Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Touring the Cascades

I just got back from a four-day Helena-Edmonton-Billings trip. The first two days were gloomy and rainy, both at our layover cities and everywhere we flew. Thankfully, the last two days were absolutely gorgeous - severe clear VFR. It gave us the opportunity to do something very cool: scenic tours.

When the weather is nice and the route starts or ends near a scenic area, my company's pilots will sometimes request VFR-on-top with deviations from course, and stay low to give the passengers a tour. It's a neat thing that most people really enjoy... we get a lot of compliments as passengers deplane after a scenic tour. It's also something to differentiate us from the competition: you'll never get it on Southwest, and I've never heard Skywest requesting one.

On Sunday, we descended early on our return from Edmonton and toured the North Cascades to Glacier Peak, which we circled before continuing the GLASR6 arrival into SEA. When outbound to Billings, we stayed low on departure and deviated over the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, particularly the Enchantment Lakes near Mt. Stuart. Yesterday, we had numerous legs into and out of Seattle, so we had the chance to tour the Alpine Lakes and Cascade Peak areas again, as well as a stunning low-level circle around Mt. Ranier.

The bad news in all this is that I forgot to bring my camera on this trip. I'm sorry! I promise it won't happen again! The trick is to get a good weather day on a trip that I bring the camera along...


Dawn's brother, Paul, is in town right now. He's never been to the Pacific Northwest, so Dawn has been showing him the sights while I was gone - Cannon Beach, Mt. St. Helens, etc. Yesterday, after I got back, we drove to the Columbia River Gorge to do a short hike at Multnomah Falls, Oregon's single most popular natural feature.

I figured it'd be less crowded on a Monday. The good weather, however, apparently coaxed a lot of people out of work early. Even the trail to the top was fairly crowded. I hadn't hiked it before for this very reason, and was surprised to find that the whole thing was paved. I pity the poor sap who had to haul asphalt up 800 feet of cliff!

The top of the trail (well, the top if you're not continuing to Larch Mountain) features an overlook perched on the precipice of the falls. Multnomah Creek gurgles gently along the last bit of trail, then slides over a small waterfall before cascading over 620 ft. Multnomah Falls.

The overlook features a nice view of the lower Gorge:

After Sunday's pollyanna-ish post praising man's brilliance as exemplified by the modern aircraft, here's a little something to bring me down to earth: several idiots, having bothered to haul themselves up the hillside, having taken in the peacefulness of the creek and the beauty of the overlook, thought it would be cool to throw their cans and/or bottles into the creek.


After Multnomah Falls, we drove back to Portland via the historic Columbia River Highway, and stopped off at Vista House, which always provides memorable views of the Gorge.

Dawn's going to be driving to Minnesota starting on Wednesday. Anybody wanna be my hiking partner while she's gone?


Andy said...

Nice pictures Sam. I used to play in a basketball tournament every year in PDX. My family and I would drive past the falls and it was a checkpoint for me(I knew we were close). Happy flying in the Northwest.

CFI Andy at KRNO

CalPil0t said...

I could use the exercise, but I start two 2-day trips on Friday.