Sunday, January 13, 2019

North Country Cold

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
13 Jan 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - SLK (Saranac Lake, NY) - SDC 3.4 1910.2

On a frigid morning of 12°F, the cold-soaked Williamson Sodus Airport gradually awoke from hibernation as three aircraft were readied for flight. Despite an overhead ceiling of 1,500 feet, radiant light from the sunrise spilled across the field from a clear sky to the east. At 8:00 am, a Warrior, an Archer, and a Cirrus departed in trail, noses pointed toward high pressure air prevailing over the Adirondack Mountains.

Me and Paula at Saranac Lake. Photo by Tom.

Our destination was the Adirondack Regional Airport (KSLK) in Saranac Lake, NY. Just east of Sodus, Paula and I broke out from under the cloud deck in Warrior 481 and climbed into the clear sky. It would only be my second time visiting Adirondack Regional; the first was almost exactly twelve years earlier in January of 2007. That day, I stopped for lunch at Paula's Airport Cafe (no relation to my passenger). The food was adequate but unexciting and I had made no effort to return. Our mission that morning, aside from getting the airplanes into the air, was to sample the ADK CAVU Cafe that supplanted Paula's.

Adirondacks looming in the distance.

The evergreen forest below appeared to be well frosted.

On approach to Saranac Lake, the frosted landscape below sparkled under a crisp cobalt sky. The region was so perfectly centered under the high pressure system that the air was absolutely still. It was glorious flying weather.

Despite being named Adirondack Regional, the airport is generally in flat country west of the mountains.

On arrival, with the brilliant sun shining down and the lack of wind, it was not immediately obvious to me how cold it truly was: -6°F. Clearly, the cold of Rochester had nothing on the sort of cold one finds in the north country. Regardless, it was a spectacular day. I stuffed cowl plugs into the snout of the Warrior in hopes of retaining some heat in the engine compartment and requested fuel from the line crew that parked our trio of airplanes.


Tom and Ed with Ed's Archer

A trio of single engine airplanes from Sodus with Paula and Tom standing at the right of frame


The ADK CAVU Cafe is in the terminal building and needs to be accessed from the street side of the fence. To get there, we exited the ramp through the FBO. A member of the line crew explained to me that the Cafe owner trained as a professional chef and his wife, who was our waitress that morning, had a business degree. Between the two of them, the Cafe had prospered. Although we were the only fly-ins that morning, the restaurant quickly filled with locals, which is always a good sign.

Brad's Cirrus with a Cape Air ship behind

Natalie and Brad

More than half of us ordered the biscuits and gravy - it was just that kind of a morning. Our food was good and the service was friendly. I will certainly be back.

Brad, Paula, me, Natalie, Ed, and Tom. Photo by "Tom".

I needed to be back home by 1:00 and everyone was conscious of the aircraft engines cooling off outside in the cold air (the temperature rapidly rose to -1°F over breakfast), so we did not dawdle in Saranac Lake.


The flight home was just as beautiful as the early morning ride.



Cranberry Lake



Flying at 8,500 feet, we had the rare ability to peer far back into the geologic past. Parallel striations etched into the terrain conjured a powerful mental image of painstaking scouring of the land by glacier. At least, it did for me. I can't speak for anyone else.

Over Oswego, NY

Contrary to forecast, the low clouds over Sodus from that morning did not dissipate. When we returned to the Lake Ontario shore, a low deck extended onto shore from the great lake.


Ten miles out from Sodus, we ducked underneath to find our home airport with marginal VFR ceilings and good visibility in light snow, though visibility dropped quickly in the direction of Rochester. Beneath the gray overcast, it seemed that we had arrived on a different planet after our time in the sun that morning.

Overall we had a wonderful flight with the added bonus of sampling a new airport diner. Oh, the "sacrifices" we make to keep our aircraft engines well-lubricated and happy during the winter.