easy. Not what it is like for bigger air shows.

On the Ground

On the ground we saw the B-17 up close. It is big!

Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House B-17

Lots of different planes to see on the ground ranging from new military to old military to King Airs to the new Cessna 400. The Cessna 400 was there sporting the new logo on the tail; a little strange to see, but good for Cessna.

The Airshow

The Airshow was from 1pm-3pm. It was a nice amount. Not as big as some shows, but it had some good stuff. Starting off with a C-130 doing a drop demonstration and numerous fly bys.

Next was Patty Wagstaff. I have not seen her before, and she did a great show doing maneuvers I had not seen before! There was one maneuver where she was at a knife edge and twisting/waiving the plane. Lots of other different maneuvers too.

Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House Patty Wagstaff
Next item was a F-18 Hornet Demo team. They did a great job!

Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House F-18
Then the USAF F-16 West Coast Demo Team doing its demonstration.

Rocky Mountain Metro Airport Open House F-16
Both the F16 and F18 did a number of slow passes, rolls, inverted flights, and passes with full afterburners. On the picture above you can see the condensation from the high G maneuver. Pretty cool!

The Denver Post has an article about the show too.

Near the end of the show, I ran into an old friend having fun on the 2nd floor outside balcony of the terminal building. I will head there next year during the air show. Great vantage point for photos and seeing everything. He happened to borrow a friends lens and got some awesome pictures.

Till Next Year

Hopefully, I make it to another show again soon, but this will probably be the last local one. If you are in the area whether you are a pilot or not, go check it out. It is free!