Located about 2 hours’ drive from Vancouver, the Sandpiper golf course is a beautiful little fly-in destination, with the magnificent Harrison River lapping upon the shores of the immaculate fairway. Several copses of towering cedars and hemlocks onsite provide nesting shelter for bald eagles, and Continue reading “Airplane golf, anyone? Rowena’s Inn & Sandpiper Golf Course, B.C.”
Bracketed on one side by the chalky green glacial waters of the Skagit River, Mears Field (Concrete Airport, diagram below), is a splendid little summer spot for pilots to pitch a tent overnight. Continue reading “Camping under the Wing at Mears Field, Concrete, Washington, USA”
An idyllic riverside spot for pitching a tent under the wing, Jim Wright Airfield makes a splendid, peaceful overnight campsite for pilots. On one hot day in late July, we flew into Cottage Grove State Airport 61S (diagram at end of blog) and parked our plane on the lovely grass airfield, off the end of runway 33. With Row River (pronounced like “cow”) burbling and chuckling right next to our tent, we spent the day swimming in the river, picking an enormous amount of fat, sweet blackberries from the airport bushes, roaming the banks of the Row alongside the airport, and gathering wild mint to mix in with our camp-stove fried rice. When we were present, the “Deathmobile” replica from the 1978 movie Animal House was onsite at the airfield. Parts of Animal House had been filmed in Cottage Grove in ‘78, and the “Deathmobile” is stored in one of the hangars.We were also extremely lucky to meet Ron Englund at the airfield, one of the volunteers who helped Jim Wright build his H1-Racer Replica (H-2). Soft-spoken Ron gave us a delightful tour of Jim Wright’s hangar, the very place with the H-2 was built. Now filled with a fascinating mix of antique phonographs and H-1 Replica-building history, as well as several ongoing plane-building projects, the hangar is funded by Betty Wight, Jim’s widow. We felt privileged and humbled to be given an intimate tour of the incredible workplace where such an awesome plane had been built.
In 1935, Howard Hughes’ H-1 Racer set a Land Plane Speed Record (352mph) and in 1937 set a transcontinental record (L.A. to New York Non-Stop in 7hrs 28 min at 327 mph).
Jim first flew his stunningly beautiful full-scale H-1 Replica in 2002. The plane was so close to the original that the FAA granted it serial number 2 of the model. On August 4, 2003, Jim unveiled his replica at the 2003 AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Alas, on the way home, he fatally crashed just north of the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park. In December 2003, the Cottage Grove airfield was named after him. There’s a public museum near the airfield’s roadside entrance. Run by the Oregon Aviation Historical Society, the hangar museum boasts more than 6 pre-war Oregon home built aircraft that help to tell the story of experimental aircraft in the US. We toured the museum and David charmed them into allowing him to use their shower while I bought a t-shirt of Hughes’ H-1 Racer. (While there is a “Johnny-on-the-spot” outhouse for airplane campers back on the airfield, there’s no showers).Although we didn’t venture off the airfield because of all the river-swimming, blackberry picking, & hangar visiting we did on-site, Cottage Grove is well-known for its six historic covered bridges. There’s a very pretty bike route to them, the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway. Apparently, there is an airfield courtesy car available, and if you venture into town, bike rentals are possible from Rainy Peak Bicycles, (533 E Main,OR, Cottage Grove, 97424, tel: 541-942-8712). There’s also a scenic bike trail along the Row River. We’re already planning to fly back to Cottage Grove next summer and cycle these trails.
If you want to explore the town itself, there are 20 outdoor murals commemorating Cottage Grove’s history.Back near the airfield, there’s the 18 hole Middlefield Golf Course. If you don’t have a car, it’s within walking distance of runway 15, through a cosy little neighbourhood whose houses have backyard lawns leading right onto the airfield (no fences!) Further afield, there are several impressive waterfalls very close to each other in the Layng Creek Watershed– Moon, Pinard and Spirit Falls. Just a short drive from Cottage Grove, these spectacular falls can be reached by short hikes through mossy, wooded trails. Again, we are definitely returning for this! (photos plucked from the USDA gov website)
If you’re planning an under-the-wing camping stop at Cottage Grove, beware the Cottage Grove Speedway noise on Friday and Saturday nights! Racing is every Saturday night, April through September, KART racing on Friday nights, and racing starts at 6:30 or 7:30, depending on the event. Although the speedway isn’t that close to the airfield, by golly, you can certainly hear it loud and clear while snuggled in your tent. When we were there, the racing went until 10:30pm! The Racetrack phone number, if you wish to inquire about what nights they’re racing so you can avoid camping at the airfield on those nights, is: 541-942-7561
Mind-boggling as it is, the appeal of getting in a small plane is often lost on folks who aren’t pilots. Many a spouse and offspring spurns the idea of accompanying the family pilot on yet another excursion into the skies. Although hubby and I are lucky (we’re both pilots addicted to riding the air waves), getting the rest of the family to join us over the years has mirrored the challenge other pilots face with their spouses. Making the flight about the destination, and not about the journey and amazing scenery en-route, turns out to be key.
Here’s some of the ways we’ve lured the reluctant to join us for a splendid outing via an airplane ride around the West Coast of BC and the States… and it has helped keep flying new and adventurous for us, too. Paying $10 to $25 for a taxi-ride once at the arrival-airport opens up a whole world of possibilities beyond the airport restaurant….
Suntanning, swimming, playing Frisbee, fish n’chips and ice-cream, sand-castle building festivals and competitions…. A number of airports are within either a short walking distance of some amazing beaches (Nehalem Bay, Gold Beach) or are a short walk or hike away (Orcas Island, Courtenay, Texada) or a $10-$20 taxi ride (Qualicum Airport, Powell River).
Dog walks, seaside strolls, or hikes through sun-dappled forest trails—many start right at the airport (Pitt Meadows, Sechelt, Texada/Gillies Bay/Courtenay) or are only a short taxi-ride away.
Hit the greens. Rowena/Sandpiper airstrip near Chilliwack, Nanaimo, and Pemberton are just a few airports in BC that have beautiful golf courses located adjacent to the airport (you can taxi right up to them).
From the quaint and quirky boutiques in the picturesque harbour town of Sydney (a 15 minute walk from Victoria Airport) to the sprawling Bellis Fair right near Bellingham airport, those who so desire can shop ‘til they drop (while pilot spouse maybe visits the airport museum… or grits teeth and gamely pretends to enjoy the shopping experience, too.)
Nehalem Bay in the States, or the Flying U Ranch (Green Lake airfield) in Canada offer horseback riding right within walking distance of the airstrip.
How about spelunking in awesome caves of limestone stalactites or kayaking on a lake (Horne Lake caves near Qualicum airport)? Or is learning to drive an old Model T Ford more your thing (at the WAAAM museum in Hood River, Oregon). What about riding zip-lines high up in the trees (at Wild Play Park, 5 minutes from Nanaimo airport)? And our favourite: airport camping—pitching a tent under the wing and listening to the cicadas chirrup as you fry up a camp dinner on a portable stove. How about skydiving, anyone? (Qualicum airport, Pitt Meadows airport).
Hopping in a cab, or going for a hike from the airport, can lead you to some amazing fresh-water finds, great on a hot summer’s day. Penticton has a beach and lake right at the end of the airport!
Courtenay Airpark has a kayak rental right at the marina beside the airstrip, and the lakeside beach at Penticton airport has them, too….
If you have any other suggestions, we’d love to hear them!