Grand Canyon 2008


January 2008 - Grand Canyon Area Flight - Kyle's 40th Birthday

Kyle Enjoying his birthday gift Kyle Enjoying his birthday gift
Kyle very much enjoying his birthday gift

Kyle turned 40 in December of 2007. We spent some time to choose what to do to make this milestone memorable. Kyle had been keen to take Maryanne on a soaring flight – he had learned and spent a lot of time soaring in his younger years; this is what he really wanted to do to celebrate this milestone age! We found a local Virginia soaring club (Tidewater Soaring); two of thier members were especially kind and took Kyle up on a couple of flights in the local area. "One gentleman even took Maryanne on a flight but tried to give her the full course in an hour and I still didn’t get to take her with me" - Kyle. We didn’t make it to the mountains, but Kyle at least got a taste of soaring again. We wish we had found them earlier, as Kyle would certainly have joined. Since this cost so very little, we also were able to go skeet shooting (clay pigeon shooting) at Old Forge Sporting Clays with a small group of friends – it was a real Virginia experience - all the regulars there had camouflage EVERYTHING so the skeet wouldn’t see them.

Kyle Just landed at Tidewater Soaring Club Kyle Skeet Shooting
Kyle's other birthday treats

After all this birthday fun was over, and we had started to think ahead to Christmas, and the new year, Kyle received a surprise gift from his Mom (Carla); she had bought him a day trip in a motor glider in Arizona. That would enable him to fly to the Grand Canyon, which neither of us had seen but was on both our lists! After some negotiation, Kyle confirmed he would be able to take Maryanne with him after a short check out flight in the Diamond Xtreme Motorglider and certification/approval for self launch by the owner, Russell Hustead of Sky King Soaring.

The Diamond Xtreme Motorglider Kyle planning the flight with Russ
Kyle getting aquainted with the plane - discussing routes with Russ the owner

Kyle took the check out flight on Wednesday 16th January – this involved a few take offs and landings at Glendale airport in Phoenix. After looking at weather, and matching our own schedule we took off for our day of flying from Payson airport on Friday 18th January. Russ had done a wonderful job of directing us to a great route! We started off leaving Payson for Sedona – a beautiful town famous for its distinctive rock formations. On route to Sedona we passed by via Humphreys Peak (at 12643 feet, the highest mountain in Arizona) and a field of volcanic cones - apparently all formed from a hot spot (still active) beneath Arizona.

Humphreys Peak Volcanic Cones Volcanic Cones
Evidence of a hot spot beneath Arizona
Sedona is a really beautiful town/area - famous for its rock formations and artist community. We had been lucky enough to spend some time there before and enjoy the rocks at sunset. Seeing it from the air made it even more special for us.
Sedona Sedona Sedona Sedona

From there we flew to the Grand Canyon airport (rest stop!) and then through the area known as the Zuni Corridor (air traffic corridor) of the Grand Canyon. This follows the path of the Colorado River, and also parts of the Little Colorado River. The scenery was absolutely amazing! The bubble canopy of the plane, gave the sensation of sitting on top of the motorglider and with and the slightly nose down position gave an unhindered view of the surroundings. With the great views and the freedom to alter our flight path to look at things that interest us (as often as we wanted) - we can't imagine a better way to see this area - it was wonderful. Kyle said that in over 12,000 hours of flying, it’s the prettiest scenery he has ever flown over. We continued north of the Canyon to Marble Canyon and onto Lake Powell – an intricate network of lakes set in similar geological cliffs and canyons – stunning again! For those of you that think of the Grand Canyon as being HOT - take a good look at these pictures - you will see snow in some of them - it was around 4 degrees C on the day of the trip; luckily the plane had heating.

Grand Canyon South Rim View Marble Canyon Marble Canyon Grand Canyon Grand Canyon South Rim View Colorado River - Marble Canyon Lake Powell Lake Powell Kyle with plane at Page Airport
Grand Canyon, Marble Canyon, Lake Powell and Page airport - great scenes from the Grand Canyon area

We turned off the engine, and soared for a while – and landed at Page airport for refueling and a great Lunch at the local Ranch House Grill surrounded by Native American artwork, old cowboy artifacts and great scenic Arizona photographs . We were reluctant to leave Page, knowing the rest of the flight was the return journey – but Russ had helped us with a great route that we knew would take us over some quite different terrain.

Since our return route was over very remote terrain without the altitude restrictions of the parks, we were able to fly much lower and really get into the terrain and enjoyed sights such as the painted desert, Meteor Crater (around 4000 feet diameter, formed when a metor of around 50m hit the earth about 50,000 years ago!), wide open expanses, sand dunes, cliffs, drop offs, and more mini-canyons – WOW! The primary feeling of the return journey was that of the remoteness of the area; there are vast expanses of nothing - not something we are exposed to often in the USA we see day-to-day.

We eventually arrived back at Payson (again with the engine off after some soaring) and returned the plane to Russ with many thanks. We had taken over 500 pictures with the camera – and both had huge grins on our faces – what a wonderful gift. If you want to see ALL those photographs - check out the FULL Album on Snapfish - over 500 photos or Highlights Only (32 photos) on Snapfish

Barren lands Barren lands Sand Dunes Meteor Crater Barren lands Barren lands
Views from the return journey - remote and vast

Thanks Mom (Carla) for a wonderful gift!

We had not realized until after the flight, that this was the first time Russ had let anyone take his beautiful plane away for a whole day before. He must have been terribly nervous but did not show it at all before we set off for the day.. there were a few messages left on our cell phone checking on our progress that we never received until the following day!