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  #1  
Old 06-10-2012, 09:51 PM
Caveman's Avatar
Caveman Caveman is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Oklahoma
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Default 2012 Vacation Flight Report (long)

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I attended the Black Hills RV fly-in. When we came home and showed the pictures to the family and talked about the good time we had, my wife mentioned that she would like to go up there some time. Well that time had come. In addition to the Black Hills, and with an interest in western history, I planned to include a trip to Montana to see the Little Bighorn battleground, the Fetterman massacre site, and then Fort Phil Kearney. If there was time and the weather allowed, I wanted to see Yellowstone N.P. from the air. In the Black Hills, we wanted to spend more time and see Rushmore and Crazy Horse from both on the ground and from the air. One of the things we?d missed at the Vetterman fly-in due to the lack of ground transportation was the Mammoth dig at Hot Springs, S.D. So, that was also put on the agenda.

Flight planning and especially weather checking took place over several days. If I?ve learned one thing over the years as a cross country VFR pilot, it is that I need to be very flexible and let the weather be the boss. I try to plan the trip with enough options that I can let the weather make the decisions for me. We originally intended to go the Black Hills first, but there was a low pressure system to the West of that area that would impact the trip. So, the day before our planned departure, I called Edwards Jet Center at Billings Logan International and inquired about a rental car. They not only fixed us up, but also suggested hotel accommodations and made the reservation for us. Fuel price was high but the service was outstanding and fees were waived after a top off.

The morning of the trip, we stayed on the ground watching the weather at home base until around 11 am. It appeared that with a more Northerly flight path, I could land at McCook, Ne. for fuel and then take off, fly North a ways and then break to the Northwest and stay VFR. The flight came together as planned. We did encounter marginal VFR conditions for about 60 or 70 miles and we flew through a quite a bit of rain, but it was within my personal weather minimums. I have XM weather on the 696 and did not fly through anything but the lightest two shades of green. I visually compare the 696 display with what my eyes were seeing. There was no lightning in the area and the visibility remained good enough that it was not a concern. We broke into the CAVU conditions near Gillette, WY. and landed at Billings Logan. Edward?s linemen met us in force. Three guys showed up in a pickup truck and bent over backwards to make sure we were refueled and helped me tie down. I asked where to pick up our car and they pointed to the crew cab Dodge Dakota they were driving and said, ?That is it.? Cool! We felt right at home as we own a couple of pickups ourselves. We stayed at the Crown Plaza.



The next morning we took the truck to the Bighorn battle site. I thought we?d likely spend two or three hours there and drive to Sheridan, WY and then South to the Fetterman site. Wrong! It turned out that there was more to see than I?d imagined and we did not leave until 3:30 pm. The Reno / Benteen site and museum were very worthwhile and we attended a ranger?s presentation that had me on the edge of my seat with his narrative of what happened.





This was on a Sunday and not knowing if the Fetterman site was even open we decided that we didn?t have anything else to do, so what the heck. We headed South for 70 miles. Luckily the Fetterman site and Fort Phil Kearny both allowed access with walking trails and sign posts.



The Fort museum was closed when we got there, though. We then headed for the Wagon Box battle site but we were getting hungry. We found a nice log building restaurant in Story, Wy. where we had a very good meal. Realizing we were pretty tired and had a long trip ahead of us back to the hotel, we decided to skip the Wagon Box site and head on back to Billings.

To be continued...
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  #2  
Old 06-10-2012, 10:07 PM
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A check of the weather before bed time and again early in the morning, indicated the Yellowstone fly- over tour looked doable. Winds were reasonable for flying over the mountains and clouds were scattered at high altitude. Originally, I wanted to land at West Yellowstone, but the airport wasn?t opened. So, the plan was to fly to Cody, Wy, turn West up the pass and enter from the East side of the park, making a trip around the ?loop?. Then we would fly out the same way we went in and land and refuel before crossing the Bighorn Mountains on our way to Custer S.D.. It worked out very well. We could see the Tetons on the horizon and Yellowstone Lake was bigger than I remembered and the water was glass smooth. I followed the river until I saw the ?Golden Gateway to Yellowstone? canyon and turned back and flew up it so we could see and photograph the waterfall. WOW! What a sight! Then we flew the highway loop looking for wildlife, geysers, and scenery. I stayed high enough so that we would not disturb people or wildlife on the ground. We didn?t loiter too long in any area just for that reason. We did make three passes around Old Faithful hoping to catch her in action, but it was not to be. We flew on around the loop, short cutting across the lake and exited the park the same way we came in.

A panel pic going into the pass...



The Grand Tetons on the horizon...



Lot a rocks...



Finding the falls...



Eureka!







To be continued...
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  #3  
Old 06-10-2012, 10:25 PM
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A couple of short I-pad video clips...

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink

Old Faithfull Lodge...



Steam but no geyser erupted...



The water was like glass...









I did not intend to land at Cody because of high fuel costs, but the wife needed a bathroom break and so we took advantage of it. We were pleasantly surprised to find a nice little restaurant on the field that we enjoyed. After a nice lunch, we departed to the South headed for the Black Hills. The next obstacle was the Big Horn mountain range. The RV handled the crossing with ease near Crazy Woman VOR. We did hit one good bump just as terrain dropped away as we crossed over the range. Both of us hit our heads on the canopy and quickly cinched the shoulder harnesses down tighter. It was a bit unexpected because up until that time the turbulence was just light chop.

Crossing the Bighorns...


It's getting late. More tomorrow...
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  #4  
Old 06-10-2012, 11:38 PM
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Mike S Mike S is offline
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Default Thanks!!

Joe, what timing..... my wife was just talking about taking a trip to Yellowstone this evening after dinner.

Great photos, good motivator for us.
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  #5  
Old 06-11-2012, 12:06 AM
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As I descended into the Black Hills for Custer County Airport the turbulence increased and there are warnings about wind shear and high crosswinds in the AFD and on the AWOS. It actually wasn?t any worse than landing at my home airport although it may be challenging for an inexperienced pilot. I was spring loaded on the throttle just in case. We were fixed up with a rental car and called and got a cabin. The next day was spent driving to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy horse and taking the scenic highway trip through the ?Needles?.

On the ground at Custer County...



Here's the cabin...



Rushmore from the ground...



The weather seemed to be taking a turn for the worse, so I decided to do the flying portion of the tour the next day while we had a chance. We basically flew the Vetterman fly-in route. We hit Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, and Devil?s tower before flying over to Wall, S.D. and going through the Wall Drug emporium. We walked back to the airplane and overflew the badlands trying to out run a line of showers back to Custer. We lost the race. Discretion overcame valor and we diverted to Hot Springs to refuel and wait out the storm. An hour later we were airborne again and a few minutes after that we were tied down and back in the rental car headed right back to Hot Springs for the Mammoth dig museum. That was another enjoyable part of the trip and I?d recommend it. Later we drove back to the cabin through Custer State Park, and we enjoyed seeing many elk, deer, and bison along the way.

Crazy Horse from the air...



Rushmore from the air...



Panel shot headed for Devil's Tower...



With rainshowers moving in...



Here's the tower in light rain...



I had planned to fly home the following day, but the weather decided different. A call to the airport and a trip to the cabins? lobby office got us set up with the car and cabin for another night. We did laundry, and then set off on a road trip for Deadwood and Devil?s Tower. It was an enjoyable side trip.
We visited the cemetery at Deadwood and visited the graves of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane. We also went through the Adams museum. Devil?s tower was impressive up close! Pictures don?t really do it justice. Coming back to the cabin, we drove through Spearfish canyon, which was very scenic.

A day later from the ground...



Sleeping Bear Butte...




The following morning the ceiling had lifted but there were still rain showers in the area and more low weather on the way. We made a break for it, circumventing all but some light rain. Strong headwinds kept us low. I did have an uncomfortable moment when unexpectedly low ceilings near the South Dakota / Kansas border forced us pretty low to the ground. Weather reporting in the area I was in is rather sparse and 1400? ceilings were forecast with improving conditions as the day warmed up. The weather on the 696 and the I-pad was showing only one airport with marginal VFR when we took off. In reality, I believe at least one or two AWOS?s were giving false information. The TAF?s were incorrect. When the weather hit my personal minimums, I did a 180 and was able to climb to a more comfortable altitude. Rechecking weather to confirm, the tops were still low and the low ceiling line was narrow. I climbed above the weather, turned around and was VFR on top for 25 miles or so. The rest of the flight home was smooth sailing. We made one stop at Oglala, S.D. for a potty break or we could have come on non-stop. Here is where I learned not to trust the Fore Flight gas prices. It was $6.01 vs. the $4.90 shown, and that was self-serve fuel.

Please understand that we used telephoto lenses on multiple cameras and video recorders so clouds and objects are in many cases more distant than they appear in the pictures. I took great pains not to break altitude or cloud clearance requirement and other weather restrictions. There are large expanses of land where a forced landing would be dangerous so consider that in your planning if you decide on a similar trip. Make sure your aircraft is in good condition.

This was my first cross country using Fore Flight and a new I-pad that I won in a drawing. It was very useful for flight planning, but as others have said it is not the Holy Grail for in air use. I had a Zagg screen protector and the Kroger sun shade did help with the screen visibility. I did not have it mounted and I was able to turn it to where I could see it when I needed to. It is not very ergonomic for cockpit use and it received a few scratches. I have since purchased a knee board and will try that on my next trip.

All the trip pics are here if you'd like to see them:

https://picasaweb.google.com/JJSchne...eKqZ-zi-20pAE#

The end
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  #6  
Old 06-11-2012, 12:35 AM
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petehowell petehowell is offline
 
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Default Very Nice!

Great write-up and pictures, Joe. I loved it!
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  #7  
Old 06-11-2012, 08:07 AM
pilottangocharlie pilottangocharlie is offline
 
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Great report!! Reminds me of a family vacation I took one summer as a child to the same places.
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  #8  
Old 06-11-2012, 05:48 PM
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Talking All on my bucket list

Thanks for write up Joe. Long time you didn't post your adventures I wonder why?
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  #9  
Old 06-11-2012, 06:17 PM
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Beautiful!
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  #10  
Old 06-11-2012, 07:50 PM
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Thanks guys! I love reading about your exploits so it means a lot coming from you.

Mike, just do it! I want to go back and camp at KWYS! It's majestic up there!

Vlad, I don't post much anymore because I'm too busy trying to figure out how you have already put so many hours on your bird and passed me up! I'm up to around 300 hours in 3 1/2 yrs.

Oh, and I've been building a new airplane factory.

Joe
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