A smoky, orange-tinged dawn in Grand Forks welcomed us at 5:00am on day 4 of our Awesome Airplane Trip. The smoke was thinner than the day previous, but contrary to forecasts, overnight it had spread south of the border, making our intended escape route to the States impassable. As I packed the car that the Grand Forks Flying Association had loaned us, David talked to Pacific Radio and was advised that winds had shifted and the smoke was actually clearing to the north. We decided we’d take-off, fly a circuit around the Grand Forks airport (CZGF) to ascertain what the visibility was really like from the air, and then head back to Oliver and onto Kelowna… only if the smoke was indeed clearer.
As soon as we were airborne, we could see that the smoke was by far thinner heading northwest, so back to Oliver we flew. In our haste to escape Grand Forks before smoke closed in, David left his prescription sunglasses in the Grand Forks Flying Association pilot room. Despite having their hands full planning for an airshow, the friendly folks there mailed his glasses to our home address. What a great pilot community they have in Grand Forks!
We landed at Oliver (CAU3) by 7:30am, fired up our campstove to cook breakfast on one of the flying club’s picnic tables, and in the smoky but peaceful morning, consulted maps, forecasts, etc. and decided we’d head north to Kelowna (CYLW), where the smoke was supposed to be even thinner.
It is remarkable, even with 3 mile visibility in smoke, how difficult it can be to see landmarks and airports from the air! Of the vibrant green vineyards and orchards of the Okanagan, we saw only murky shapes. But after our harrowing experience flying to Grand Forks, 3-miles visibility was lovely. We landed at Kelowna, where, alas, one cannot camp under the wing whatsoever.
TIP FOR OVERNIGHT PILOTS: For overnight parking, tie-down your plane with the Shell FBO. If you fill up with fuel with them, they waive the overnight parking fee, plus their fuel is several cents cheaper per gallon than the airport fuel truck. Compare this to the Kelowna Flying Club, which has a $12/nite itinerant parking fee and extremely challenging-to-access bathroom facilities (there are several different doors to enter the club, but only one of the doors permits you access to the bathrooms, and at the time of writing, the code to access this particular door was the Enderby VOR, which I dare say isn’t something most visiting pilots desperate for a wee know off the top of their heads). It’s quite remarkable how some airport clubs can be so friendly & accessible (Grand Forks and Oliver), and others… not so much.
We stayed at the Sheraton across from CYLW (a free shuttle picked us up), rented a car from National at the hotel (and won a free car rental for the day—wow!!), and had a lovely, long ramble through the Mission Creek Regional Park before retiring early for the day.
Dog-friendly and with miles of both paved trails perfect for cycling and dirt trails perfect for hiking, we spent several hours in the dappled, smoke-filtered sunlight of the Mission Creek trails.