We just finished our regular Saturday breakfast at the airport’s Skyhawk Restaurant. The weather was clear but very windy. We considered going flying, but then Daniel suggested that a good strong coffee would finish off the, always-satisfying, breakfast quite nicely; Starbucks would be our next stop. On the way back to the hangar, I glanced at the crisp outline of the North Shore Mountains, and quickly concluded that we must go and have a closer look. Daniel, under my supervision, performed a thorough pre-flight check, quick radio contact formalities, an engine check, and soon we were bobbing in the gorgeous blue, but very gusty skies.
We did not have any specific destination in mind. I just knew that wherever we would end up going, it would be spectacular. On the way out, we climbed to two thousand feet, gave a courtesy call to the folks at Langley Tower, and aimed for the Mission Bridge.
Chilliwack, one of our possible destinations, was busy with local traffic, so I decided to press ahead. I thought this would be a good time to show Daniel where the jewel-of-a-destination, the much talked about Rowena’s airstrip on a golf course, with its fabulous restaurant, was. This idyllic destination for golfers, vacationers seeking quaint spot to relax at, and pilots in the know, is located just a short flight northeast of Chilliwack, on the northern banks of the Harrison River. Did I say short flight? I quickly glanced at our GPS ground speed, and I have to admit that even a 1965 VW Bug, running on three cylinders, would beat us to the destination. It sure was blowing. The wind was from the east, so if I decided to land, it would have to be west to east.
Coming in from the west, meant descending rather steeply over some very tall trees, then stay clear of a row of trees hugging the runway to the right, and once clear of them, gently slip it in for a landing on a rather narrow gravel runway. I remember Lloyd, Sieg’s filming buddy, flying this approach with Sieg and me in his 172. It seemed quite – well – challenging. I always envisioned that my first time landing there would be coming in from the east over the river, a much easier and shallower approach. It was a split second decision, and I was committed to land. It was quite uneventful landing after all.
We fired up our Colt, and soon we were over the river heading for Harrison Lake for some more sightseeing.
We did not have quite enough of these spectacular vistas yet, so I suggested that we go to Hope. The last time I landed there was in the early seventies in a Cessna 152. It seemed like a great idea to reacquaint myself with this lovely grass strip, which many local glider pilots call their home. In fact, on the way in, we noticed a glider in tow heading for his ridge soaring fix.
Daniel insisted that after such a long time, my first landing there in the Colt warranted a picture. Inside the “terminal”, as it is customary in many airports and aerodromes, hanging on the walls are paintings, photographs, and other memorabilia documenting special occasions in their history. OK, this is a grass strip, so what is a Boeing jetliner doing here? We learned from the description that an early model Boeing 737 once landed there, to demonstrate its grass surface landing capabilities. I am not quite sure how they pulled it off. There is no other way to get the plane out of there, so they had to fly it out somehow. Then again, the crazy Boeing pilots have been known to do stunts like rolling a 707 front of a crowd of potential airline customers, while almost giving a hard attack to their boss. Those were the days, which shell never be repeated.
The trip back home was a short one. With a 20 knots wind helping with the ground speed, it would have been tough for any car to beat us now. I elected to go for the Alex Fraser Bridge arrival. The tower cleared us for 07, and after a routine touchdown, we exited on “Charlie.” We bid the tower good day and with a sense of accomplishment, I added another 2.3 hours to my logbook.
It was one very satisfying day.