Flight: NC to Wyoming: Atlantic Ocean to Kentucky

So, the time finally came to make a 2,000 mile flight west, from the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina all the way to Wyoming, on the Idaho border. We’re officially moving to the least populated state in the country, and we cannot wait, especially as we’ll be living on an airpark. As of the beginning of the flight, the plan was actually to leave the airplane at a small airport near the closest international airport: Salt Lake City, and come and get it after we moved out.

The forecast, as usual, called for sunny skies. The reality, as usual, was quite different. Coastal stations were reporting marginal conditions with lifting morning fog, and the Piedmont of NC and VA was reporting “zero zero” conditions, pure thick ground fog, bad enough that it would ground even some instrument flights. According to the forecasts, the whole thing would lift by noon, hosing up my brilliant plan for a three-day flight. Alas, it was the weekend, and it was still smart work-wise to fly as much as I could on the weekend so as to get something done during the week when it was all said and done.

I took off at 9:45 from Manteo, NC, under the expectation that I would fly 2 hours west under the low cloud deck, and then refuel/wait it out/go through if it was ok. The observations refreshed on my iPad, and the stationary front over the Piedmont was as thick as ever, ceilings at 300 feet, visibility 1.25 to 3 miles, with pilot reports indicating the fog topped out at 1,200 feet. If it kept up, I would go over the top, as the foothills of NC and VA were reporting sun. However, I needed fuel, so that I would not run out while flying over fog.

I landed at Halifax, NC fueled up, and pressed on. The cloud deck was 1100’ above the ground, and I was wondering how the fog would materialize, as it did not look evident anywhere ahead. I passed a mysterious line from the coastal plain to the Piedmont, where visibility improved dramatically (this line is almost always there – snap your fingers and visibility goes from 15 miles to 40 as coastal moisture gives way to Chinook winds off the Appalachians). Approaching the site of the mysterious ground fog, and the sun was out. It burned off before I got there.

Approaching the Blue Ridge Escarpment, thermals were quite active, and winds were quite gusty, making the trip fatiguing as I got knocked around. The ascent to the Virginia highlands was coincidentally over the Dan River “canyon” (I don’t think it is named that), a mysteriously steep canyon that is not part of a park, and best viewed from the air. It makes it into my upcoming book, “Flying the Blue Ridge Parkway,” as it is very close to the BRP, yet not visible from it.

Fuel was at Mountain Empire, VA airport, followed by heading into VA and KY coal country, straight out of John Grisham’s novel “Gray Mountain.” Strip mining is not a pretty sight, though I can’t say that said section of Appalachia was pretty to begin with. The KY coal fields were quite awful, though it did finally give way to central KY, which is more picturesque. I was able to make Henderson, KY (near where Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky meet, on the Ohio River) for the night, quite a surprise given the headwinds and late start. The folks at Don Davis Aviation were incredible: courtesy van, discount rate at the hotel, all around concierge service and very friendly people, which is a really nice combo at tiny airports.

Croatan Sound

 1-Croatan Sound
US 64 through Swamplands
2-US 64
Alligator River

3-Alligator River
Albemarle Sound

 

4-Albemarle Sound
Roanoke River
5-Roanoke River
Some Lake
6-Some Lake
Another Lake
7-Another Lake
Dan River
8-Dan River
Ascending the Blue Ridge
9-Ascending Blue Ridge
Dan River Canyon
10-Damn Canyon
Virginia Highlands
11-VA Highlands
Appalachia
12-Appalachia
More Appalachia – SW Virginia
13-Appalachia
Almost makes Appalachia appealing
14-Appalachia-actually appealing
Strip Mining – SW VA
15-Strip mining
Virginia on the left, Kentucky on the right
16-VA-KY
Almost Illuminated Mine Runoff – Environmental Delight – Looks like the Bahamas
17-Illuminated Sludge
Strip Mining – At least they left some trees in the middle
18-Strip Mining
Eerily illuminated lake – Kentucky
19-Eery Color
This is what central KY looks like
20-Central Kentucky
Caves – notice the train tunnel to the bottom left
21-Caves
Redneck hut – lots of these in Appalachia and KY. I think they have something to do with hunting
22-Redneck hut

Flight: Charlotte to TN to OBX

I had not previously mentioned the fact that we are moving to an extremely remote place in western Wyoming in early April. Our original plan in coming to the Outer Banks was only to be here for 4 months or so, as the season picks up in April (read: it gets expensive). Thus, we had to go somewhere. One thing led to another, and our next place is going to be quite the adventure. At the last minute prior to the trip to Charlotte, I packed my bags to be able to make the flight out to Wyoming if the weather held when it was time to leave a few days later.

It was sketchy, though the forecasts said it would be doable. It was clear sunshine from the Mississippi River all the way to Alpine, WY, with some low clouds and rain showers that should have been passable over the Tennessee Valley. All forecasts greatly improved the night before, and a verification on Wednesday morning held that things really were going to be better.

Getting up at 5AM, arriving at the Rock Hill airport at 6:30AM, I got the plane ready and looked forward to a 22.6 hour flight, two and a half days, across two thirds of the country. Heading over the Blue Ridge Parkway east of Hendersonville, NC, I saw that Asheville was fogged in with ground fog, though it was clear above. Airports were reporting marginal visibilities and ceilings, and the 6,000’ summits were clear in NC. I was convinced it would work.

Wedging along I-40, getting ever so much closer to the TN border, ground fog persisted, and cloud bases were lowering. I wedged down the tight mountain opening over the highway, through a rain shower, relying on Class G reduced visibility limitations, until I got to the other side of the NC mountains, only to find a wall of clouds and ground fog. Turning around, I went back through the rain, over to Hendersonville, NC for fuel, and regrouped. I must say, it was not a pleasant part of the flight. All visibilities improved in the TN valley as reported by weather stations, though I checked north of Asheville again, and the barrier was moving in: zero visibility, ground to sky, end of story, with no other option anywhere. If I didn’t get somewhere today, I would be stuck for 3 days due to a sizable rainstorm coming all over the South, so back to the coast it was.

Tailwinds were 20mph, a delight, and I got to Raleigh on one tank. The airplane was giving me trouble starting after refueling (it has no starter, so fatigue sets in cranking it one at a time). These engines are fickle when hot, they always want something other than what they are getting: more throttle, more primer, no less throttle, no primer, worse than a whining toddler. Finally we got started, and rain showers were brewing. Racing ahead of them, I got out to the eastern coastal plain, and flew south of US 64, over some fertile farmland that has no trees, is flat as a pancake, and nobody lives there. Few know about the scenery; it befits Iowa more so than NC. I think a scenic highway should be built, as it also reminds me of the Guayas Province in Ecuador, a flat, fertile, far-as-the-eye-can-see kind of place in the tropics, something of an intrigue to be so remote, yet be able to see so far.

Alas, I shall cross the country one of these days, when my rear end is looking to take the shape of an airplane seat.

IMG_0526 (10 of 219)
Ascending the Blue Ridge Escarpment
IMG_0548 (32 of 219)
Southern Asheville, with Mt. Pisgah in Background
IMG_0553 (37 of 219)
Asheville, NC is hiding under there
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Overlooking Asheville down I-40 Corridor toward Waynesville, NC
IMG_0592 (76 of 219)
Asheville hiding under the fog, with Great Balsam Mountains in Background
IMG_0611 (95 of 219)
Not working so well, I-40 heading toward Tennessee
IMG_0613 (97 of 219)
Uh-oh, Clouds above and fog below getting closer
IMG_0600 (84 of 219)
A phallus, there is always a phallus – Waynesville, NC after turning around
IMG_0622 (106 of 219)
Thunderstorm developed quickly, SW of Raleigh, NC
IMG_0642 (126 of 219)
Raleigh, NC (state capitol) – Notice the broad and spacious highways without traffic, and then look at eternally traffic-jammed Charlotte and ask yourself what the hell is wrong with politics in North Carolina?
IMG_0671 (155 of 219) IMG_0677 (161 of 219) IMG_0678 (162 of 219)
Fields east of Raleigh, NC
IMG_0709 (193 of 219)
Fields SE of Plymouth, NC – A surreal flat area in NC most don’t know about
IMG_0710 (194 of 219)
Lake Phelps, runs south of US 64 en route to the OBX, not visible from the road
IMG_0720 (9 of 24) IMG_0734 (23 of 24) IMG_0735 (24 of 24)
More surreal flat areas, south of the Albemarle Sound

Flight: NC OBX to Charlotte

I had the unfortunate task of driving to Charlotte in January, for work. It took a nauseating 7 and a half hours, and I vowed that the next time, I will fly. Thus, the flight was from Manteo to Charlotte, and I decided to head down the OBX and inland, taking an hour side jaunt to make it interesting.

I can’t put to words how stunning the OBX was from the air. Water was clear on the sound and ocean sides, air was clear, and the sun was bright. Colors were clear and crisp, and the inlets and capes were incredible. Given the amount of photos, all of which are worth perusing, I’ll let them speak for themselves.

IMG_9397 (3 of 1121)
US 64 Bridge to Bodie Island at Nags Head
IMG_9481 (87 of 1121)
Oregon Inlet
IMG_9489 (95 of 1121)
Oregon Inlet
IMG_9505 (111 of 1121)
Oregon Inlet
IMG_9523 (129 of 1121)
Oregon Inlet
IMG_9563 (169 of 1121)
Brackish Water Mixing with Pamlico Sound, Pea Island
IMG_9576 (182 of 1121)
Pea Island Bridge
IMG_9599 (205 of 1121)
Classic OBX – Atlantic Ocean, NC 12, Pamlico Sound
IMG_9703 (309 of 1121)
Just north of “Canadian Hole”
IMG_9740 (346 of 1121)
Cape Hatteras
IMG_9746 (352 of 1121)
Cape Hatteras with ocean currents
IMG_9778 (384 of 1121)
South Side of Hatteras Island
IMG_9922 (528 of 1121)
Tidal Flows – Hatteras Inlet, Hatteras Island in Background
IMG_9927 (533 of 1121)
Tidal Flows – Hatteras Inlet, Hatteras Island in Background
IMG_9973 (579 of 1121)
Ocracoke Island, Pamlico Sound

IMG_0014 (619 of 1121)
Pamlico Sound, just north of Ocracoke village
IMG_0024 (629 of 1121)
NE side of Ocracoke, NC
IMG_0029 (634 of 1121)
Ocracoke, NC – Looking NW
IMG_0058 (663 of 1121)
Ocracoke Inlet
IMG_0134 (739 of 1121)
New Drum Inlet, Marsh Side
IMG_0157 (762 of 1121)
Ophelia Inlet
IMG_0199 (804 of 1121)
Ophelia Inlet

IMG_0228 (833 of 1121)
Ophelia Inlet

IMG_0244 (849 of 1121)
Ophelia Inlet, Tidal Flows
IMG_0260 (865 of 1121)
Ophelia Inlet, Tidal Flows
IMG_0309 (914 of 1121)
Back Sound, Shackleford Banks
IMG_0358 (963 of 1121)
Cape Lookout, Looking out into the Atlantic
IMG_0380 (985 of 1121)
Cape Lookout, Looking toward land
IMG_0434 (1039 of 1121)
Back side of Cape Lookout
IMG_0449 (1054 of 1121)
Back Sound, Looking NE Along Cape Lookout National Seashore
IMG_0462 (1067 of 1121)
Shore of Shackleford Banks
IMG_0507 (1112 of 1121)
Farm Fields in Eastern NC
IMG_0509 (1114 of 1121)

‘Flying the Blue Ridge Parkway’ Map Complete

One of my upcoming books, which will be released in three months or less, is a journey of the Blue Ridge Parkway, including US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, from above. These are some of my favorite roads to drive, and the view from an airplane is rather incredible. Now that the photographs have been laid out in the book, I have created a map of where the photos were taken that will appear in the final version. Colors represent different roads:

Green – US 441, Great Smokies
Blue – Blue Ridge Parkway
Red – Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park
Black – Cherohala Skyway

See full screen

Winter on the Outer Banks

When I first concocted this wonderful idea to spend the winter at the Outer Banks, a purely southern friend of mine was in disbelief: “Winter in the Outer Banks? That’s cold!” As usual, I was convinced that I was correct, and that he was wrong. Six snowfalls later, and I must admit, it was insanely cold this year, and this is coming from someone who spent a year at 10,000’ elevation in Colorado.

The houses here are not built for such cold air. Gaps in windows and doors expand during the cold, so the houses become extremely drafty. Further, heating comes from heat pumps, which is basically A/C in reverse. When it is 10 degrees outside, there isn’t much heat to grab from the outside and bring inside.

The beach becomes a torn up mess. Remember, the road is the beach for 8 miles. During Nor’easters, sometimes there is no beach. Other times, it is a war zone, with boards, piles of sand, ledges, walls, and all sorts of hazards. Chunks of ice made it even more uncanny. There were opportunities to drive in both blowing snow and blowing sand!

The concept that the snow melts the next day in the South was not true this year. We had a snowpack for a solid week from one storm, with ice everywhere and no place to walk without falling on one’s rear end. Forget snow shovels, road salt, plows, or sidewalks; none of these things exist. The snowmelt accumulates in giant ponds all over the road, and then freezes.

While it was challenging for the month of February, it was beautiful in some respects. The horses went on like normal, ignoring the snow and hiding out when it was insanely cold, and it was fun to watch them during some of the snow storms. Saltwater froze onto the horse fences (salt water freezes at 28 F), and the mostly fresh Currituck Sound did some interesting things at the shoreline. Much like my youth in upstate NY, the winter is a real pain; however, it has hidden beauty just about everywhere.

If you’re wondering where the flying images are, the cold air was quite hazy, so there was little to fly around and take pictures of. March will be quite active, so there will be plenty to look at.

 

 

1-Horse
Horse during snow storm

2-Horse
Horses after ice storm, wishing I would provide them food.
3-Horse
Snowy sand dune, 5 days after snow fall.
4-Horse

Horses eating during fourth or fifth snow storm.
5-Cold Birds
Seagulls sitting on the beach, before snowstorm. 18 degrees out.
6-Horse Fence
Horse Fence at NC/VA State line, with ice.
7-Whalehead Club
Whale head Club with frozen shore of Currituck Sound.
8-Ice 9-Ice 10-Ice 11-Ice 12-Ice
Ice features on Currituck Sound shore and in ponds at Whalehead Club.
13-Whalehead Club
Whalehead Club during snow.
14-Beach
View from the house. That is not white sand.

Flying Experience Published in AOPA Pilot Magazine

My near-death experience last fall near the Blue Ridge Parkway has finally been published in AOPA Pilot magazine, allowing me to share the lovely story. I’ll let it speak for itself.

Originally Published in AOPA Pilot, P&E Never Again section, March 2015 issue.

Photo mission gone wrong

The flight was planned to be a photography exercise, documenting the terrain of the New River Basin in Virginia and West Virginia. The forecast called for sunshine, light westerly winds in North Carolina, with a breezy day in the Virginias.

I set off from Lincoln County Regional Airport, outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, in my Piper PA–11 with a Continental O-200 engine. It is a simple aircraft with no electrical system. The route of flight was straight over the Brushy Mountains and north into the Blue Ridge Plateau in Virginia. The ascent itself into Virginia was uneventful, except the wind was absolutely howling with moderate turbulence in the higher terrain.

After 20 minutes of flight in these conditions, it became clear that there was no way I could pull off any successful photography. I turned around at Hillsville, Virginia, returning along a similar flight path.

The turbulence was continuous and annoying to manage while still in Virginia. My ascent up the Blue Ridge Plateau had been uneventful, so I planned a similar descent. I decided I would get a little closer to the terrain right at the ridgeline—as there were no buildings, vehicles, or people—and I could glide off the ridge into the Piedmont if the engine quit. I was paying close attention as I descended toward the ridgeline to the activity of the trees responding to the wind, and it appeared to be a lee-side area with much quieter conditions.

Upon getting 250 feet past the ridgeline, I encountered a mix of severe turbulence and wind shear unlike anything I thought was possible with flyable wind speeds. The aircraft was almost instantly rolled 110 degrees to the left, partially upside down, while about 300 feet above the ground.

I instantly applied full right aileron and heavy right rudder. The roll rate in a Cub is unimpressive, and my return to proper orientation to the sky was aided by getting rolled harshly 70 degrees to the right, along with vertical turbulence. I hit my head multiple times on the frame above the seat, and gear was flying around the cockpit with a vengeance.

During the violence, I was fighting the airplane like it was a misbehaving fighter jet, using all of the agility I had to control my upper body and keep my vision pointed out the windshield. There was only one quick glance possible at the airspeed indicator, which read 60 miles per hour with cruise power in a descent. A brief lull afforded the opportunity to pull the waist belt extremely tight and lower the airplane to maneuvering speed before the next round of vertical turbulence—yet again I managed to bang my head on the ceiling. The accessories in the baggage area that were not secured were getting thrown around, and I used the next calm window to reset the ELT, just in case.

At this point, I thought I was getting away from the turbulence, as I was no longer close to the escarpment. I noted that, in the melee with the wind, I had lost 1,000 feet of altitude, despite being trimmed for cruise. I tightened the waist belt as hard as I could, just in case, even though I thought it was over. One final bang still managed to knock my headset off, and I responded by tightening the shoulder belts as hard as they would go. After a consistent and mild downdraft away from terrain, the wind calmed to 10 knots with sunny skies. My flirt with death quickly became an insultingly idyllic afternoon.

With a 60-minute flight ahead of me, I had plenty of time to think what on earth went wrong with this little charade at the state line. I am familiar with rotors, mountain waves, and downdrafts, and I have never been in a situation this vulnerable. Here, for the second time in my flying career, I was caught in a vulnerable situation—not in epic spires of rock at 14,000 feet, nor the highest peaks over 6,000 feet in North Carolina, but rather at 3,000 feet in the Southeast.

The weather phenomenon was not something I expected; it was turbulence and wind shear. My best presumption is one current of air was moving fast over the plateau, and another was stationary in the air mass below over the Piedmont. Two differing airspeeds were most pronounced by the ridgeline, which created a strong shearing force. The reason the windward side did not feature this kind of danger was because of a longer fetch where the two air masses could mix.

I am thankful for three factors that I could control, and which worked in my favor. The first was the fact that I had the bulk of the gear in the aircraft strapped down. Second, I did not follow untrained instinct, which is to pull “up” when rolled over, thanks in part to having read a fine article in AOPA Pilot magazine about it in the not too distant past. Being so close to terrain behind me would have been a quick death. The last thing is my personal belief that panic and out-of-control fear has no place in an airplane. While I do not like being turned over, nor do I like getting literally beaten up by the wind, I was still many hundreds of feet from the nearest object. The matter of focus at that moment was not the emotional magnitude of “what if” something worse happens, it was what needed to be done to get out of the situation. An airplane needs to be commanded, and not the other way around.

The most important lesson of the event is to take a cautious approach when getting close to terrain, evaluated daily based on the weather. That’s my standard rule, and I ignored it. The second lesson is that terrain is terrain, regardless of how unimpressive the elevations are related to sea level. By thinking I was safe down at 3,000 feet mean sea level, I missed obvious clues and found myself upside down.

Garrett Fisher is an author and blogger. He recently published Above the Summit: An Antique Airplane Conquers Colorado’s Fourteeners.

Flight: NC Outer Banks: Stumpy Point

 

 

Sometimes, a flight is just a plain old waste of time. Though I spend incredible amounts of time analyzing weather, winds, atmospheric haze, and lighting, sometimes it’s just a bust. The forecast called for 6% sky cover, with 25% humidity. Instead, after I took off, the clouds came in within 20 minutes, and covered the sky 100% overcast, with haze and dampness. Lesson learned: do not trust the weather around here, and check the satellite just before the long drive to the airport.

While I did not get photos that will make it into my OBX book, I did get a few that show the Pamlico Sound from the mainland side, along US 264 en route to Swanquarter, NC. I ended up flying to Stumpy Point and back to the airport, aborting the trip before it got worse.

Stay tuned for when I try again, and remember that a very long flight west will be coming in two months or less.


1-Mainland to Manteo Bridge

Bridge Over Croatan Sound

2-Mainland Marsh, Pamlico Sound
Mainland Marsh, Pamlico Sound in Distance
3-Pamlico Sound, water current
Pamlico Sound from Mainland, Outer Banks on Horizon
4-Water Current Pamlico Sound
Pamlico Sound from Mainland, Outer Banks on Horizon

Flight: NC Outer Banks: Duck, Corolla, False Cape

Passengers are something that I don’t often talk about, because I almost avoid taking them up in the airplane whatsoever. If it isn’t whining about how their schedule does not line up for a ride, then its nagging about how long pre-flight and other activities will take, how small this airplane is, how cold it is while up in the air, how badly they have to go to the bathroom, and how scared they are of turbulence. Lets never, ever, ever talk about a passenger offering to cover their true share of aviation expenses, much less the gas to drive them to the airport.

When I was young, my grandfather kept an airplane very similar to mine about 500 feet from our house, in a green hangar, and he would go flying whenever he wanted. If I wanted to go, I had to see the door open or hear the plane start, and it was my job to get myself over there to hop in. I must have spent an entire decade peering out the window on the hour to see what he was up to on good weather days. That taught me a few things: a) knowledge of when the weather was good and b) personal responsibility for a ride. As I got older, it wasn’t a matter of simply hopping in before starting the engine; I would chase him down the taxi strip, running alongside the wing, until he saw me and let me in, not always happy about the interruption, not that I cared anyway, I was going flying! A few times, he powered up for takeoff, and I ran out into the runway waving so he’d abort, which he would, and at that point, he simply respected my determination. While I was bold, there was plenty of room for him to stop.

I took my third passenger up in a year, and I decided to revisit the northern OBX flight that went sour in December (camera settings weren’t right, oops). This particular person owns a few houses up where we are living, so it made sense to show her something she wanted to see, as well as getting photos that I wanted.

This lady knows how to go for a plane ride. I told her how long the whole affair would take, how cold it was, how bumpy it would be, and issued orders that I don’t want whining, bathroom stops, puking, or other annoying behavior. She came with a ski jacket, freshly purchased GoPro, water, and a rare approach to flying. No matter what I did that usually unnerves passengers (it’s a small plane, so they are not used to a lot of normal routines), it was a pleasant ride with enjoyable conversation on the intercom, and no neurotic panic attacks or other senseless fears. Afterward, I realized that I gave a ride to one of the few people in life that I know that have the same view I had as a kid: if a plane ride is desired, then make it difficult for the pilot not to give you one.

1-Southern Shores
Southern Shores, NC
2-Pine Island
Pine Island – Duck/Corolla, NC Line
3-Currituck Sound Marshes
Currituck Sound Marshes
4-Whalehead Club
Whalehead Club – Corolla, NC
5-Corolla 4x4 Beach
Corolla 4×4 Beach
6-Horses
Horses (If that is not already evident…)
7-Waves
Surf – False Cape, VA
8-Horses
Horses – Corolla, NC
9-Ocean Currents
Ocean Currents – Corolla, NC
10-Whalehead Club
Whalehead Club – Corolla, NC
11-Currituck Sound
Currituck Sound, Corolla on right
12-Corolla-Duck Line
Currituck Sound Marshes, Duck/Corolla line, Atlantic Ocean
13-Jockeys Ridge
Jockey’s Ridge State Park

 

Flight: NC Outer Banks: Fog

There is something to be said about bad weather, and all the more so, flying in it. Conceptually, a person, place, or thing is only as strong as it can withstand the storms presented to it. Aerial photography, although an adventure sport, has a tendency toward good weather: clear skies, low wind, no clouds, and the like, all in the name of a better photograph. After countless flights on the coast, it occurred to me that a flight on a miserable day might yield something that a pleasant day would not.

A visitor was in town, so we went to the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo, which happens to be right next to the airport, a 90-minute drive from the house. Suffice it to say, I don’t just drive down to the airport for fun, it is done with careful planning. Today, the weather was pretty much garbage: 20mph to 30mph south wind, extremely humid, overcast, and on/off fog. This was the perfect opportunity to test my foul weather theory.

Tactically speaking, it was a nightmare. Legally, it was permissible. Skies were overcast, and high enough to takeoff. Visibility was technically 8 miles, though there was ground fog hanging over Croatan Sound, from zero to 50 feet, stationary. There was ground fog on Bodie Island as we drove, so a sandwich was formed, with a clear spot in between. Researching the weather, the entire eastern seaboard was IFR conditions (instrument only, instruments of which I do not have), except for sections of the Outer Banks. My plan was to takeoff, and see what I found. If it was sour, land. If it was doable, explore. I didn’t think I’d cross the sound to the beach and, if I did and Dare County Airport socked in, First Flight Airport was my backup.

Taking off, there were a few wispy puffs at 350’, low density, and they blew through. Fog over the sound was stationary, and the coast was visible, with some fog blowing in off the ocean. My visitor and I crossed the sound, at a 45-degree angle, due to the howling south wind. Arriving at the coast, there was advection fog ebbing and flowing. Flying over the waters of the Atlantic, I descended to the top of the fog: 200’ above the water. This is legal due to distance from people, vehicles, and buildings. Bodie Island Lighthouse was regaled in splendor, now my second OBX lighthouse captured from the airplane in fog. The first (see Dec 23rd blog post) was Cape Lookout Lighthouse, and half of the top was in fog. Now I have one sticking out of the fog in the opposite direction.

The flight went off without a hitch. Landing was a breeze, as there are perpendicular runways at KMQI, and one was into the wind. All in all, a very pleasant flight, and a photogenic way to portray the variety of weather at the coast. In retrospect, the water temperatures of the sound were actually negating the inversion fog that was covering half of the state, though the cold waters were creating advection fog very close to the water itself, quite a fascinating duality.

1-Nags Head Pier
Nags Head Pier in Fog
2-Nags Head Smashed Houses and Fog
Smashed Houses in Fog – Nags Head, NC
3-Bodie Island Lighthouse in Fog
Atlantic Ocean, Bodie Island Lighthouse
4-Oregon Inlet with Advection Fog
Oregon Inlet with Advection Fog
5-Roanoke Sound Bridge with Fog
US 64 Bridge over Croatan Sound

 

Flight: NC Outer Banks: Hatteras to Manteo

After our week on Ocracoke, it was time to head back up to the northern OBX. Stopping at Hatteras to get the airplane, I took off into overcast skies, taking what I was certain would be a perfunctory flight, as the colors were quite gray, light diffused, and nothing of any significance standing out from the air. Halfway back to Dare County Regional Airport, I caught up to my wife driving the truck on NC 12, did a few circles, and pressed on.

I was hoping Oregon Inlet had some illustrious colors to make up for the photogenic misery. It did not. Instead of a Caribbean tone like when I flew down, it was a brownish green; a product likely of fresh and brackish water bringing soil nutrients from the Albemarle Sound down through Roanoke Sound. With the stormy weather out of the south that would have driven water up into the sounds, the relaxation of it would draw river water down, making it unappealing. Falling back on the local pilot’s advice, about Oregon Inlet getting pretty three days after a northeast wind, let me realize that Oregon Inlet needs the opposite to occur than what did this week, wind pushing the water levels down by blowing sound water to sea, and having southern, clearer water come up from the Pamlico Sound and back into the fresher water areas after the NE wind quits.

Nonetheless, I did find some interesting color contrasts that stood out in the marshes on the west side of Bodie Island, between Oregon Inlet and Nags Head. Rarely is a flight totally worthless from a photography standpoint. This caps 8 straight days of flying, doubling my record.

1-Bodie Island Marsh 2-Bodie Island Marsh
Bodie Island Marshes
3-Bodie Island Lighthouse
Bodie Island Lighthouse
4-Roanoke Sound Brackish Water 5-Bodie Island Marsh 6-Bodie Island Marsh
Bodie Island Marshes