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Old 02-19-2013, 12:42 AM
ArVeeNiner's Avatar
ArVeeNiner ArVeeNiner is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 1,153
Thumbs up Death Valley (part 1)

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.
Kelly Johnson
San Jose, CA

Pink slip issued: 5/7/12

First flight: 5/28/12, Memorial Day.

Phase I Complete: 8/18/12!

Last edited by ArVeeNiner : 02-19-2013 at 01:08 AM.
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Old 02-19-2013, 12:57 AM
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ArVeeNiner ArVeeNiner is offline
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Location: San Jose, CA
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Default Death Valley part 2

Finally, back to the airport. We just didn't have enough time to see all that DV offered. Having the altimeter go below zero was a sight to see though! I think I want to eventually go back and camp for a night.:

The plane looks so small!:

So we took off and headed north towards Stovepipe Wells. The original plan was to land there and then over at Beatty, Nevada for my first out of state trip in the RV. The late start didn't allow for either so we settled for a short flight around the valley. We are looking west at the DV side of the Panamint Mountains. Stovepipe Wells is at the north end of this mountain:

Now we go from dry lake bed to sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells. This was the most surreal landscape I've ever flown an airplane over. It was like flying over Mars!:

We were on our way back out of the valley when we came across this. I tried to look up exactly what this was with no luck. It looks volcanic to me:

Back over the Panamints:

Just beautiful:

The plane performed very well. Not a problem at all. We stopped briefly in California City to gas up and to visit with a friend of mine but it was a VERY short stop. I wanted to get back before dark.

So, Google says it would take over 7 hours to drive to DV from here. There is no way I would have ever driven there. By car, a day trip is out of the question. The only thing that could allow me to do this is a fast plane, which I happen to have AND I built it myself! Somebody pinch me!!!

My adventures have only just begun. This little machine is taking me places that I would have never gone. Wow!!!

Once again, keep pounding those rivets. You'll see the world when you're done. Now, excuse me while I plan my next trip!
Kelly Johnson
San Jose, CA

Pink slip issued: 5/7/12

First flight: 5/28/12, Memorial Day.

Phase I Complete: 8/18/12!

Last edited by ArVeeNiner : 02-19-2013 at 01:06 AM.
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Old 02-19-2013, 05:33 AM
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RV6airplanePilot RV6airplanePilot is offline
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Default Great pics, well done

You may have left out one interesting fact; only about 80 miles from the lowest point in our continent is the highest! (highest in lower 48 states only - thanks Yak52driver) Mt. Whitney 14,505 ft.
ATP, dreamer and maintainer; but not a builder
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Last edited by RV6airplanePilot : 02-19-2013 at 09:23 AM. Reason: correction
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Old 02-19-2013, 05:41 AM
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pierre smith pierre smith is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Louisville, Ga
Posts: 7,911

Thanks for taking us on your trip...amazing contrast to what we saw last weekend!

Yep, these little airplanes can take you far from home in a day.

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Building RV-12, Wings, fuse, emp complete. FWF in progress.
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Old 02-19-2013, 05:54 AM
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chazking chazking is offline
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Location: State of Bliss
Posts: 396
Default Cool


Great trip report. DV contrasts are stark!
Ch?z King
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Old 02-19-2013, 06:26 AM
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tkatc tkatc is offline
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Location: NJ
Posts: 1,747

I can feel your excitement! Keep the reports coming.
My ATC opinion is NOT an official FAA recognized opinion, so any advice you get from me is ONLY my opinion.

Track my RV7A!!

Bought my flying -7A
Building an -8! (Fuse)
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Old 02-19-2013, 07:32 AM
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GLPalinkas GLPalinkas is offline
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Location: Venice, Fl
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Default Great report

Kelly, that was a great day trip. I'm putting DV on my list. I'll be headed back to New Mexico in a month so maybe I'll plan on a trip a little further West.

Keep up the trip reports.
Gary Palinkas - Gman.... VAF #161
Venice, Fl
RV-6 "Sassy" Flying 400 hrs since Oct 2011
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Old 02-19-2013, 08:54 AM
Yak52Driver Yak52Driver is offline
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Litchfield Park, AZ
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Default Highest point

The highest point on our continent is actually Mt. McKinley at 20,320 ft. If you meant the highest point in the lower 48, you are correct.

Originally Posted by RV6airplanePilot View Post
You may have left out one interesting fact; only about 80 miles from the lowest point in our continent is the highest! Mt. Whitney 14,505 ft.
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Old 02-19-2013, 12:54 PM
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flyboy1963 flyboy1963 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lake Country, B.C. Canada
Posts: 2,434
Default trip planning.....what's your process?

I suppose this could go in another section, but these awesome trips & photos inspire me to do one! question when I see the great photos is; can you suggest what a 'reasonable' amount of survival gear is for spending some unplanned camping time in the area we overfly?
WE have some rather inhospitable terrain here also, but the high ( or low) desert has to be one of the most extreme.
We'd appreciate if some of you seasoned travellers share your preparations with us newbies!
Hmmm, 2 people, a week in the desert before you are located, that's a fair bit of water just for starters!
Perry Y.
RV-9a - SOLD!....
Lake Country, BC
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Old 02-19-2013, 01:00 PM
jblanton jblanton is offline
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Sacramento CA
Posts: 1
Smile Another Place to Follow your Lead

My wife and our dog had a great flight on Friday from Rancho Murieta (RIU) to Oceano (L52) after reading your flight with your daughters weeks ago??. Death Valley must be next on my list.
We experienced a little head wind going but coming back at, level 8500ft we were indicating a ground speed of 231mph and a little over an hour flight, little bumpy, so Oscar our dog could not stay asleep.
I followed a Lanceair, and landed with a tail wind, I should have known better than to follow the leader, after I had to correct him when he was entered a left pattern when the traffic pattern for rwy 11 is Right , we had plenty of runway (2325ft).
Oceano airport (L52) is a fantastic little airport, two blocks from where we had lunch at the Rock N Roll dinner, and 3 blocks to the beach.
Talked to approach and had 5 frequency changes on the way back. One controller had his hands full with a pilot that just did not understand his directions, it was so bad all that Laura and I was laughing so hard, (but really it was no laughing matter). I mean it went on for at least 5 to 10 min. One of the other pilots under his radar service said good luck as he was transferred to another sector.

To all, keep up the pilot reports, it gives us recommendations for our time machines
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