Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mountain Escape

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
23 Jul 2011 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - LKP (Lake Placid, NY) -
FZY (Fulton, NY) - 5G0
4.6 966.8

Rochester, NY is not known for its hot weather.  Yet, driving home on Wednesday evening, the outside air temperature was 100°F on the bridge over Irondequoit Bay.  Usually, the bay provides some relief from hot weather and brings the temperature down a few degrees relative to the city.  Not so this week.

Forecasts suggested another hot weekend in the mid 90's, but clear skies and no precipitation.  Flying aboard Warrior 481, we turned northeast to the Adirondack Mountains in hopes of beating the heat.  Since moving to New York, Lake Placid has become one of my favorite $100 hamburger destinations.  The last time The Bear flew to the Adirondacks, she was not quite three months old.  Though we stopped in the mountains of North Carolina recently, the weather situation did not lend itself to sightseeing. This time, we were determined that The Bear would actually see some mountains.

As we departed from Le Roy, The Bear was actively looking out the window.

"There's our hangar!  There's our car!" we heard over the intercom as these landmarks dropped away from our climbing airplane.

Knowing that I have pilot friends who fly animal rescue missions, The Bear brought her stuffed snow leopards from the Seneca Park Zoo along.  If anyone needed saving from the heat, surely it was the snow leopards.

With a tailwind at 7500', we averaged close to 140 knots (161 mph) most of the way.  The Lowville and Tupper South, Central, and East MOAs (military operation areas) were cold (inactive) that morning, allowing us to fly a direct route to Lake Placid.  We reached the Adirondack High Peaks surrounding Lake Placid in a short 1.5 hours.

We circled the High Peaks while still talking with Boston Center, flying along a valley marked by Lower and Upper Ausable Lakes (above).

"Those mountains are all covered with grass!" The Bear exclaimed.  Kristy explained that those were trees, not grass.  Even an experienced aviatrix like The Bear sometimes has trouble reconciling the proper scale of things outside her airplane window.

After circling the High Peaks, we began a descent toward Lake Placid from the southeast, overflying the airport well above pattern altitude to check the windsock.  A Super Cub and a NORDO (no radio) Champ were inbound with the Super Cub making all the radio calls.  From our position over the airport it was easy to see the tube and rag aircraft; the Champ a yellow dot over the green landscape with the white Cub in trail.  We entered the pattern behind the pair.  While the approach was good, I managed to plant Warrior 481 on the runway in a flat, three-point stance.  THUMP.  We had arrived.

On the ramp, we taxied past this jet and parked in a line of other aircraft.

The ski jump facility built for the 1980 winter Olympics towers over the airport.  And, is that an ADF antenna on that Cessna?  Does anyone still use those?

From the ramp of the Lake Placid airport, the view of the mountains was beautiful.  Just ask The Bear!  It was still warm and sunny in Lake Placid, but easily ten degrees cooler than Rochester.

I had investigated the idea of staying the night in Lake Placid, but the Ironman triathlon was scheduled for the next day.  As a result, hotel rooms were completely unavailable and the town was packed with people prominently displaying their overdeveloped calves.

We rode the free Trolley into town, then wandered along the shore of Mirror Lake (above).  We finally stopped at The Cottage where The Bear had her very first $100 hamburger four years prior (which was actually milk, not hamburger).

We ate at The Cottage for old time's sake.  The Bear thoroughly enjoyed her "$100 hamburger", which, in reality, was a plate piled high with fresh fruit.  Of course, speaking of reality, the expression "$100 hamburger" may not exactly reflect current pricing anymore.  Regardless, we had a nice meal on the shore of Mirror Lake after a beautiful, smooth flight to the mountains.

The Bear became tired walking through town, which made us glad that we did not opt to hike up to the 4,867 foot summit of Whiteface Mountain.  We assuaged The Bear's exhaustion with some ice cream, which seemed to do the trick.

We had the good fortune of catching the Trolley as soon as we finished our ice cream.  Back at the airport, Kristy and The Bear entertained themselves on this impromptu balance beam while I saw to refueling the Warrior.  Does that Cessna have an ADF antenna, too?  Sheesh.

Parked at the fuel pump, we took this picture (above) of Kristy and The Bear to commemorate The Bear's first post-infancy visit to Lake Placid.  It was a deliberate attempt to recreate the photo below from September 2007.

Not bad, huh?

We loaded back up and took to the sky.  The wind had shifted to a gusty crosswind, which, given the terrain, led to a bumpy climb.  Riding through the bumps always puts Kristy on edge and The Bear to sleep.  I was able locate and ride some ridge lift at 1,000 feet per minute from about three to five thousand feet, hastening our arrival into cooler, smoother air (love how that mountain flying training still pays off).

The bumps worked their usual magic on The Bear, who dropped off to sleep before we arrived at an 8500' cruise altitude against a non-negligible headwind.  Our average ground speed was 95 knots, spent over a layer of clouds that varied from scattered to broken.  Automated weather reports from Fulton, NY promised clear skies ahead, so we stayed above the clouds in the smooth air and crawled against the current.

The wind gradient aloft was sufficient that we saw "leaning towers of cumulus", rather than the standard vertical build ups.  We stopped at the Oswego County Airport (FZY, Fulton, NY) for inexpensive fuel ($5.30/gal).  The landing was terrific and helped repair my ego after the clunker in Lake Placid.  Sadly, the airport was entirely deserted.  Oswego County is a terrific facility with large, crossing paved runways in excellent condition.  We used the FBO computer to update our knowledge of weather conditions in Rochester before climbing back into the hazy sky.

GPS track from the day's flight.  Outbound is shown in red, the rest is the return trip.  Wiggles in the return flight are deviations around towering cumulus clouds that penetrated our cruise altitude.
On approach to Le Roy, Ray's voice appeared on the Unicom.

"Warrior 481, winds at the Le Roy International Airport are out of the northwest, about 15 gusting to 20."  Evidently, a Canadian aircraft had landed there earlier in the day.  Hyperbole aside, he was correct about the winds.  I overflew the airport and turned tightly in a descending teardrop maneuver to enter the pattern.

"Why are we turning?" inquired The Bear.

"We have to approach the airport the correct way," Kristy explained.

"I like turning," commented The Bear.  That's my girl!

Warrior 481 delicately rolled onto the pavement as Ray and Phil watched from the office.

"I see Mr. Ray's truck!" exclaimed The Bear.  Kristy and I laughed, but privately, I was delighted that The Bear spent so much of today's trip looking out her window.  Maybe that means she is starting to enjoy the view as much as I do.

I often have first-time passengers write something in my logbook to commemorate the experience in their own words.  Though she has been flying with me since she was just a few weeks old, The Bear signed my logbook in her own hand for the first time at the conclusion of this flight.

I am not sure which of us was more excited about her signing my logbook.


  1. Awesome trip report - love the attempt to replicate that photo, too.

    Kinda reminds me of this:

  2. I just got my private over in Burlington. I really want to go to Lake Placid, but will probably bring an instructor along for the first time. The plane I'm doing my instrument in has an ADF still; it will be my first experience with it.

  3. Steve: I saw that picture in the news a few days ago. Very cool. I'd have to wait a few years to capture something that profound (wait until my wife is a little old lady and take a picture of The Bear holding her??)

    Scote1992: Congrats on your private license! Lake Placid is a terrific, friendly airport. As "mountain" airports go, LKP is pretty tame, but it never hurts to go with a CFI the first time. It is prone to gusty crosswinds, so you might want to pick a calm day. As for the ADF, I was just in a snarky mood while posting. My airplane still has the mounting stub for the ADF antenna on the roof and I gouged my arm open on it a couple of weeks ago while washing the airplane. So, even though I don't have an ADF, they've been on my mind recently. :-)

  4. Chris: I see you are approaching 1000 hours logged. Do you have any plans for that special flight? I'm sure you have thought about it. Just curious.

  5. You know...other then being aware that the milestone is coming, I have not thought much about what might happen that day.