So, I have this airplane that I built in my garage. I hear these are pretty good for flying fast and far. I really haven't flown mine all that far yet so I was looking for some time and an excuse. Well, this holiday weekend came up (Presidents Day) so I had the time. Now I needed an excuse. Well, I've never been to the lowest airport in North America. I've never been to the driest place in North America. And I've never been to the place that has had the highest official recorded temperature in the world (sorry El Azizia, Libya). I could kill all three birds with one flight. So yesterday, 2/17/13, I killed said birds.
My buddy Paul and I were planning on a crack of dawnish flight but as is the case often here in the SF Bay Area, we got the morning overcast. So, we were stuck at the airport for a while waiting for it to burn off which ended up being about 9 am. Not too bad.
Our first stop was Los Banos to top off the tanks. They usually have the cheapest gas around but I watched my Foreflight update the under $5 a gallon price to well over $5 a gallon right before my eyes. Oh well.
Our route took us down the San Joaquin Valley, over Bakersfield, Mojave, through the Trona Gap, then into Death Valley. I wanted to minimize the pucker factor so I elected to do an end run around the south end of the Sierras rather than over the top of those nasty rocks.
Anyway, it was a pretty hazy flight all the way to the end of the valley. All the junk in the air bunches up down there and makes for a mucky flight. Good thing that flight following is very easy to get. It's nice having somebody keep an eye on you. The haze, by the way, doesn't make for good photos so I didn't take any.
Finally, we got to the Tehachapis. This is the small mountain range that lies between Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave desert. This is Bear Mountain which sits at the entrance to the Tehachapis:
Finally over the Mojave Desert where we flew past these cool red rocks near California City:
This is Searles Lake near the town of Trona. This is in a area known as the Trona Gap. There is a small gap between restricted areas that you can squeeze through. Joshua Approach told us we could overfly either of the restricted areas at or above 6000 feet but I stuck with the plan. I had the gap already programmed into the GPS/Autopilot and I wanted to see what it looked like. The peak in the distance is Telescope Peak, the highest peak in Death Valley National Park:
So, we got past Trona, turned right, flew down the Panamint Valley a bit, then crossed the southern end of the Panamint Range. DV lies on the other side of this range. Even though we weren't over these mountains for long, the pucker factor was there. Very beautiful though. Not a tree in sight:
This is the other side of Telescope Peak (just over 11,000 feet). We were at 7,500 feet when we took this picture:
Death Valley. Our objective is Furnace Creek which isn't in the picture. From this point on all I could say was "This is so cool." The pictures just don't do it justice:
Finally on the ground. We decided to go for the Wrangler Buffet instead of the highly rated brunch at the Inn At Furnace Creek. I think I'd recommend the brunch even though I've never had it. 'Nuff said. Anyway, DV is just full of so many different geological features. Very cool. This is looking east toward Nevada:
Where we should have had lunch, but didn't. It looks like a big pile of dirt behind the place which looks entirely different from the other rock formations in DV:
Another view looking NE:
Yours truly in the middle of DV. Yes, that's a tent to my left:
See part 2 further on down.