A Different State of Mind

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by Ron Clark

I like Oregon. Always have. I was born there, and brought up on the south coast in the logging and fishing town of Coos Bay.


Of course I can visit by car or any other conveyance, but since I like to fly gliders, visiting the home state in my favorite method of transport, the UN-motorized glider, has always been a goal.

Many years ago, I attempted a flight to Oregon along the Cascade foothills and managed to fly 10 or 15 miles south of Chehalis before the clouds gave up. I returned to Chehalis and landed, catching the Greyhound back to Everett, with a retrieve the next weekend.

The idea of flying to Hood River was imagined after a weekend of trailering and flying my LS3 there in 2010. It's a gorgeous town in the beautiful Columbia river gorge, and I had a great time flying the ridge there with the locals.

Being a cross country glider pilot in western Washington requires patience, and no small amount of optimism. Saturday May 9, 2015 was a day that would reward both attributes. The weather didn’t look great in the morning, but the forecast was for high cloud-bases and good thermals, so I decided to give it a go. Bruce provided the long tow to Mt. Ditney. We felt absolutely no sign of thermals during the tow, but I released over Mt. Ditney anyway. Bruce called out on the radio that he felt a bit of lift to the northwest right after release so I turned that direction and found weak lift. That was enough to get the ball rolling with a climb that allowed a foray to the ridge leading up to Three Fingers from Goat Flats. I got another climb here and things were looking up. Dan Housler joined the party and had a spectacular flight over to Lake Wenatchee and parts north. Fred and Kathleen also logged a nice flight on this day.

I headed south and was surprised to see a large party (maybe 15 on the summit, and another 10 or so roped up and heading up the east slopes) on Sheep Gap Mountain. They got a good look at a glider pulling up at high speed over their peak and thermaling up to 6,000 ft. I could see little puffs of cu here and there now, and was encouraged to continue south where I could just see the beginnings of a good looking cloud-street in the distance. Conditions were getting better and I was able to climb to 7,700 ft at Grotto Mountain (near Skykomish). The thermals were widely spaced, but when a good one was found, they provided five to six knot climbs.

Crossing the Skykomish valley near the State airport, I found a thermal that took me to 10,000 ft at Rooster Mountain. I could now see the excellent conditions ahead and was determined to connect with a cloud street that enveloped the peak of Mt Rainier and stretched south to Mt. Adams. Here I made the easy decision to just go for it, and see how far south I could fly. I called Dan on the radio and relayed my intentions, hooked up the oxygen, told myself this was a good idea, and turned toward Ranger Creek airfield. My hat is off to people who have flown out of there. That is an extremely narrow slit in the trees from 8000 ft .


I got a good climb to 9600 ft over the Crystal Mountain ski area, and set off south with the Packwood airport up ahead. My Mio PNA with LK8000 died some miles back. I was down to a sectional and my Garmin hiking GPS.

Good cloud streeting allowed good progress here. I stopped for a climb near Seymour Peak and was able to fly at 10,000 ft altitude for some distance.

I wanted to head straight for Mt. Adams looming in the distance, but I knew there were zero landing places between me and the big volcano, so I steered a bit toward Rimrock Lake with its nice grass airstrip. I have been there a few times in the past, and am familiar with the airfield.


Continuing on to Gilbert Peak I made some course changes to chase some nice looking clouds, and finally climbed to a much welcome 11,700 ft altitude here. Turning now toward Mt. Adams, I got a good climb to 11,900 ft over the Yakima Indian Reservation and knew I would make it to Mt. Adams easily. The wind was light out of the west, so I flew along the sunny west slopes of the rounded cone shaped peak, snapping a few pictures along the way.

mtsthelensfrome-400x275.jpgI noticed Mt. St. Helens off to the west, and there were some very nice clouds streets all the way to its dusty gray slopes. I considered going there. 11000 ft cloud streets are hard to resist, but after a detour in that direction I realized continuing south was a better decision. I headed south toward Hood River with Cascade Locks on my right side. Climbing to 10,000 ft here, Mt. Hood was starting to loom in the distance, and I had a few fleeting thoughts of soaring the highest peak in Oregon. Alas, the clouds were getting killed from the cold air coming from the the Columbia Gorge, and I had to be satisfied with a tour of the Hood River valley on final glide to Ken Jernstedt airport. The wind at this lower altitude was from the northeast, I announced to the Cessna 150 flying training circuits my intentions and lined up on runway 7. Noticing a few club gliders from the Willamette Valley club parked halfway down the runway, I extended my rollout and was able to roll off onto the grass about 40 ft from an open tie down spot with perfectly spaced tie-down stakes. Safely down in the Beaver State!

mthoodfromne-400x284.jpgThe glider folks weren’t around, but Scott, the FBO manager drove down and gave me a ride back to the FBO. He let me lock up my parachute and other gear in the office and arranged a ride to Vancouver, Washington with one of his customers. My new acquaintance, Tom, was a veritable font of knowledge about the dams on the Columbia as he had for 30 years been an ironworker on innumerable projects up and down the Gorge. We grabbed some dinner at the restaurant overlooking the "Bridge of the Gods", and stopped at the Bonneville fish ladder and sturgeon ponds - very cool. One of the sturgeons in the gorgeously landscaped ponds was 10 feet long!

Tom graciously set me up with a cabin in his friend's campground in Vancouver. In the morning he gave me a ride to the train station on his way to church. The pilot fraternity is a great bunch of people. On the train I had a great conversation with a two sisters who were retired teachers. They were avid travelers, and very interesting company.

Arriving at King Street station in Seattle, my patient and understanding wife picked me up - on Mothers Day. We stopped at the farmers market and bought flowers which we delivered to our two daughters who are new moms now themselves.

I drove down with the trailer on Monday for an uneventful retrieve.

All in all, it was fun, exciting, and definitely worth it. I would recommend a long straight out flight to anybody that enjoys a great adventure.

Comments by the editor:

This is another great report by Ron about another great flight!

It was the first soaring flight from Arlington to Oregon (and to Mt. Adams) and covered 225 miles (by OLC rules) in less than 5 hours. It was another flight that depended on a long tow into the mountains to connect with the obviously outstanding conditions along the higher central Cascade range.

And the fact, that the pictures are all somewhat blue is due to the fact that they were taken thru the blue tinted canopy of Ron’s LS-3.