I start off on a flight to Winslow and end up at Marble Canyon.If you regularly read these blog entries, you may know that I had breakfast in Winslow, AZ the other day. There was a second item on La Posada’s breakfast menu that I wanted to try. I thought I’d go back today.
I invited my friend Elizabeth to come with me. She lives, with her husband Matt, at Howard Mesa year-round. I took Matt and two of their friends for breakfast at Sedona for my birthday a few weeks ago. Matt is on a business trip, so I thought I’d invite Elizabeth this time.
I also invited Larry Fox, another Howard Mesa full-timer. He’s an older guy, 65, and apparently old fashioned. He said it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to go on a trip with two other women without his wife present. I invited his wife, too, but he says she’s afraid of heights. I’m starting to think that he’s afraid to fly with me….
Elizabeth arrived at 7 AM and I was ready to go. We started off with a little tour of Howard Mesa. Elizabeth used my camera to take a photo of her house (see photo). I pointed out all the little cabins and sheds and trailers that you can’t see from the road. Then we went up to Valle and followed 180 east. She showed me where some friends of hers had just bought some land and I showed her Red Mountain. From there, we headed north. It had rained the day before and I was interested in seeing if there was water in the Little Colorado River. There wasn’t. I took her to the Little Colorado Gorge lookout, just outside the Grand Canyon SUA, and was disappointed to see the canyon bottom just as dry as it had been the last time I flew over.
At that point, I realized that we were probably as close to Page as we were to Winslow. I checked my GPS and learned that we were actually 2 miles closer to Page. I asked if she wanted to go to Page instead. “Sure,” she said.
As we flew along the cliffs near The Gap, she admitted that she’d never been to Page. I told her a little about it. I figured we’d land at the airport, then take the free shuttle to the marina where there was a restaurant. But when I pointed out the Vermillion Cliffs in the distance ahead of us, I got a better idea. Marble Canyon. The runway is right across the street from the lodge and restaurant. Elizabeth was game. Actually, I don’t think she cared where we went. I didn’t really care either, for that matter. Elizabeth took a few photos of the landscape we flew over, including this shot in the Cedar Ridge area. She was fascinated by the geology of the land, especially the tilted layers of multi-colored rock. I explained how some of the more obvious formations were made and told her I had a book about Grand Canyon geology that probably explained a lot more. We were flying over the Navajo Reservation and, when we were away from the main road, we saw lots of ruins of old hogans and animal pens. That’s the kind of stuff that interests me. I especially liked the animal pens that had been built into natural rock formations — like a box canyon with its open side fenced off or animal pens built entirely of stone.
We crossed the Colorado River at Marble Canyon and landed at Marble Canyon’s airstrip. I set down on the dirt ramp area and shut down. It was about 8 AM and the morning sun was still low enough to make the Vermillion Cliffs behind us…well, vermillion. In my opinion this is the most scenic spot anyone can use as a backdrop for a photo of their aircraft. In fact, it’s enough of an excuse to fly in to Marble Canyon. Just be advised: the runway is very narrow.
We had breakfast at the lodge restaurant. It wasn’t anything special. I think our waitress may have been more interested in listening to her MP3 player than serving us. Afterwards, we climbed back on board and took off to the north. A plane had just taken off from Marble Canyon’s runway, so I had to stay a bit low until it passed over us. (I didn’t use the runway.) Our flight path gave us great views of Navajo Bridge and the river at Lees Ferry, as well as Horseshoe Bend further upstream. Elizabeth kept snapping photos, like this one, which kind of gives you an idea of the visibility in a helicopter. Don’t mind the reflections in the bubble; I was wearing my loud white pants again. And yes, that’s my hand on the cyclic.
I wanted to get fuel at Page before going back. I figured I’d show Elizabeth a little of the town and the lake and Antelope Canyon, too. Page airport was hopping, with lots of planes coming in. I slipped in behind a Cessna and set down at the helipads. Representatives from both FBOs came out to meet me with carts. Their fuel is the same price, so I picked Classic, since my friend Rod works for them. It took a while for us to finish up the transaction because the guy in the FBO office was new and was completely over his head. Elizabeth paid for the fuel, which was very nice, considering she’d also paid for breakfast. We got a ride back out to the helicopter and took off over the lake. I got to see the new Antelope Point Marina, then followed Antelope Creek until it dried up and we saw the two slot canyons.
From there, we followed the edge of the Grand Canyon SUA back to Howard Mesa, making a few detours to check out some ruins, a canyon, and a controlled burn. We buzzed Larry Fox’s house — well, not really — before heading up to my pad on top of the mesa.
It had been a nice morning out. But then again, what morning spent in flight isn’t?