Friday, July 9, th Cobra flight, 330 th PIC, 5 Landings

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1 Friday, July 9, th Cobra flight, 330 th PIC, 5 Landings Belen: 5:57am Beaverhead: 8:17am Beaverhead: 8:51 am MeOwn: 9:13am MeOwn: 9:27am Negrito: 10:22am Negrito: 10:27am Whitewater: 11:10am Saturday, July 10, st Cobra flight, 331 st PIC, 1 landing 322 nd Cobra flight, 332 nd PIC, 2 landings This spring I joined the New Mexico Recreational Aviation Committee (NM-RAC), a subgroup of the New Mexico Pilots Association (NMPA) that is working to open up backcountry airstrips across the state. The group will first focus on 4 USFS airstrips in the Gila National Forest. One of the NMPA pilots (Dave) contacted Vernon Hollimon, who owns the Whitewater Mesa Airport near Glenwood, NM. Vernon will host a small group for the weekend and we ll visit the 4 airstrips: Beaverhead, Me-Own, Negrito and Jewett Mesa. Intense afternoon thunderstorms have been hitting nearly every day, so Paul and I are were in the air before dawn to ensure we are safely in Vernon s hangar by the afternoon. Right: Orange skies at takeoff. Whitewater: 6:06am Whitewater: 6:46am Whitewater: 8:33am Jewett Mesa: 9:31am Jewett Mesa: 10:15am Belen: 12:57pm Trip Airtime: 8.7hrs Total PIC Time: Total Logged Time: 873.4

2 I also called up the USFS dispatcher in Silver City yesterday and got permission to fly into all of the strips this weekend. Paul and I originally planned to check out all the strips on the way down on Friday, then camp at one on the way home Saturday night. But Paul had to get back to ABQ Saturday afternoon, and I didn t want to camp alone. So I put off my camping plans for another trip. We headed out towards Ladron Peak. There some clouds hanging over the summit. Once we rounded the corner I could tell we would have good weather all the way to Glenwood and we even picked up a couple mph tailwind.

3 We entered the VLA basin and took a quick look at the radio antennas. It was one of the rare times all the dishes were grouped at the center. We turned south for Beaverhead. We cruised over the wide open plains for an hour, coming across the occasional small herd of pronghorn antelope.

4 Upper left: The air was very smooth, so I did a little bit of low altitude shadow chasing. Lower left: I had flown this way on previous trips to Monticello Canyon, but soon I was in country I had never seen before. We followed this road around the corner to the valley on the right. Lower right: It was nice country back here, pinion juniper forest with grassy meadows.

5 I spotted a huge herd of elk in the folds of the terrain. The county became more open as we neared Beaverhead.

6 We overflew the Beaverhead forest station. It was like a small city back here. A few miles further up on a mesa was the Beaverhead airstrip. I made a low pass and saw that it was in excellent condition and came around again to land.

7 I taxied up to the far uphill end, then pulled my trike off to the side. We took a short break here. It was a nice spot, but no trees.

8 We took off and headed for Me-Own Airstrip. We flew past a beautiful lake in a side valley on the way there. Me-Own was high on a mesa. There were a few buildings at the SW end of the airport. Paul landed first, then I came in after him.

9 Me and my trike at Me-Own. This was a very beautiful spot. A perfect place to camp some day. It was time to move on. I took off first, then came around again to get a look at the far SW end of the airport.

10 We left Me-Own and retraced our path past Beaverhead, and then headed into a wide grassy valley to the northeast. We had to climbed high to cross some forested country to reach Negrito. Next time I will take a different path that keeps us over the grass. We arrived at Negrito and its two huge airstrips. The main strip was 7700 ft long. The wind favored the shorter crosswind airstrip, only 3800 ft long. The surface was in perfect condition, but the wind was very switchy.

11 After Paul landed, the winds shifted more than 90 degrees to favor the long runway. And it was blowing strong enough that it would be a hassle with getting out of our trikes. I radioed to Paul and we decided there was no reason to get out. Left: I took this picture of Paul as he taxied up to the runway intersection. Lower right: Video from my takeoff, looking down the infinitely long north/south runway.

12 A few miles west of Negrito was the Dark Fire. The dispatcher had warned us of it. We monitored the USFS air-to-air frequency (120.75) to make sure there was not traffic in the area. No one else was in the air today. A few miles further was an abandoned airstrip, Rainy Mesa. The trees growing in the runway only had reduced it to about 1000 ft usable at the far uphill end. That would be more than enough for a trike. But the wind was gusting strong across the runway. We decided to try Rainy Mesa some other day. Lower right: Paul, on a low pass over Rainy Mesa.

13 From Rainy Mesa we flew over a series of meadows toward Reserve, then down to Glenwood. I told Vernon we should arrive between 11am and noon. By coincidence (since I was not really paying attention to the time) we landed at 11:10am. He was amazed at our punctuality. There was a small crowd on hand. Vernon and his wife Valera, and Darrel and his wife Misty and their two granddaughters. This was another dirt strip in perfect condition. Vernon made room for our trikes in his hangar so we wouldn t have to worry about any New Mexico thunderstorms.

14 Darrel, Misty and their granddaughters took us into town for lunch. When we returned, Larry and his son Joe flew in followed by Duane and Dave. The next hour or two was spent shooting the breeze in the hangar. Upper left: Trikes in the hangar. Right: Larry, Darrel and Jeff (me) Lower left: Dave, Paul and Vernon(with map) Note Vernon s Maule in the back of the hangar.

15 Later, Vernon took us to the Catwalk, a trail with a series elevated walkways and bridges above Whitewater Creek. After our hike, Vernon dropped Larry, Duane and Dave off at a motel in town. Paul and I had originally planned on camping at Me-Own, so ended up camping in the hangar. I offered to give Vernon a trike ride in the morning and he eagerly accepted.

16 Left: Me and Vernon at his ranch. Right: Vernon s wife Valera is a master quilter. Their home was decorated with the most intricately designed quilts I have ever seen. Vernon told me that once he let Valera get the fanciest sewing machine on the planet, it was no problem keeping his aircraft in perfect shape. Valera made us some snacks for dinner, and then Paul and I headed back to the hangar, I told Vernon to come by around 6am the next morning for his flight. I was up at 5am to pack for the trip home.

17 Vernon came by early at 5:30am, looking forwards to our trike ride. Paul lent Vernon his helmet so we could talk during the flight. Vernon gave Paul some earplugs so he wouldn t go deaf from his engine. I took off to the south (upper right) with Paul following us in his trike. We flew over Glenwood. Duane saw us from the motel parking lot. We headed south towards Vernon s 2 nd Airstrip on a bench overlooking the valley. It was a very nice little airstrip with a hangar. The runway was short, only 1000 ft long. I did not want to attempt a landing with Vernon in back. Vernon wasn t eager to try this either.

18 A few miles south was a large grassy field with a swirling patch of mist over it. I saw a small herd of deer walking through the mist as I flew over the field. We climbed high and flew over San Francisco Canyon. I circled behind Paul s trike so Vernon could see it from the air. Lower right: The sun rose over the horizon and I got this picture of Vernon and me.

19 I returned to the Whitewater Mesa Airstrip (upper left) and made a nice gentle landing. I started packing up my trike for the trip home. Paul and I were heading up to Jewett Mesa, while the Vernon was taking rest of our group to the airstrips we had checked out yesterday, Negrito, Beaverhead and Me-Own. Darrel brought Larry, Dave, Duane up to the ranch. Everyone refueled on ethanol free gas from Vernon s big gas tank and were just about to head out when Adam, a pilot from Arizona arrived overhead. He landed and we made a very brief greeting. Adam took the picture on the right that shows most of our gang. From left to right Dave, Paul, Darrel, Joe (Larry s son), Duane, Vernon, Jeff. Not shown Larry and Adam.

20 There were many beautiful homes here. I saw some colorful dome and teepee-like structures on the meadows below. Paul and I took off and headed north. We flew past Reserve and its paved runway, then continued up the valley. We turned left at Apache Creek and followed a wide grassy valley (left).

21 The valley narrowed, then opened up again. To the right was Jewett Mesa. Paul landed first. Later, looking at my video I noticed a small herd of pronghorn that was running parallel to the runway when Paul s trike landed. I landed next and we both taxied up to the far east end of the runway and parked. Paul refueled his trike here, and we ate a snack. Our next stop would be back in Belen. Right: Me and my trike at Jewett Mesa. Photo by Paul.

22 Right: The dried lake in the far south west corner of the Plains of San Agustin. We retraced our path down Apache Creek, and turned east towards the Plains of San Agustine.

23 We flew to a ranch on the south edge of the plains, the only outpost of civilization out here. I followed this road for a while, looking for a place to land. I wanted to resecure my duffle bag in the back seat. But it was very thermally, and the road was very narrow and rough looking. I decided I could live with my duffle bag the way it was. Darrel told us of a Bat Cave on the southern edge of the basin. We looked for the cave but never found it. While writing up this flightlog, I did locate the Bat Cave on the topo maps. I ll check it out on my next trip down here. I also came across several stories of UFO crashes in this area and child-like alien, found wandering around out here. A rancher picked it up and took it home. The next morning it had disappeared... We crossed the Plains, green from the summer rains. The rest of the trip to Belen was nice, but uneventful.

24 This was a fun trip. I hope to repeat it and camp at the Me-Own or Negrito. I ll also look for the Bat Cave and the UFO crash site. Here is my GPS tracklog. Belen to Glenwood Vernon s trike ride Glenwood to Belen Belen Jewett Mesa VLA Reserve Bat Cave Ranch Rainy Mesa Negrito Beaverhead Whitewater Mesa Me-Own Vernon s Short Airstrip

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