Friday, July 25, 2008

"Nita-Nee, Nita-Nee!"

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
25 Jul 2008 N21481 5G0 (Le Roy, NY) - LHV (Lock Haven, PA) -
N74 (Centre Hall, PA) - 5G0
3.2 638.3

At winter's end, I found myself complaining about the poor weather than kept us on the ground for long stretches at a time.  Rife with thunderstorms, July 2008 had a similar effect.  When the weather finally blossomed into a supremely gorgeous VFR day, we headed south to Pennsylvania.  Our objective was Centre Hall, PA - home to Penn's Cave, purportedly the only cave in the United States that must be toured by boat. 

We last flew through northern Pennsylvania in February, our airplane's engine breathing deep of the clear, cold atmosphere.  In summer, haze abounds, but the landscape has softened from the stark winter vision we beheld in February.

We planned to stop at Lock Haven, PA for lunch.  Ten miles out, we overheard "Snoopy Three" making a low pass at the Piper Memorial Airport in Lock Haven.  When we announced our arrival at the airport, Ed Watson's voice came across the Unicom frequency to warn us of a blimp departing the airport to the west.  Did he say blimp?  Sure enough, we soon spotted Met Life's "Snoopy Three" departing the area to the west.  The blimp was surveying the field in anticipation of mooring there a few days later.  The low pass must have been a sight to see and certainly slower than most.

Ed drove us into town for lunch at Fox's Market House.  Piper Memorial ranks as one of my favorite airports - historically relevant, set like a gem between the Susquehanna River and the ridges of central Pennsylvania, and one of the most hospitable places a pilot could ever hope to land.  Thanks again, Ed!  Ed also receives bonus points for commenting on how shiny Warrior 481 is - this was her first flight since I invested about ten hours in washing and hand-waxing the airplane until my arms felt like they were going to fall off.

Central Pennsylvania resembles a giant, ruffled potato chip.  From our aerial vantage point above Lock Haven, the terrain is dominated by east-west ridges marching off into the midsummer haze.

Between the ridges of central Pennsylvania lies a verdant patchwork of farm country.  Each valley seems like its own self-contained world.

Thanks to, I was already aware of the short, sloping runway at Penn's Cave Airport (N74) in Centre Hall, PA.  Despite this prior knowledge, the landing was not one of my best, though I think this had more to do with the downdraft I experienced on final than any upslope of the runway.  Fortunately, I did not leave any Warrior parts on the pavement.  We parked in this field for the afternoon, which gave some visitors to Penn's Cave Wildlife Park the opportunity to gawk at us during our preparations to depart.  Penn's Cave is a short ten minute walk southwest of the airport.

It's really dark inside Penn's Cave and my camera does not do well in low light, so here's a shot of the cave entrance from Lake Nittany as seen during the boat tour.  The cruise through Penn's Cave lasted about 50 minutes and was very enjoyable.  There is a lot of folklore surrounding Penn's Cave.  One of the stories is of Malachi Boyer, a white man who fell in love with the Native American maiden Nita-Nee.  Her brothers did not approve and trapped the Frenchman in Penn's Cave.  When Boyer perished, the brothers weighed his corpse with stones and dumped the body in the deepest water of the cave (aboriginal Teamsters?).  It is said that Boyer's anguished soul can still be heard whispering the name of his beloved, "Nita-Nee, Nita-Nee..." on the winds exiting the cave.  The name later morphed into "Nittany", which is associated with the lion mascot for Penn State.  On first thought, it may seem a little gruesome to link a team mascot with a heartbroken corpse wearing granite shoes at the bottom of a flooded cave.  I suppose that if you're Penn State and you want to become the eleventh member of the Big Ten conference, you need any edge you can get.  Consider the peer group:  Wolverines (savagely fierce!), Spartans (fiercely savage!), and Hoosiers (um...corn fed).

After a delightful voyage through Penn's Cave, we launched into the afternoon sky for the return home.  Pictured above is a typical scene from the flight north through Pennsylvania: clouds, haze, shadows, and terrain.

No comments:

Post a Comment