Alaskanada – Pacific Northwest

Alaskanada – Pacific Northwest

A short hop into Washington State, and Sullivan Lake strip

The next day brought a flight up into Eastern Washington, and Sullivan Lake Strip, a beautiful grass field next to Sullivan Lake in a secluded valley. It features fantastic camping and hiking. There are State Forest campsites both sides of the strip but it is extremely quiet and peaceful.

We set up camp and explored the area a little include a hike up into the hills around the lake with a great view back to the airplane and campsite. That evening was incredibly peaceful, with a camp fire and not a single man-made sound to be heard.

After a relaxing night at Sullivan Lake, a long day dawned. The days flying would take us south into Idaho, and then northwest again back into Washington State. The plan was to meet up again with the 172s from New York and fly to some new strips.

Through Idaho and Oregon, and back to Washington

The first stop was Orofino, a small strip in a river valley with the attraction of having cheap gas. To get fuel you had to call the city and they’d send a man out who’d pump gas and then take a check. It all worked without a hitch!

The route then took us south into Slate Creek strip for a quick lunch of hot-dogs, and on to McCall in Idaho. The plan here was to meet up with the 172s but they never showed. Having made an appointment to meet PPonk Aviation near Seattle (the designers of N9953H’s engine) I decided to head on out.

It was at this point that I made a very poor decision; my friend Larry had told me about this great airstrip on the way called Memaloose, and I elected to land there. A trial pass suggested the surface was not too bad and I came back in to land…and promptly got stuck in the mud. There were no people around, and no phone service. I used the InReach to message Atlas, one of the 172 pilots, and somehow they found a 170 pilot in a Chinese restaurant who could fly them in to help the next day. I decided to give it one try myself though.

After some digging and moving of as much weight as possible to the back, to lighten the nose, I gently applied full power…and off we went. I kept it moving, not wanting to risk stopping and getting stuck again, and we took off and headed west to land at a real airport, set up camp, and reflect on these events. One of my first reflections was on the fact that I had forgotten the tow-bar by the side of the runway.

Headed northwest, to bounce around Seattle

My first task the following morning was to wash the mud off the bottom and tail of the aircraft; happily, there was a hose and bucket sitting by the FBO building. This done, we flew onward to land at the tiny airport of Camano Island, that PPonk aviation calls home. The strip was tight, but no problem for a 182.

The folks at PPonk were extremely friendly and welcoming. They pulled the cowl off the engine, and suggested some improvements to the engine baffling that could improve temperatures. They then proceeded to implement them, there and then! Engine work done, we flew on down to their suggested stop for lunch, on the terrace overlooking skydivers.

After lunch I decided it would be fun to tour a few airstrips around Seattle, and so flew out to some small airparks in the bay. Touring done, we dropped into Boeing Field to visit their pilot shop and buy a new tow-bar. The next hop was about 3 miles, from Boeing Field to Renton; it took longer getting a clearance to take off than it did to fly from one to the other.

Flights to the beach, and north to stage for Canada

We spent the night at a friend’s, and then flew out to Copalis State airport. This field is simply the beach on the Pacific coast. Landing is at low tide only, after a low pass to clear pedestrians! The sand was hard and firm, although I made sure to land very gingerly after the Memaloose experience.

From Copalis we headed back inland to meet the “FATPNW” flying group, who were having dinner at Tacoma Narrows airport. The airport sits just next to the site of the famous Tacoma Narrows bridge, the original version of which failed catastrophically in an case study known to every engineer. After dinner we flew north to Orcas Island, in the San Juan islands, ready to fly on in to Canada the following day.

The following morning, we explored the local town a little, filed our paperwork, and headed north across the water to Vancouver.

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