Paul and I met Monday morning to start the trip after verifying on Sunday evening that we could, in fact get 2 hard-shell, whitewater kayaks into the plane (back seats removed of course). Another hour or so of packing and checking out the plane and we were ready to take off from the Boulder airport. Weather reports indicated clear flying all the way to the central mountains of Idaho. Our initial leg takes us to Afton, Wyoming for fuel and to stretch our legs. Along the way we are rewarded with excellent aerial views of Estes Park, the Mummy and Laramie ranges north of RMNP, Wamsutter, WY on I-80, and a dizzying maze of oil well roads in the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming. At one point our GPS even indicated we were directly East of Eden (Wyoming that is). After a couple hours flying we crossed over the Wyoming and Salt River ranges that definitely looked worth a visit with a mountain bike, and dropped into Afton.
After fueling the plane (you thought filling your SUV was expensive, try AVGAS), and partaking of the free sodas and cookies at the FBO (keeps you from complaining so loudly about the fuel cost I guess), we headed out on the next leg to McCall, ID. The mountains west of Afton also hold promise for future explorations. Near Wayan, ID we passed over the ancient lake bed, now mostly marsh, of Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The flocks of seagulls soaring over it look very idyllic when seen from above. When those same flocks rise up and occupy the same airspace as our now seemingly fragile airplane, and zip by at alarming speed, they appear more like anti-aircraft ordinance. On the other hand, we certainly would have scared some hang-gliders had they been using the launch ramp near Arco (King Mountain?) that we accidentally buzzed while trying to get some thermal lift to gain altitude for the upcoming mountains.