Sean Eckstein:

My turn to fly again, Peter has been nursing a back problem for the last few weeks.

This Saturday looked good for a long flight, the weather blip maps showed there would be high altitudes all along the route, and also some weather to deal with.

I got air born at 11:15 thanks to Chis. I took a high tow because the mountains were mostly in shadow, and the light grayish clouds that were developing were looking like they would soon let loose with some virga. I climbed above 13k and headed toward the upwind leading edge of the clouds on course. As I was leaving the mountains the cloud above me let loose with some heavy rain but I was close enough to the edge I didn’t loose much altitude.

Gliding across the desert was very smooth, but I made good time with the tailwind. Arriving at Silver queen at 7k there still wasn’t a bump, not even a teaser bump. I could see all the clouds in the mountains straight ahead just out of reach, and only one wind turbine turning on the desert floor indicating lift. I flew toward it hoping there would be a thermal, and as I arrived it stopped. (Murphy’s law) Luckily there was still lift that allowed me to get into the mountains.

I climbed above 11k close to Cache peak and headed toward Kelso airstrip in the high ground. The hills SW of Kelso had virga and I ran into some heavy sink until I connected with a thermal east of Kelso, climbing above 13k.

From Kelso to Olanch peak was a blast, strong thermals, cloud streets with no turning required. The Sierras ahead had heavy virga and pilots were reporting some lighting. I left Olanch peak above 15k and angled across the valley towards the Inyos arriving just below 12k.

The Inyos were working great. I connected with a thermal, climbed above 15k and headed to Westgard pass. Now heading toward the Whites I could see some virga, easily avoidable by staying on the west side of the cloud street. Arriving at Boundary peak above 17k, I had to avoid some virga and pick my path toward Mina.

On course to Mina I kept looking toward the west, it was solid gray, and I couldn’t see any sunlight reaching the ground. To the NE was clear and sunny with more good weather. Arriving at Mina I had Gabbs made and headed head toward Pilot’s peak hoping I could connect with a cloud and take a straight line towards Austin. Well that didn’t work, and now I’m lower.

I decided rather than risk a sure thing, Gabbs, I better head towards a small line of decent looking clouds in the hills north on Luning dry lake. The virga to the west was not an issue yet and was moving very slow. I worked a thermal that took me from 12k to above 17k, I had Gabbs made and altitude to try to work my way past Gabbs.

With everything in shadow, gliding toward Gabbs was smooth as expected. Once I arrived at Gabbs I looked toward Fritzs dry lake which I had enough altitude to reach. Smiths and Fritz dry lake were in the sun, but the hills north of Fritz had a line of Virga, and I would need more altitude to make Austin. I didn’t want to land on Fritz with the chance of a gust front, so I pulled spoilers and landed at Gabbs at 5:27.

Temperatures during my flight were very comfortable, I kept my vents closed most of the flight because being at cloud base in shadow got cool. A big thank you to Peter (6PK) for driving during the heat wave, over 100° on the ground.


Richard Smolinski:

Day looked interesting from the beginning.

Thanks to Julie and Chris to get me in to air around 11:30 just ahead of the rain that start when I was taking off.

I got to Mt. Lewis and started my claim but was interrupted by thunderstorm coming from the east. I made mistake going west and it caused me to end up at 10K on Lewis again. Big loss of time.

I got up to 14.5K and start the desert hop. On the way not even a bump. Get to Silver Queen at 7K and after making another 1k, head up toward mountains with nice clouds on top.

Another little lift by Cross Mt. got me to 9k and keep moving north. At Smugglers, finally got to 12k and keep going toward Inyokern. North of Owens peak lift got me to 16K and overdevelopment start growing so I made my jump to Whites by Lone Pines. Conditions were excellent. I climb to 16k and start racing Whites toward north. Lots of Virga and other gliders on the way.

Past White mountain and seeing that weather deteriorate fast, I decide to go toward Mina before reaching Boundary Peak. There was Virga coming from the north and from the south so I sped up. Unfortunately I got pulled into the clouds and hit hard by hail and rain, and after10 minutes have to dive to the deck feeling ice start building up on the controls. I lost few thousand but made it to the sun part. Behind me a wall of clouds.. Got to Mina at 11k and kept racing Virga from the south east. Finally decided that with margin of 2K it was not worth the risk to push forward to Gabs.

I needed to wait out wall of dust storm on the ground, and my crew warn me about strong gusts on the ground, so I waited it out and finally landed.


Karl Sommer:
Blipmap not as promising, late start needed to cross the Desert. Also a TFR reaching E close to Kelso.
High Noon take off, I left the Mtns 12:50 at 12k, low point over Silver Queen at 5.3. Sean invited me into his thermal, thanks. Got enough to venture to Cache Creek, up to 8.7k, then over to Cache Pk. and left with 10.3k. Bouncing along at 8k to Boomer, only got 10.8k. W of Cinder Cone, 11.9k.
Thermals were narrow, hard to center and easy to lose. Passed Olancha Pk at 9k heading for Lone Pine. Short of the Switchbacks up to 12.2k, crossing and getting on top of the Inyos at 12.9k. The Sierra had OD and clouds spread E partially shading the Inyo’s. My high was 13.8k short of Westguard pass, not a single thermal encountered cruising close to Shep Mt. Bishop reported Lightning in the Mtns to the W, another large OD, time 17:30. While circling over the town the few clouds over the White Mtn started to decay, and after landing they were gone.
It was hard work for about 6 hrs, new batteries and radio worked fine. So I am ready for a better flight.
Sean Eckstein:
 I got off the ground at 12:19 PM and released at the second ridge, it was unusually smooth as I glided my way back toward the west end of the second ridge. I was afraid I was headed for the desert floor trying to work my way back to the high ground. Luckily I caught a small narrow thermal that got me back to Mt. Lewis and on course at around 12k.
 It was a very smooth glide to Backus, and I headed toward the Silver Queen. I notice just a few of the wind turbines turning and others not. They can be great thermal locators in the right conditions.
 I worked my way to Kelso in the mountains watching for the moving wind turbines, and left on glide above 10.5k towards Boomer ridge by Inyokern. I encountered sink, so I had to alter my course towards Inyokern. Once again low, I caught a thermal at 5.5k and worked it back up to 9.5k which got me back into the high ground and back on course.
 The thermals were hard to work as I progressed toward Olancha Peak, and once again I found myself over the flats above Olancha landing strip. Working north towards Lone Pine, I caught a good thermal near the airport that took me up to 9.5k.
 I should have spent more time attempting to get on top of the Inyos, but the shadows from the OD in the Sierras were already casting shadows over the valley floor towards Inyokern and on the Inyos, as well as further north on the Whites. The only good indicator was at Boundary Peak with a few clouds around 17k, but most likely impossible to reach now.
 I decided to get as many miles as I could, and headed toward Independence. It was a smooth glide and a smooth landing.
Richard Smolinski:
I got off around 12:45 and it was quick, thanks to the ground crew organization. I got to second ridge and somehow made it to 12k pretty fast.
The run to Backus was smooth, and I arrived at Silver Queen at 6500. Did not find much there, so I kept pushing along 14 toward the mountain ridges.
I found some thermals above them that get me on course to Inyokern. On the way found lot of sink, and turned back to look for some thermals near Red Rock canyons.
Still no luck, and having Cantil in reach, I start moving toward Kelso. Finally found some thermals that took me to the Inyokern, and beyond Coso.
It was a hot and low glide above ridges. I decided to sharpen my skills in landing on the new place, and landed in Olancha.
That was fun. The glider dig in and stopped less than 100 yards after touchdown, and I had to get shovel to dig it out before I could move it. The surface sand was like sponge, interesting but landable with lot of attention.
I heard on radio that PV and 3C landed nearby in Independence and Bishop, so I decided to wait for them and have some dinner in new place there, called Olancha Cafe.
To my surprise, the extremely nice new owner of the place told us that they’re planning to pave the landing strip in future to make it fully landable for planes and gliders (wider too). Soon Peter and Sean joined us, and we had nice burgers and brew to close hot and sweaty day.


Karl Sommer

I was off first 11:31, then Sean, Richard about 50 min later, thanks go to Chris and Crew.

I left the Mountains a few feet short of 12k at 12:19 following Sean who got high sooner, and crossing the desert it started to get buoyant. Met up with Sean at Silver Queen. He went more towards Cal City, I opted to try the Kelso route, finding my low 7.5k there. Found better lift on the mountain W of Kelso, 12k running to Boomer, arriving at 12.4k.

Had no trouble running up the ridge to Olancha Pk at 12.8k. Clouds were too far W for my taste, and starting to OD on the Sierra. Connected strong lift at Inyos, 13.8k with nice cloud street to the Whites passing White Mtn at 17.6k.

I noticed Radio misbehaving, no more answers on my transmissions (new batteries ordered today).

Boundary Pk, 15.7K. By now, Sierras blowing up, and Hawthorne all clouded, but Gabbs looked still sunny. Then a small storm with rain in the hills NW of Gabbs. Back to 17k past the 360 Hwy intersection, sent a text to Rose and landed to the N in wind that looked like 12-15kts. Austin was in dark OD as promised by Blipmap.

Posted on OLC, a 6:17 Hr flight, not too many mistakes.

After a while Sean landed, and then Richard, 3 Pilots 3 diamonds.
We had a Visitor Ed Traub (Cowboy Hat, Pic Sean posted) who is drilling for Oil W of Gabbs.

Everybody packed up, Sean and Peter to Hawthorne, Richard Anna Bishop, Rose and I set up camp next to the Hangar.

Got the stove going, took a shower while Rose set the table and minded the cooking, Spare ribs and a Casserole my Mom used to make (Noodles, onions, smoked ham chunks, milk and lots of swiss cheese) Desert homemade plumb pie.

We relaxed by candlelight sipping beer enjoying the stars, the quietness, the balmy clean air, nobody around, no mask and having a good conversation.


= = = = =

Sean Eckstein

There were 3 X/C flights this Saturday, C3, TW and myself, we all made it to Gabbs airport.

The weather for this weekend looked really good.

I got towed at 11:45 to the second ridge and headed out on course above 12k at 12:15. Arriving at 6k south of Backus, there was very little scratching. The desert was working and I found a nice thermal that took me to 9k.

The mountains heading north to Olancha peak were working good, but there was some virga just west of Olancha peak, and the Sierra mountains were all in shadow with virga. I got pushed off the range just south of Olanch peak but found good lift working my way north, then headed towards the Inyos.

There were great looking clouds on top of the Inyos and no lift out front so I had to work in close. I kept my speed up and made a couple of S-turns gaining good altitude. Once I had the altitude to make a safe 360 I was able to climb above 14k, and there was a great cloud street all the way to Boundary Peak.

I left Sheep mountain just south of White mountain peak above 17k towards Mina with a huge margin. I encountered a lot of sink on my glide, but as I arrived at Mina the valley was working. I headed towards Pilot peak, climbed from 11K to 15k and had an easy glide to Gabbs airport.

There was some virga west of Gabbs, and also to the east towards Austin. I decided to call it the day and landed at Gabbs.

I got broke down and my crew and I headed to Hawthorn to get a couple of rooms, and to be safe dinner was plastic wrapped sandwiches from the gas station.

Congratulations to Karl and his dedicated crew Rose for another diamond flight.

= = = = =

Richard Smolinski

Thanks to Chris who got me in the air by the 1220, and after a single house thermal that took me to 11.5K I was on my way through the desert.

I got to Pontius at 6500 and I after a shear line arrived it took me to 8500k that put Cal City in range. A little bump above the 14 freeway intersection got me up to 9500, and having Cal City in range I kept going toward Inyokern. Another thermal above a mountain took me to 10K and I had Inyokern in range , and some clouds on the horizon became my target. Little bumps kept me going until I reached the mountains near Inyokern, and I just slid onto the ridges looking for better thermals on the west side of mountains. It paid off very soon to 14K, and I used a cloud street to get to Lone Pine. I started crossing, then strong valley lift took me to 11k, and In few minutes I was climbing on the Whites where the real ride began. I got to cloud base with max forward speed, to 17K, and from White Mountain, go for Mina.

Mid-way, I found some weird lift with no clouds, just a steady 4 knots plus that took me to 18K, and I was on the way to Gabs with a lot of backup. I though of going to Austin, but decided to join the bunch at Gabbs AP to celebrate Karl’s achievement.
Great day and great company…

Let’s do it again.


As a distinctive place name, Coyote Flats is right up there with Deer Creek, Fish Lake and Pine Mountain. Seems there’s one of each in every local area. Coyote Flats airport, though, is unique. A mil-spec landing field exactly 10,000 feet above sea level hard beneath year-round snowcaps, it was highly obscure even in its heyday, and has now become forgotten trivia. After construction in 1958, it was officially closed and removed from sectional charts by the turn of the century, yet still lies there in the wilderness, tempting as ever even now.
Its original purpose, in that time of unlimited budgets, was not transportation or defense, but high altitude research and testing. Army, Air Force, Marines, and Forest Service all had turns at the place, so there must be rich info somewhere in official archives awaiting proper research. The most I’ve found so far is this one item on a website folks like us ought to be familiar with, Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:
Nothing flashy, but draws you in the further you scroll. One surprise, forty some years ago this runway was paved. Imagine the logistics and cost, either hauling all that asphalt and equipment up miles of 4X4 roads, or airlifting it 6000 feet above the valley floor! Not a scrap of pavement there today.
How do I know? Do what I did and see for yourself. First, on Google Earth, locate 37.205, -118.478, and stimulate it so to speak. Then go there in the air and do it for real… Dare ya.
Anyone with the capability to reach Coyote Flats in soaring flight can easily make a low pass there, inspect the runway, and regain enough in the zoom to continue on. It’s a trick likely performed hundreds of times over the decades. My first try, a hay bale X at the north end loomed large on video, but that was it for seXy footage: a close-up of some hay bales! Having to glide farther than expected for lift and then work out a laborious save bought time to rethink the concept and deduce what’s outlined below, which for the price of only a little more altitude guarantees a jewelry box of bingo visuals you’ll never see any other way.
The key is to never pull up! (Well, except when you really need to now and then.) This is not a touch-and-go mind you, but an uultra long missed approach with more than one twist. Call it Gaia’s Own Overshoot. And its easy as falling into bed.
Coyote’s rectangular boundary is no longer well defined from aloft, but midfield surely is, and that’s your aim point. Approach SE to NW – runway 31 if there were numbers – and carry only a little more speed than usual. You shouldn’t need the extra punch, but may as well have it up your sleeve out of respect. Going too fast, on the other hand, shows a dangerous lack of respect! Simply fly a normal final until one breath before flare, then close spoilers, lock ‘em, and settle in for… mile after corrugated mile combing the gnarly nap of the good earth!
Even if you’ve already flown a zillion landings and more than your share of low passes, it still feels chez peculiar to neither land nor pull up. The closer you fly the more energy you’ll absorb, so use these first seconds as the runway slips behind to calibrate a careful blend of proximity and speed. You need something between, say, fifty knots at fifty feet AGL, or eighty knots at ten… Exceeding either only makes the effortless difficult; higher forfeits the power of ground effect and lower is downright deadly. From here on it’s mostly zen.
The overrun fades off, matching L/D for five hundred yards before a dry streamlet creases the surface, drawing everything a few degrees right. The little creek descends three hundred feet in its first mile, good for another knot or two, plus a bit more separation that’ll soon vanish spanning the next full mile, a swampy headwater nearly level but hardly smooth. The challenge is making yourself do nothing, holding steady as stone while the bird whispers on and on.
Margin narrows, eyes widen, and pucker begins to factor as you close on the brow of a wide bluff where the ground finally gives way, revealing panoramic Owens Valley. Even if you’ve managed to remain stupidly suitably down and dirty to this point, you still have twice the juice needed for your failsafe, Bishop airport. Only after exploring the entire mountainside at close range down to the 7000-ft profile out of sight below, need you pull away to find lift and set up another run. Think whole buckets of Silly Putty, your choice of flavor! (BTW, there’s no tow service at Bishop, so unless you do intend to dig it out and eventually soar home, the most sensible time for this caper is day’s end — and there’s no better way to finish any flight than flying the camera into your shadow, video on request😜)
This next leg is more like floating through the woods on skis than soaring in the sky, so long as you hold your speed down. You’re apt to have gathered a surprising amount of it by now and, honestly, it’s important to be SLOW at the top of this pitch. Don’t hesitate to crack spoilers, maybe circle back once, before… ‘jumping in’ as powder hounds say.
Suddenly ravines multiply and deepen between stony knolls, a tangled staircase that like all righteous ski runs, steepens halfway down. Where it plunges too fast, cut across the fall line, damping speed with traverses to hug your scratchy margin. Skip to adjacent ravines, or warily over and back in a ridgetop kind of dutch roll. Even turn uphill for a beat to contain the inertia, just don’t get sucked into a dead end!
As between trees or moguls, or on a chessboard, you’re always either two moves ahead or falling behind, and these aren’t fir boughs rushing by, they’re rocks. In this realm sky is not the limit, they are. When their pace exceeds yours, pop up like a retriever in high grass to reconnoiter, then swoop nose first into some other underbrush. Or not. The mountain merely sits, a sanguine Buddha, as ready to let you die as set you free. Both at once? Depends on thee.
It’s easy to lose yourself in this vertical labyrinth and even more fun when you do, ‘cause it won’t matter either way! All paths lead to wherever you happen to be when the altimeter nears 7000 and it’s time to bail. From there, Bishop is straight ahead easily in range, with height sufficient to hook any lift you find, climb all the way back up and go for another missed approach…
So, you in?