During our trip to the Alvord Desert the other week we had planned on ending up at the private airfield at Lands Inn Ranch (49OR), near Kimberley, OR., after a fuel stop at Burns Municipal (KBNO). Unfortunately the weather decided to play its hand and so we had to cancel our visit due to numerous thunderstorms that had built up during the day and which were heading their way. Not to be defeated we had been keeping an eye on the weather hoping for a weather window that would allow us to visit before the Fall really set in for good.
Luckily this week the weather window arrived in the form of an Indian Summer with virtually unbroken sunshine over the entire state of Oregon and very little in the way of any weather that would prevent a trip to the Ranch and back again. We phoned the owners, Carol and Tom, and prepared them for our planned arrival. We had already filled out and returned the neccessary paperwork that is required for a visit and spoke to Tom about the experience level of the pilots involved (myself and Richard who would be flying his Aeronca). It's quite a tricky place to fly into for reasons that I will go into later and Tom wants to ensure that all their visitors are prepared and equipped for what is a very special and unique flying experience.
We arrived at the airport early but it was very foggy so we sat around chatting in the hangar office waiting for the overcast to burn off. By 10:30am the first sight of blue could be seen and we prepared for departure. Unfortunately within a few minutes of the morning fog clearing a thick layer of sea fog started to blow in, we would have to take-off immediately otherwise we could be grounded for another long period of time, potentially all day! Eugene, in the Willamette Valley, was reporting a low overcast which was also caused by fog, we would again have to fly VFR Over The Top to the Cascade Mountains where the lower laying moisture would clear.
Green Peter Lake.
Three Sisters in the distance.
After flying some 20 miles to the east and climbing to 6,000ft I contacted Cascade Approach on 119.6 for flight following, any earlier or lower and we would not be visible to their radar. They organised a squawk code for us that could be passed between Cascade Approach and Seattle Center who would take over the flight following service once we had reached 9,000ft or the Cascade foothills, whatever was reached first. Some 30 miles east of Eugene we were handed over to Seattle Center on 125.8 and we were reminded by them to remain VFR, not much was flying in the area due to all of the airports being socked in by fog. We had a useful 15 knot tailwind which climbed gradually as we climbed up to my preferred Cascade crossing altitude of 9,000ft+. At this height the temperature is usually cooler and mechanical turbulance generated by winds deflecting off of the hills is reduced. As we approached Mount Jefferson we were handed over to Seattle Center on 128.15 and once again we were reminded to remain under VFR flight conditions.
Mount Jefferson looked fantastic as always, and so did the other mountains in the area. To the east of the Cascades the weather looked ideal for our trip, and these conditions were forecasted to last all week. It wasn't long before we had the town of Madras and its airport in sight and I obtained permission from Seattle Center to change frequencies and start our descent. The tailwind that had been pushing us along didn't generate the bumps we had predicted as we descended down the lea side of the hills, but as we got lower the outside air temperature started to climb markedly.
Mount Jefferson with Mount Hood in the background.
Close up of Mount Jefferson summit.
East side of Mount Jefferson
Three Fingered Jack.
Just for interest below is the data from our FlightAware track log of our flight across the Cascades.
The landscape around Madras is among our favourite in Oregon, you really have to fly over it to get the proper appreciation of the area. Lake Billy Chinook, deep rugged canyons with large rivers at their bottoms, dams...whenever we fly over the area we always see something different and impressive.
White Water River Canyon with Mount Hood behind.
Lake Billy Chinook.
We were soon on the ground at Madras Municipal (S33), the weather on the east side of the mountains was excellent with a light northerly wind and a temperature in the 80's. Our friends at the FBO, Tracey and Rob, were once again brilliant hosts and gave us the use of their super cool ex. police cruiser courtesy car (complete with calibrated speedometer!). We drove the short distance into town and had an excellent lunch at the Black Bear Diner.
Tango Charlie at Madras, Mount Jefferson can be seen in the background on the left of the picture.
On returning to the airport we said our goodbyes to the guys at Berg Air and departed on our final leg to Lands Inn. Once airborne we climbed to 8,000ft and we once again gained a 15 knot westerly tailwind, we had soon left the flat farmlands around Madras and were flying over rolling high desert hillsides.
The landscape to the east of Madras.
Lands Inn is located near to the Kimberley VOR, approximately 20 miles northwest of the town of John Day and some 80 miles to the east of Madras, so it's quite easy to locate the general area. The Ranch sits at an elevation of approx. 3880ft at the southern end of a wide and deep canyon, its runway (orientated 13/31) is grass and 2600ft long which includes a sloped southerly quarter. To the east of the Ranch terrain rises to 5,200ft, to the south it rises to 4,800ft.
As we approached the area the canyon was easy to identify due to its size but it took a while to identify the Ranch within it, this was because it was higher up the eastern side and tighter into the southeast corner than I had imagined. As the wind was coming from the west I opted for an approach from the north, this approach provides a lot more room for a final leg and as a result more time to get our approach configuration correct. A southerly approach can only provide a short final leg and you have quite a steep descent to make to clear the sloping southern end of the runway.
Looking down on the Ranch.
The view from the Aeronca approaching from the north. Lands Inn can be seen top centre.
We descended into the canyon to make our approach, the air became slightly bumpy and I had to fight some downdraughts using power, occassionally using full power to maintain altitude. As we entered a curved base for runway 13 the runway became obscured by a hill to the west of the runway. I didn't see it but on this hill is a windsock which was actually indicating a wind from the north! The wind was being deflected around the canyon walls by the high surrounding terrain meaning that we actually had a 10 knot tailwind on final. As we lined up on the runway I tried to ignore the small hillocks at the threshold that we would be passing between and concentrated on getting my airspeed as slow as possible with full flaps. The touchdown was fast as you can imagine with a tailwind and quite a high density altitude but was otherwise uneventful. Not long after Richard and Carol arrived in the Aeronca and they also carried out an exciting but uneventful landing.
Tango Charlie and the Aeronca parked up at Lands Inn.
Looking across Lands Inn from the top of the slope at the threshold of runway 31. The slope is actually steeper than the picture shows, it's quite an experience taking off down it!
Looking down the runway to the north
Looking down the runway to the south. The terrain which restricts the length of a southerly approach can clearly be seen.
Some of the Lands Inn accomodation. We stayed in one of the more basic chalets in this picture, there are also a number of other cabins providing more facilities.
The Lands Inn Cafe which is used to entertain larger groups of visitors.
We received a warm welcome from Carol and Tom and were given a tour of their accomodation, cafe and hangar. We spent a couple of hours relaxing and exploring the Ranch, including the runway, before sitting down for an enjoyable evening meal. The rest of the evening was spent looking up at the stars and the Milky Way, you rarely see as many stars as we saw on that night.
In the evening.
The next morning we all got up early for an early departure, we wanted to get airborne before the heat and winds started to build. Richard and myself had been discussing the take-off using the slope in the runway, having never attempted such a take-off before we were interested to see how it would go. In the end it was pretty straight forward. I did my power checks on the taxiway and used plenty of power to climb to the top the runway slope, the top of which provides enough room to comfortably turn around in. I pulled back hard on the elevator, let the brakes off and when the Cessna was heading straight down the slope added full power. Within 800ft or so we were airborne and I pushed the nose down to remain in ground effect where we could build airspeed, by the end of the runway we were climbing well and heading to The Dalles which is 90 miles to the north of Lands Inn.
We had a fantastic time at Lands Inn and will definately be returning again one day.