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2013 Cross-Country Trip Day 1: Seattle to Boise

The departure day for our trip had finally arrived!  We’d planned a relatively long first day: approximately 6 hours to Erie, Colorado (near Boulder).  I’d been obsessing about the weather for days, which wasn’t very useful.  It had been looking like we would have decent weather, but I was disappointed to wake up to find we were facing relatively low clouds.

The first step was crossing the Cascades.  I’m not a fan of flying over mountain ranges without good emergency landing options, so there are basically two ways I’m willing to cross the Cascades to the east: via Snoqualmie Pass (I-90) or the Columbia River gorge, near Portland.  If flying on instruments, I’m also willing to go via V-2, the airway just south of Snoqualmie Pass.  On a cloudy day such as this, for each route, the options are to go under, through,  or above the clouds.  For the Snoqualmie route, a stationary band of heavy showers removed that as an option at any altitude.   For the Columbia River gorge, the ceiling was 1000-2000 in places, which is lower than I was comfortable with flying in an unfamiliar area.  It was unusually cold, creating likely icing conditions, so we couldn’t go through the clouds.  The only potential option was to try going above the clouds.  We didn’t have any reports on cloud tops, so we decided to go take a look.

Leaving our home base at Paine Field, we had to fly low to stay under the clouds until we reached the Tacoma area, where there were some holes.  Climbing above the clouds, we continued south toward Portland.  The further south we went, the higher the cloud tops were.  Fortunately, they topped out at around 10,000 feet, enabling us to stay at  11,000 feet, which was about as high as I was willing to go without oxygen.  We turned left to fly over the Columbia, and as we reached the other side of the Cascades, the clouds became more and more sparse–we made it!

Staying low under the clouds as we left Paine Field.

Flying over the Columbia River gorge.

Clouds thinning out as we crossed the Cascades, into eastern Washington.

We were cruising comfortably until we reached the next mountain range: the Blue Mountains, just east of Pendleton, Oregon.  There were low clouds and showers over the mountains, making it impassible.  We were ready for a break, anyway, so it was an easy decision to land in Pendleton and think things over.

Showers just beyond Pendleton

Pendleton was really quiet.  No airplanes came or went for about an hour, until one landed. Amazingly, it was another RV-10!

Another RV-10

We saw a break in the showers approaching on the radar, so we jumped back in the plane and took off.  There were still some low clouds, so we needed to stay low, but they were mostly scattered to easy to avoid.  The route also follows I-84, which provided additional comfort.

Flying across the Blue Mountains

Past the Blue Mountains, the clouds really thinned out, and as we got into Idaho, it was clear.  Unfortunately, it was getting later in the day, and the daytime heating and atmospheric instability combined to create some uncomfortable turbulence.  As we passed Boise on our way east, the bumps got worse, and neither one of us felt great, so we decided to turn around, backtrack about 10 minutes, and stop in Boise for the night.

We showed up unannounced at Western Aircraft in Boise, and they were extremely helpful, finding us a hotel for the night and driving us (and all our luggage) to it.  Because we had not planned on a stop before Erie, we didn’t have an overnight bag.

We checked into the hotel, got some dinner, and relaxed.

Cooper expends some energy crawling around the hotel room floor.

Day 1 Route

Day 1 Route

Next: Day 2: Boise to Erie

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