Oakland, Crescent City, Astoria
Flying the Edge of America
Tuesday, June 24, 2008: Oakland, California
A shot of 51-Juliet
What a lot of work Julia and I have completed since we
sent the first posting for this trip. There were many bits and pieces we had
to buy, weigh, and then pack; mainly camping equipment for the camping parts
of the trip. Weight is a big issue, as you can imagine, in a small airplane.
So everything we have packed had to be weighed before it was allowed
onboard. But the weight of an item is not the only issue, its placement in
the aircraft is very important also. Effectively
we have two locations to store our stuff in the airplane, one is the rear
passenger seats, and the other is the baggage area just behind the passenger
So after much finagling in an electronic spreadsheet we finally had a
viable list of items within our weight restrictions and also a packing
Then there were the last minute adjustments to our travel
plans. Commander owners have a web site forum which we use to communicate
with each other. So I thought it would be wise if I posted our trip plans on
the site so my fellow Commander owners could review them. Commander owners
are scattered all over the USA, I was expecting to get good advice. At the
time of writing 1,327 Commander owners had reviewed our plans and we
received lots of great advice. Julia and I had to review all of the
suggestions and make changes, this took some time.
Even before we left for the first step of our adventure
the magnetic compass onboard 51-Juliet (our airplane's name) leaked its
suspension fluid and became inoperable. A compass is vital to aircraft
navigation, even in these days of GPS navigation, so it had to be replaced.
The weather forecast, for Crescent City, has been
improving so we are both getting very excited about taking our first step on
Monday, June 30, 2008: Crescent City, California
A shot of 51-Juliet taken by my brother Lawrence
We took off from Oakland, California this morning at
10:00 am as scheduled headed for Crescent City, California and the Redwood
National Park and our first camping on the trip. The
entire west coast was socked in this morning. Oakland had cloud down to
1,000 feet with the tops of the clouds at 2,000 feet and the cloud at
Crescent City started at 2,000 and went all the way down to 500 feet.
This cloud layer made for an interesting take off and
landing. I had to use what is called instrument flight rules or IFR to make
this flight. The landing at Crescent City required a lot of concentration on
my instruments as I could not see anything until we got under the cloud
layer. It also required much bravery from Julia as she is not used to this
type of landing in complete white-out. The whole flight was quite uneventful
though and we made it safely to our first destination on our around America
San Francisco as we departed.
on the ground we picked up our rental car and headed to Safeway to buy our
two dinners and one lunch; the airplane weight restrictions mean we cannot
carry much in the way of food and drink so we have to buy our supplies every
time we land.
We took with us my Garmin car GPS. This device really
helped us find our way around Crescent City. After grocery shopping and
eating lunch we drove our rental car to Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park.
Nav-Sheila, which is the name we have given to our GPS, guided us faithfully
to the camp site. We christened the GPS Nav-Sheila because she has the voice
of an Australian woman.
Julia hiking and looking a lot happier than flying
set up our tent, for only the second time, and unpacked all of our other
camping gear in one hour.
We had everything we needed except for an extra set of
knives and forks so I think we did well considering how many things we could
have left behind. We then set out on a wonderful hike through the redwood
forest which surrounds the camp. After the hike we return to camp, made an
excellent dinner, drank some great wine, made a camp fire, and turned in as
the sun set for the evening.
From Julia: We set out at 8:30am when the limo came to
take us to the Oakland airport. We were to take off from an historic airport
where Amelia Earhart took off on the flight in which she was to disappear. I
hoped we wouldn"t disappear and so I text messaged various friends before
take-off to ensure they knew exactly where we were; even though it was still
on land at Oakland, our home base.
The amazing redwood forest
was very foggy when we left home but was clearing as we were packing the
plane and getting everything ready to go.
This included getting the knob on the throttle cable
fixed up with a new bolt so it wouldn"t stay wobbly. 51-Juliet was made in
1974. It has 4 seats and It's a single engine propeller plane. I have always
felt somewhat reassured in the big jets because they have more than one
engine. So, with only one engine to drag you up to 10,000 feet above
mountains and fires and ocean amongst other hazards seems scary to me.
Especially, with no escape. Many friends asked about a parachute option
before the trip but apparently there's no way to maneuver with one in this
plane. It is better not to bother...
A forest flower
took off and easily soared off into the foggy blue sky. David reassuring me
all the way that everything was ok.
I had a novel about Arthur Conan Doyle and his friend
George at top volume in my ears to distract me from the knowledge that we
were zooming up into the air in a small metal box. We got to Crescent City a
couple of hours later and had to dive down into dense white fog to get to
the small airstrip on the coast. As we hurtled towards the whiteout at 176
nautical miles per hour I reassured myself by thinking that David would only
do this if it meant our future held a safe landing. I felt joy when the
airstrip popped into view 500 feet below. All the rest of the day was as
easy as pieâ€”rental car, campfire, redwoods, delicious dinner and best of all
wine then bed.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Resting during the 15 mile hike
For the first time we spent the night in our tent and
even though it was very cold outside we were both warm and slept well in our
sleeping bags. We got up at 8:00am and we were hiking on the trail by 9:00. We
completed a 15 mile hike of the Mill Creek trail and returned back to camp
very tired but satisfied that we had really done our best to see as much as
possible of the amazingly beautiful Northern California Redwood Forest. We
walked through cathedrals of giant redwood trees (some over 2,000 years
old), green fields of ferns, gardens of giant clover, wall to wall
rhododendrons, and acacia. Whatever we see after this forest will have a lot
to compete with.
From Julia: I woke up a few times during the night but
fell back to sleep in thermal underwear and on a divine air mattress to keep
warm and comfortable. I had to go out to the bathroom once and it was quite
scary in the dark in the trees. Due to an irrational fear of marauding bears
and bathroom perverts I decided to pee in the bushes rather than walk to the
lavatories. At last, daylight came and after coffee and breakfast we set out
on a wonderful trail through beautiful primeval redwood forest. We were so
caught up in the beauty of it all that we ended up hiking for 15 miles along
the trail. One of the good bits of feeling completely exhausted on return to
camp is that the shower felt really good. That's quite amazing as the shower
block has 2 tiny showers (with resident spiders) for a full campsite of over
200 dirty campers. You have to put quarters into a strange metal box to
start the hot tap to a trickle. Nevertheless, it felt good to clean up, put
my dirty clothes back on (due to a clothing ration) and make a lovely cup of
Crescent City Video
Wednesday, July 2, 2008: Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon
Looking back at 51-Juliet in the hazy skies.
We went to bed very early last night as we were so tired
from our long walk. I think we may have slept 14 hours. Anyway we tore down
our camp in much less time than it took to put it up and were soon on our
way back into town; biding a fond farewell to the magnificent redwood
had to pick up a few things that were missing from our kit and visit a Wi-Fi
cafÃ© to get our Internet fix for the day.
Then it was off to the airport and preparation for our
flight to Astoria in Oregon. The preparation consisted of re-packing the
airplane with our luggage, checking the tire pressures, filing an instrument
flight rules (IFR) flight plan, and fueling the airplane.
The flight to Astoria was uneventful but hazy skies
ensured we flew IFR all the way to Astoria. At times we could not tell which
way was up it was so hazy.
Once in Astoria we, shopped for our meals, found the state park, set up our
camp (in much less time than Monday), and ate a fantastic dinner which Julia
Julia looking a little happier about flying
Julia: We realize that camping is very exhausting and hard work. We packed
up, organized our stuff and then got to the airport to plan the flight,
again using instruments as visibility was so poor out of Crescent City.
At each airport so far there have been these things
called FBOs. I have no idea what that stands for, but they are these
reception areas that provide services to the air traffic. So, while David
figured out all the stuff for the plane, I sat in a soft old couch in the
FBO watching some gossip TV show catching up on stuff like the progress of
Angelina Jolie's latest pregnancy. It was a great bit of luxury vege out
time! I only gave up my spot when a tired looking FedEx pilot came in to eat
his sandwich and when he glanced longingly for the couch I figured it was
time for me to head out. It was another very cloudy and foggy day with air
pollution from forest fires. I listened to audible books all the way. The
flight was fine except for nearly sucking a passing raptor into the
propellers as we came into land.
The campsite is a strange experience absolutely huge,
filled with families with trucks and RVs, and even one guy with a satellite
dish on his RV. Not as fun as Redwoods. Next stop is a B& B in Washington.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
We spent another night under the stars last night. It
threatened rain all night, but it never fell. In the morning it really
looked bad so we packed up camp early and booked ourselves into a hotel in
Astoria for our one remaining night here.
After breakfast we took a stroll on the shore of the
Columbia River just where it meets the Pacific Ocean. It is a very scenic
spot and we really enjoyed our walk. Julia and I are both feeling a bit
tired from all of the camping and looking forward to having a roof over our