One of my friends Joel lives in Idaho Falls so in early November I took a few days off of work to go have some adventure and do a little South-Central Idaho mountain flying. I couldn't have gotten better weather or had more fun!
(tip: scroll down to the bottom of this page and start uploading the video by hitting play and then pause, then scroll back to here and read the rest of this page while the video is caching)
Leaving Sandpoint, ID there were some low clouds that I was able to climb above. Normally I'm not one to fly over clouds but that morning they were spotty enough and holes were available to glide down through if needed.
I grew up skiing at Silverhorn in Kellogg. Later it was named Silver Mountain and I worked there part time during college. Lots of great memories on that mountain and many more to come I'm sure.
I backcountry ski a fair bit now and this mountain looked like a natural. It was just over the ID border south of Superior. Quite impressive from the air, even through a dirty windshield.
The fog stayed in the low valleys and fortunately left the higher ground available to fly over.
After hitting Dillon I needed a break and a little extra fuel in case I hit weather further south. When you're over the Continental Divide in the cold you don't want to worry about making it back to some place hospitable if need be. I ended up taking the long way to Dillon and it took me about 2.5 hours but I only burned about 10.5 gallons. The Rotax 912S is a fantastic little engine and gets better fuel economy than any of my autos (plus generally gets you there 2.5X - 3X faster).
South of Dillon the topography gives the "Big Sky" state it's deserved reputation. From 9500' you really get a perspective on the elevation of this country.
When I called in 10 miles out of Idaho Falls Joel answered and told me he was already up. That extra fuel came in handy and we were able to fly some local canyons and rivers until just before dark.
Home sweet home for the night. You just gotta love a heated hangar filled with toys.
The next morning we flew about an hour across the desert to Picabo, ID just south of Sun Valley. We were guests of fellow S-7 owner Travis Dilleha at a private grass strip owned by a large ranch where Travis works. Besides being an absolutely beautiful strip along a gorgeous little trout stream it also has access to auto fuel! It really doesn't get much more convenient!
Travis had to run to Hailey so it was time for me and Joel to go play! A ways north of Picabo we spotted a nice smooth field next to an inviting stream and decided to make a stop for some fly fishing. A sheephearder on one end of the field seemed amused by the two of us buzzing around his workplace and since he waved a lot (and even used all his fingers) I took it as a good sign and landed. I didn't even know they still still had real sheephearders so the sight of his covered wagon surrounded by a large flock of sheep and backdropped by gorgeous mountains was quite a site and truly defined the term pastoral.
Of course Joel wasn't content with the field and had to land right next to the water.
Later he came up and joined me but I think that big field was just too easy for him.
After climbing to 12,000' and spending about a half hour flying over some of the prettiest rugged mountains you can imagine (the ones in the background above)we dropped down into Copper Basin and then flew up the valley to Twin Bridges. This is a really neat high altitude strip and the combination of snow and rocks made for some incredible scenery.
Always one to get to know the locals we flew down the Lost River and over some of the local strips to see if the neighbors wanted to come out to play. With a bluebird day and almost zero turbulence we were surprised that none did. Late fall and early winter flying is some of the best all year, we would have never been able to do this trip in the heat of the summer.
We needed to take a little tread off our tires and landed in Mackay for some snacks. What a pretty little town right next to Mt. Borah- Idaho's highest peak.
We scooted back over the mountains to Picabo to hook back up with Travis and Joel decided to let everyone know he had arrived by firing up the 'ole smoker.
Before we hopped back in our planes I made Travis show me how it's done on famous Silver Creek. This little stream is spring fed and extremely clear and slow moving. Consequently the trout fishing is for experts only and I needed all the help I could get. Travis is the Streammaster for the Ranch and it was the perfect opportunity to see his technique.
All three S-7s went up and had a ball. Joel loves pretending his paintjob qualifies him as a little Decathlon.
How many engineers, mechanics, and Cable Guys does it take to open a bottle of merlot when you can't find a corkscrew on a Friday night? It's all about the power tools baby!!
The next morning Joel and I flew over to Driggs, ID for breakfast. The west side of the Tetons really holds a special place in my heart. In college I took a year off from engineering and skied over 100 days at Targhee, right at the base of the Tetons. It's some of the best snow on earth and the backcountry access is just incredible.
One of my life goals is to soar the Tetons in a sailplane like this one. One summer while I was a river guide in Jackson WY I climbed all the major Teton Range peaks and now I want to see them from the air and without a motor.
It's amazing what you can find tucked away in the corner of a hangar somewhere. Anybody missing a P-51? Hmm, maybe that Merlin would fit on my S-7?
All good things must end so that others may follow. Joel has a great way of saying goodbye. I just hope he wasn't trying to do a missing man roll!
Here is a shakey/grainy video to give you a little better idea the type of terrain we were flying over.
What a super trip! Adventures like these really make all those late nights and months of building worth it and the satisfaction you get from doing it in and aircraft made with your own hands is just incredible.