Where have you been? What have you seen?
In May 2023, I and my US-based pal Mark took a little trip to Utah to have a bit of fun in the back country where there is little population but some stunning scenery.
I promised myself to produce this flying report before the end of the year!
My Taylorcraft is based just west of Chicago at Dacy (0C0), so there's quite a long journey for me to the Utah border.
My planned route:

On my way to meet up with Mark near Kansas City, I cross the Mississippi and a few of the huge barges that course this magnificent river:

On the way, and just one hour shy of Kansas City, I had to spend 24 hours sitting out a weather front. I was expecting this. Fortunately, the (deserted) Fixed Based Operator [FBO] at MO8 (North Central Missouri Regional Airport; a bit of a mouthful) had couches, internet and a courtesy car! I never saw a soul the whole time I was there!

I meet up with Mark at his home base next day, Lee's Summit (KLXT) in Missouri. I confess there was some scud-running involved to get there. But later that day the weather cleared and we head south and west.
Our first overnight stop is Anthony, TX, and whilst we are there, we witness a good old-fashioned Texas thunderstorm in the distance...we couldn't hear the thunder, but the light show was great! Again, we never saw a soul, but we had asked permission ahead; the lounge was open and a crew car provided.

We had lovely weather the next day to Dalhart TX for breakfast; such a welcoming place! The most fantastic welcome from any FBO and just great food on site too! We were invited to leave the aircraft at the pumps while we ate breakfast! It took me about ten flying hours to get from Dacy to here.

When we got to New Mexico having refuelled at Sandia, we decided to divert to Santa Fe (KSAF) due to forecast winds; they have runways in all directions.
Some of my UK friends will perhaps wonder at my altimeter reading; they know I don't like above 1000' agl...but in the US this sort of reading is quite common:

Landing at Santa Fe cost us a bit because it's a big controlled airfield with Handling: Signature charged us about $82 each for overnight. We didn't mind; better to be on the ground and all that.

Santa Fe town itself was a delight:

The next day saw us heading further south & west; snow still on the high ground.
We spent a night at Blanding, Utah

This small airfield rather in the middle of nowhere was a lot busier than I expected, with Kingairs and allsorts coming and going. They had a crew car that we borrowed to visit the local Kiva museum:

I have to say the museum was well worth a visit; very educational.
The main problem was that Blanding is a dry town (!), so Mark persuaded the kind FBO to lend us the same crew car overnight so we could drive to Monticello (next town up State Road UT191) for a meal with beer. We were not disappointed: I can recommend the Granary eatery there. It’s a block away from the main road, so easily missed by passing trade:

Some may know that I'm now entering a part of the US with which I am very familiar, having been to the Southern Utah area over 20 times by foot, car and rope (and twice before by Taylorcraft). It now becomes my pleasure to reintroduce Mark to the delights of this area.

After a fuelling stop at Canyonlands (KCNY) we head south west towards some of the old 1950's and 1960's Uranium mining strips. We agree upon Happy Canyon (UT97) for an overnight stop.

We set up camp under the wings:

The view below is from the other direction from the threshold of the westerly runway:

This strip is about 2000' long and only slightly wider than our undercarriage track, despite being declared as 50 feet wide. As expected, it was as rough as nails. The photo above is the view down the runway; you can see it slopes a bit. The cliffs are between 500' and 1000' above our runway elevation (which is at about 5000' MSL), but the width between the cliffs is plenty to allow our mighty 65hp (no mixture control) to make a sensible climb out.
There are too many photos we both took to encompass the thrill and privilege of landing and camping in the outback of the back of beyond.

The starlight was stunning; no artificial light; the nearest towns were Hite and Hanksville, each about 40 miles away.

We happened to be there during a rare desert bloom; the little yellow, white and pink blooms are evident:

Taking off from Happy Canyon the next day:

And we landed at Sandthrax about ten minutes later. Sandthrax is part of the Poison Springs area of North Wash...so called perhaps because the very narrow slot canyons are named by the Canyoneering community, of which I used to partake, after poisons...Anthrax, Arsenic, Slidenide, etc.
The strip is very informal; it's now part of a road. I doubt if anyone has landed there since the '60s or '70s, but it's been on my radar ever since I first went to that area (North Wash) by road in 2009.
Landing at Sandthrax:

On the ground:

Between there and civilisation was nothing but nowhere to go in case of trouble. This area is colloquially called the “moonscape” part of Utah; now much hyped on social media for good reason.

One becomes inured to the risk in exchange for stunning scenery, even for a few hours. Knowing the reliability of your engine makes you more certain of your destination.

After a weather delay near Capitol Reef National Park, we climbed above the snow-line to 8600' to cross mountains towards Richmond Utah. It's an interesting exercise without any mixture control! But back in 2015 I was above 10,000 ft MSL across the Rockies, so to me this was a piece of cake!

Eager readers may notice that my oil temperature is a lot healthier than it was in 2015 when I had problems in Oregon. But this time, it was cold above the melting snow-line in Utah in May! Thank goodness for a cabin heater!
At Richmond (usually quite a busy airport) it was as dead as a Dodo, but some locals took advantage!

Next day we flew past Bryce Canyon; now a much-spoiled tourist destination (too many tourist buses) but lovely to see from the air. En route I took a pic of my trusty Mascot! Thanks Jim!

From there we headed south, pretty much down the route of the Paria river towards the Colorado, past the White Cliffs and the Vermillion Cliffs
Pretty much nowhere to go in case of an emergency, but one gets used to it.

And onwards to Page AZ, now an old haunt of mine.

Thence eastbound to Monument Valley, this was a delight:

Brief video of flying through Monument Valley:

We were careful to not fly too low so as to not offend the locals.
and past an un-named volcanic puy

Further in to New Mexico, we encountered more stunning scenery:

But we soon returned to the flatlands of Texas, and inadvertently barged into a local airshow, and cr@p weather.

48 hours delay saw us departing in perfect visibility (!) east-bound. Thank goodness for IFR.

But just a few miles away we were well on our way in good visibility to Liberal Air Museum in Kansas, well worth a visit. Therein (amongst other exhibits) is a Piper Comanche that flew 7,668 miles non-stop from Casablanca to Los Angeles. You can see the extent of the fuel cells used...even the pilot's seat was a fuel tank!

After that, I left Mark at his home base in Kansas City, and it was then just a short 5-hour flight (one fuel stop) to my home base just to the west of Chicago.

Route summary overview:

And more detail of our route within Utah:

It's amazing how short these long trips can become! It was all over too soon. Sure, we had some weather delays & diversions (that's to be expected) but it was the first time in ages that we had no mechanical defects to delay us.
I’m very privileged to be able to do these trips due to the generosity of my friends in the US.
Miscellaneous, UncleT, bogopper and 15 others liked this
User avatar
By Aerotech Flyer
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
Fab write up, Rob. thanks for taking the effort, it is wonderful to fly along with you, especially with the great video sequences. Also, this brought back many memories of one of my own first US flying hols when we flew up to The Grand Canyon, Lake Powel, Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley. I also remember the horror on my flying compadres' faces on checking in at the Monument Valley motel to find that it was dry! I think we were in bed by 8.30pm!

Thanks again for a great trip report and keep on with the doing of wondrous things!

Cheers Steve :thumleft:
TonyC liked this