Sunday, July 19, 2015

Green Mountain Vacation

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
19 Jul 2015 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - LEB (Lebanon, NH) 2.0 1440.5

Looking cool and ready for departure.

At the conclusion of Granny's first flight, we temporarily parted company with Kristy's parents. We intended a rendezvous with them later that day in Lebanon, New Hampshire. My in-laws were driving and we were flying, a clear example of where going the high road will get you anywhere faster, particularly when mountains are involved. Our ultimate destination was the Curtis Hollow Farm in Bridgewater, Vermont where we would gather with the rest of Kristy's immediate relatives for our third annual family vacation. We were all eagerly anticipating the time together.

Photo by The Bear

Sometimes, I am amazed by what we can carry in the Warrior. The large black rollerbag is our go-to general aviation suitcase. It just fits through the baggage door and is large enough to carry a week's worth of clothing for me and Kristy.

I have come to appreciate the expanded capability afforded by my instrument rating. Though I have rarely flown through serious instrument weather conditions, the mere assurance of being able to relieves a lot of stress. That is not to say that we travel with impunity, but we do travel with greater flexibility. For this trip, I filed an airway route that provided an opportunity to practice tracking VORs while only adding five minutes to the flight time versus a GPS-direct course.

We remained in visual conditions for the entire flight despite flirting with occasional cloud decks like this one near Rutland, VT (our IFR alternate airport) . My one concern, as I monitored the weather at our destination, was a small storm loitering just north of Lebanon.

As we drew closer to Lebanon, the weather lumbered off to the east. Once within reception range of the Lebanon ATIS broadcast, we verified calm winds and good conditions for a visual approach. Whether it was due to terrain or traffic I cannot say, but Boston Center held us at altitude until we were quite close to Lebanon. Roughly eight miles away from our destination, I pulled the throttle to idle, descended at an aggressive 1,500 feet per minute, and -- while still power off -- joined the pattern on a right base as instructed by the tower and softly rolled onto runway 18.

Lebanon Municipal Airport while on short final, runway 18. Photo by Kristy.

FlightAware ground track. Route: KSDC WIFFY V2 UCA V496 EBERT KLEB.

It was unbelievably hot in New Hampshire; high 80s with Carolina style humidity. Everyone, particularly the locals, remarked upon it. "This just isn't normal," they would say. For us, the discomfort also represented a bit of irony. After the stifling heat of Ocean Isle Beach North Carolina last year, we deliberately chose a location for this year's family gathering expected to possess a more temperate climate.

The Bear assisted with unloading our baggage. The eastern sky was darkened by the storm that had worried me while inbound.

Our final destination in Bridgewater / Woodstock, Vermont was a 45 minute drive to the west. Upon departing the airport, the first thing that caught our attention was that most ubiquitous of sights to American travelers: a McDonald's.

Specifically, it was a sign for the McDonald's lobster roll, complete with an assurance of manufacture from "100% real lobster". Kristy and I exchanged looks of astonishment as we passed this sign. Would any self-respecting New Englander actually go to McDonald's for a lobster roll? Granted, we were a fair distance inland on the New Hampshire / Vermont border, but we also saw these abominations advertised in coastal Maine later in our travels.

Photographed while grilling veggies and burgers for the family

Our home for the week was this house on the Curtis Hollow Farm. The 100 acre property was originally gifted to John Curtis for service during the Revolutionary War. This large, modern house still incorporates the original 1780 homestead in the form of a single room dominated by a stone fireplace. The room's strong aromas of past fires and old wooden structure led me to suggest that it smelled like Greenfield Village in there.

As shadows lengthened across the idyllic property on our first night, we had our greatest moment of excitement. A severe thunderstorm rumbled through, dousing everything with sideways rain. My father-in-law and I literally struggled to batten down the hatches; open roof borne skylights whose closing mechanisms required hand cranks. The cranks were missing. I pulled a "Primitive Pete" and used a pair of left-handed scissors to operate the window mechanism as rain poured through them. Once we made it stop raining indoors, the house lost power and all of the fans combating heat and humidity fell silent. It was not a great start to our vacation and The Bear was positively freaked out by this sequence of events.

But, as with the John Cleese character turned into a newt, it got better. Much better, in fact. Power was restored before the adults went to bed that first night and the climate returned to that more typical of Vermont over the course of the week. I will not try to recap the entire vacation here, but some photographic examples are shown below.

A modest waterfall within  a ten minute hike from the house

If this photo is to scale, Ben and Jerry must have massive heads

Photo by Kristy

Quechee Gorge

Quechee Gorge

Quechee Gorge. Photo by Kristy.

Over the course of the week, we had great conversation and food, played games, explored the property, hiked, tie dyed t-shirts, visited the Ben & Jerry's factory, discovered a yummy root beer, played tennis (sort of) and miniature golf, and had a genuinely wonderful time. It was yet another beautiful locale brought closer to home through aviation.


  1. Our annual trip from Santa Monica is to Lebanon, NH. We drive due south to New London, NH and Pleasant Lake. But next time you are in Woodstock you might want to check out Simon Pearce, a glass blowing place. The kids loved that when they were smaller and the fancy restaurant was pretty nice for the adults.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Colin! Simon Pearce was on my sister-in-law's list, though we did not get to it this time around.