Saturday, November 25, 2023

Sundog's Fire

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
25 Nov 2023 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - AQW (North Adams, MA) - SDC 3.8 2760.3

In a year of "big missions", ad hoc flights for food have been relatively rare, so I was excited to participate in a quickly planned flight to the Harriman and West Airport in North Adams, MA for lunch at the always-excellent Trail House Kitchen. I was joined by Scott, birthday girl Kim, and George in Eight Five X-Ray.

For both Scott and I, it was an opportunity to get back into the cockpit and fly for the simple sake of flying. Neither of us expected anything particularly grand or memorable. There are days when I am awestruck by the incredible scenes I can traverse with my airplane. Though it was unanticipated and though conditions did not start off that way, this was one of those days.

Sodus Bay observed while climbing to altitude off of the Williamson Sodus Airport.

There was a low overcast covering New York state from Syracuse to Albany. We climbed to 7,500 feet and proceeded over the layer VFR secure in the knowledge that current conditions at our destination consistently showed clear skies.

Aside from a groundspeed boost from a tailwind, the outbound flight was nondescript. For once, I was more amused than annoyed by an exchange on Guard, the emergency frequency.

"Does anyone know the score of the Michigan / Ohio State game?"

"Knock it off, this freq is reserved for meowing," came a snarky reply. Well played, Guard Troll. Well played.

Although the undercast extended to the horizon for much of the flight, we eventually reached the edge west of Albany just in time to descend toward the Berkshire Mountains. Harriman and West sits in a picturesque valley among the Berkshire Mountains in northwest Massachusetts.

Warrior 481 parked outside the new terminal building at Harriman and West.

Since my last visit to Harriman and West, the new terminal building was opened and made available for use, if not quite finished. We had excellent actual $100 hamburgers for a late lunch at Trail House Kitchen, which I have described before. Thanks to George for buying!

Eight Five X-Ray.

Back at the airport, Scott and I waited for departure while another Cherokee flew a left traffic pattern for runway 29 that requires a right pattern. Doesn't anyone read their charts anymore? I was reminded of all the college students driving the wrong way down one way streets during my time in Bloomington, IN.

We flew home at 6,500 feet with a headwind. The cloud layer was still present, though it had contracted around the edges. Though I was well above the layer, I nonetheless cast a well-defined glory on the mist below.

To my left, the late afternoon sun was flanked by sundogs produced by ice crystals suspended in the air. The apparition was shot through by a contrail that, rather than spoiling the vista, energized it. This might be one of my favorite photos ever.

This is where I discovered that the wide-angle lens on my iPhone can do weird things with fuel tank rivets.

Seeming to extend to the end of the world, the vast cloud layer drank in the golden warmth of the late afternoon sun.

Syracuse, NY at sunset.

It was our goal to reach Sodus before dark and we succeeded, but not before finding ourselves aloft in a striking sunset tableau.

It was a simple, last-minute flight planned around an excuse of lunch, but the day resolved into one of those perfect, memorable combinations of great weather, great flying, great food, great company, and absolutely amazing vistas.