Flight: Spain, Andorra: The Virtues of Stupidity / La Virtud de la Estupidez

Castellano abajo.

It wasn’t a day that I would have imagined I could fly. Thunderstorms roared up in a continuous formation off the Pyrenees, sinking slowly south as the afternoon progressed. In the period after the storms moved on, the sun surprisingly came out, though the air was humid and opaque, which meant that it wasn’t worth chasing photographs.

As the afternoon entered into evening, I got the fanciful notion to head into the edge of the Pyrenees, to view some of the puffy cumulus clouds hanging around on the ridge, a sort of idyllic sea of clouds and mountains, where I didn’t need to venture into them, merely looking at them from the edge.

Intuition said not to do it. Naivety said to hop in the plane.

So, as one would logically expect of an intelligent, experienced pilot, I took off.

Reaching 10,000 feet, the stationary cumulus clouds were giving off some odd characteristics, along with more turbulence than I was in the mood for. Yup, this probably was a bad idea. [continues to climb]. Reaching 10,500 feet, I proceeded a bit north, noting what was an overcast cloud deck parked against the ridge in Andorra. Oh, and there were the lenticularis clouds at 40,000 feet indicating mountain waves. Whatever… “those are over there, not here. Besides, the tow pilot said it was fine when he went up.”

As I approached 11,000 feet, I noticed what looked like cloud wisps forming off the ridgelines here and there. “Oh how pretty. I have seen this in America many times.” [Intuition: “this is really bad and I am probably screwed.”][keep flying] Then I noticed that my groundspeed was very, very slow, meaning there was a lot of wind. Zooming in on the “cloud” formation below me, I noticed with the zoom lens that it was blowing snow. Nice. Then I looked along the whole ridge, and all of it was blowing snow.

I then decided I had an opportunity. “It’s probably stupid to be up here, but I am here already, and at least the air is tranquil.” [look right: mountain waves, left: blowing snow, forward: clouds doing weird things, behind: clouds doing differently weird things] I took some photos, until I ran into some descending air, then decided to get the Sam hell out of dodge.  Yikes. There is only so much stupidity I can take in one dose.

The escape route was around a bunch of mysterious clouds doing weird things (read: rotors), over the valley away from the waves, and in the safe, loving arms of Cadí-Moixeró, a 1500’ wall of rock that acts as a windbreak. Then I descended down into the valley, only to find on landing that the weather had changed, the humidity had been blown away, and the wind was blowing strongly out of the north, a telltale sign to not go precisely where I just went. Figures.

For the record, none of this nonsense was on the forecast. Such is mountain flying.

No fue día normal que pensaría volar. Fueron tormentas en la tarde, formado de los Pirineos y se movieron al sur lentamente como progresó el día. Después que salieron las tormentas, el sol se presentó con excepción que el aire fue muy mojado y mal para fotos.

Cuando pasó la tarde al anochecer, tuve la idea pasar al lado de los Pirineos, mirando en la dirección de Andorra a una mezcla gran de nubes y cumbres, sin la necesidad actualmente volar adentro las montañas.

Intuición dijo “no.” La ingenuidad dijo volar.

Como alguien lógicamente concluiría de un piloto inteligente y experimentado, despegué.

Logrando a 10.000 pies, las nubes cúmulos tuvieron características extrañas, con más turbulencia que quise. Sí, esto es mal idea. [sigue subiendo]. Alcanzando a 10.500 pies, pasé al norte un poco, notando un techo de nubes en un lado de la cordillera, con lenticularis a 40.000 pies, lo que indican olas de montaña. “No importe, el piloto de remolque indicó que todo fue bien.”

Finalizando a 11.000 pies, di noticia que apareció que hay nubes formando en las cumbres en varios lugares. “He visto esto en los Estados Unidos tantas veces. ¡Qué bonito!” [intuición: “esto es muy mal y probablemente estoy puteado.”][sigue volando] Así entonces, fue evidente que mi velocidad actual fue muy lento, indicando la presencia de mucho viento. Con la cámara de enfocar, miré a los “nubes” abajo y lo que pensé fueron nubes actualmente fue nieve, moviendo en el viento como polvo. Qué bueno (estúpido?). Miré a la cordillera que es la frontera de Andorra y España, y todos tuvieron nieve que sopla.

En este momento, decidí que fui en posesión de una oportunidad. “Es obvio que es estúpido volar aquí ahora, pero ya estoy aquí, y al mínimo, el aire está tranquilo.” [mirando al derecho: olas, izquierda: nieve que sopla, adelante: techo de nubes, atrás: nubes moviendo extrañamente]. Tomé algunas fotos, y salí rápidamente. Hay una cantidad de estupidez que puedo aguantar y ya está.

La ruta de escape fue adentro las nubes extrañas (=rotores), sobre Bellver hasta lograr a los abrazos amables de Cadí-Moixeró, una pared de 500m vertical de rocas que sirve como bloqueador de viento. Descendí por La Cerdanya, aprendiendo durante aterrizaje que el tiempo había cambiado, ahora sin aire mojado y con viento fuerte al norte, que es señal famosa no volar precisamente en lugar que acabo de volar.

Esto es volar en La Cerdanya.

Puigpedrós 2.912m
Mountain Waves (1 of 11)

Are these clouds forming?
Mountain Waves (2 of 11)

Nope – that’s blowing snow.
Mountain Waves (3 of 11)

More blowing snow. It was granular, frozen stuff, not powdery, so that is not a good sign about the wind speed.
Mountain Waves (4 of 11)

A little bit of unwanted descent. The shadowed knoll in the center right is the convergence of the borders of Andorra, France, and Spain.
Mountain Waves (5 of 11)

It is inadvisable to go in there.
Mountain Waves (6 of 11)

Puigpedrós, with mountain waves. Time to get the hell of out Dodge.
Mountain Waves (7 of 11)

The way out is through these sneaky clouds doing weird things.
Mountain Waves (8 of 11)

Cadí-Moixeró with Pedraforca hiding behind, and the receding thunderstorms behind it.
Mountain Waves (9 of 11)

Cadí producing some clouds – even better.
Mountain Waves (10 of 11)

Snowshoe paths.
Mountain Waves (11 of 11)

Flight: Spain: Castellon de la Plana, Delta de l’Ebre

This is a real image. Story further down.

These are the images missing in my April blog post. I intended to fly to Morocco and the whole thing went to pot. As is customary, these are the images not on the AOPA post.

Estos son los imágenes que faltan en mi AOPA post de abril. Intenté volar a Marruecos y el plan entero se falló. Cómo normal, estos son los imágenes que no están en AOPA.

One way to deal with the inversion…..fly above it!
Castellon (1 of 49) Castellon (2 of 49) Castellon (3 of 49)

A bit hazy, but not too bad. Staying high up as terrain inclines in a few miles.
Castellon (4 of 49)

I have a better idea of how this road could have been laid out.
Castellon (5 of 49) Castellon (6 of 49)

Aqueduct under the highway.
Castellon (7 of 49) Castellon (8 of 49)

The weather went hazy, my new camera battery is empty and despite the fact that its the same size as my other camera’s batteries they are not compatible, and the headwind is absurdly strong. I am very pissy at this point.
Castellon (9 of 49)

Back to the old camera….
Castellon (10 of 49)

Evidence of the silly wind.
Castellon (11 of 49)

Diverting to Castellon de la Plana instead of Teruel as planned. Yup, this is going well.
Castellon (12 of 49) Castellon (13 of 49) Castellon (14 of 49)

By the coast. Haze is gone. Note Delta de l’Ebre on the horizon.
Castellon (15 of 49)

What the hell is this?
Castellon (16 of 49) Castellon (17 of 49) Castellon (18 of 49)

Penis. If this becomes all I am ever recognized for, I am fine with that.
Castellon (21 of 49)

Penis Cola? I prefer Pepsi…
Castellon (20 of 49)

Peñíscola. Note the Tilda and accent. That is the *proper* spelling, though someone decided to build a whole structure with it misspelled. Actual penis label lower center left.
Castellon (19 of 49)   Castellon (22 of 49) Castellon (23 of 49) Castellon (24 of 49) Castellon (25 of 49)

After seeing the penis sign, I am unsure what this is supposed to mean.
Castellon (26 of 49) Castellon (27 of 49)

The next morning….now on the way back. If someone tells you that they have a “villa in Spain” at a cocktail party, it probably looks like this. Don’t be impressed.
Castellon (28 of 49) Castellon (29 of 49)

Castellon (30 of 49)

Delta de l’Ebre
Castellon (31 of 49) Castellon (32 of 49)

Salt ponds. 
Castellon (33 of 49) Castellon (34 of 49)

Driving in circles…..
Castellon (35 of 49) Castellon (36 of 49) Castellon (37 of 49)

Ebre River entering the Mediterranean…
Castellon (38 of 49)

What is this? Cambodia?
Castellon (39 of 49)
Castellon (40 of 49)

Obviously not on the coast anymore.
Castellon (41 of 49) Castellon (42 of 49) Castellon (43 of 49) Castellon (44 of 49) Castellon (45 of 49) Castellon (46 of 49)

Castellon (47 of 49)

Panta de las Baells. There is supposed to be a left accent on the ending a in Panta. The cat sprayed on my keyboard, and Microsoft only sells this model in Spain with Spanish keys and I can’t find the damn left pointing accent mark! It must be a conspiracy by the Spaniards against Catalunya (left accents are only in Catalan). 
Castellon (48 of 49)

El Pedraforca – symbol of Catalunya. Since this is largely a penis-themed blog post, I haven’t decided if Pedraforca is the grand middle finger or grand erection of Catalunya…..
Castellon (49 of 49)

Flight: Spain: La Cerdanya & Cadí-Moixeró in Infrared

I can’t help it – infrared is too exciting to go back to my horribly dull and pedestrian visible spectrum images. This post is two flights on one day: a mid-day attempt at some imagery over the ridge, along Cadí-Moixeró and around Cerdanya. I am told that IR photography is best during the middle of the day, and after three flights, it is evident that is flatly incorrect, at least as far as my style is concerned. Late evening light is absolutely incredible. I threw a few visible spectrum images in for comparison. Neither flight would have been worth taking with a regular camera, as the haze level has been very high.

El infrarrojo es demasiado interesante. Por eso, espero con mostrar las imágenes visibles, y procedo con más de la aventura infrarroja durante el proceso disfrutable de aprender como tomar fotos con espectro que no puedo ver.

Over the ridge looking into the Pre-Pyrenees on a very hazy day.
IR2 (1 of 17)

And this is the visible image. Again, dealing with two cameras so the images are slightly off as I swap in flight and reline up. I also have come to notice that 18mm in both lenses (one is 18-55, the other 18-135) is quite different.
IR2 (2 of 17)

Cadí-Moixeró. Note the sepia tone both in sky and on some of the ground. After extensive deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that the sepia tone on the ground is soil as opposed to rock, of which happens to reflect the same wavelength in IR as the sky, and the camera is seeing it as sepia.
IR2 (3 of 17)

Cadí-Moixeró from above. These are the mid-day images, which are not so hot. One may wonder why the snow reflects sepia. In the Pyrenees, it does not. I suspect it has something to do with accumulated dust and soils mixed in the snow. 
IR2 (4 of 17) IR2 (5 of 17)

Evening flight – Prats, taken during takeoff.
IR2 (6 of 17) IR2 (7 of 17) IR2 (8 of 17)

Notice how the clouds reflect less than grassy fields.
IR2 (9 of 17) IR2 (10 of 17) IR2 (11 of 17) IR2 (12 of 17)

Visible spectrum – for good measure. I have to do quite a bit of work to post process the visual images, where I do very little work on the IR, if anything at all. One may note that the visible image really isn’t dynamite – I would not have gone up given the haze count, even in the evening after the thunderstorms blew through.
IR2 (13 of 17) IR2 (14 of 17)

Entering the traffic pattern…
IR2 (15 of 17)

Final approach – Riu Segre.
IR2 (16 of 17)

Oh for God’s sake put the damn camera away and fly! Sanavastre on the right.
IR2 (17 of 17)

Flight: Spain: La Cerdanya in Infrared / en Infrarrojo

Castellano abajo.

I am interrupting my crazed need to post images in the relative order taken to show off my latest toy: an infrared camera! It’s a process to get the existing camera converted, as some internal optics need to be replaced, focus calibrated, and white balance settings toyed with. That all done, along with paying fascist import fees and a bunch of other rigmarole, it came in yesterday and I tested it today in the airplane.

We can’t see infrared, that is obvious. The camera can, though it has to convert it to something visual for us to see. It usually comes off the sensor as some hideous tinted red, of which is overridden by the camera white balance settings to make it fairly close to white. In the end, my presumption is that I am getting a binary image. White = IR, black = no IR. The result is very Ansel Adamsesque.

It has the added effect of seeing through haze. For anyone paying attention, I rant about it rather frequently, so now I have a tool to photograph on days that otherwise would be labeled crappy. This I proved today, going up with tons of glare, haze, and bleached lighting. The IR perspective eviscerated the disagreeable parts.

White balance off the camera presents the sky a tinge sepia. Some images I keep it, some I don’t. I am still making up my mind.

You’ll observe many interesting facts about IR. Roads absorb as opposed to reflect. Deciduous grasses and trees reflect most of it. Pine trees and shrubs reflect only some. Tilled soil reflects a small amount. Rivers and Spanish roofs reflect almost none. Clouds reflect a decent amount, though not as much as foliage.

Estoy cambiando mi proceso de publicar fotos en el orden tomado para mostrar mi juguete nuevo: una cámara de infrarrojo. Es un proceso específico para convertir la cámara, exigiendo cambios de vidrios y otras cosas para llegar a una foto bueno de IR. Ayer llegó la caja de los EUA, y hoy día tuve la oportunidad probarlo en el avión.

Es obvio que no vemos infrarrojo. La cámara tiene que convertir lo que ve a algo que podemos ver. Normalmente, sin modificación, es una imagen terrible lleno de tinto rojo, lo que está corregido por balancear el blanco. Con esto, el resultado es más o menos blanco y negro, de estilo Ansel Adams.

Tiene el efecto de ver por la calina, un sujeto que siempre estoy gritando de una forma u otro. Ahora, días que normalmente estarían puteados pudieran tener buen éxito. Probé esto hoy, con resultado satisfecho.

Observarán algunos efectos de IR: calles absorban IR en vez de reflejar. Hojas caducas y hierbas reflejan casi todo, mientras pinas son en medio, y suelo fresco aún menos. Techos españoles (o és millor dir catalans?) y ríos absorban casi todo. Las nubes reflejan bien, pero no tanto como visual.
Riu Segre is black. Bellver in the distance.

A little bleaching, though it would make sense that the hill is uniformly reflecting high IR content. In color, its more varied.
IMG_8149 IMG_8158 IMG_8166 IMG_8175

Puigcerdà in the distance. République Français on the horizon.

Between Das and Urús. I am leaning toward keeping the sepia horizon – as it comes off the camera.

Bellver de la Cerdanya

Note upper right – a little bit of snow. At least that reflects nice and white. Looking forward to winter already. 4.5 months til first mountain snows!

Lower Cerdanya. In a visible image, road is bright, everything else is dark. IR is inverted.


Looking down the runway – center of image. / Mirando al aeródromo, al centro de la imágen.

Visible image from separate camera compared to IR. Post processed as best I could. Very hazy day.
IMG_8358 IMG_8359



Flight: Spain: Aitona Peach Orchards

This flight was covered in the following AOPA post. Additional images, none of which are on the AOPA site, are below for this flight.

Este vuelo fue el sujeto de un post en AOPA (enlace arriba). Los siguientes imágenes son extra, que faltan en el sitio de AOPA.

Irrigation canal – this factors significantly in agriculture around Lleida.
Aitona (1 of 61)
Aitona (2 of 61) Aitona (3 of 61) Aitona (4 of 61) Aitona (5 of 61)

Mollerusa – note the haze. I get very supremacist when overflying cars in traffic. “I have an airplane…” is usually the subject of my snicker.
Aitona (6 of 61)

And the peach trees!
Aitona (7 of 61) Aitona (8 of 61) Aitona (9 of 61) Aitona (10 of 61)

Rail line. They use electric here for trains, though the Spanish rail network is nothing like Americans think of when they think of Europe. Northern European countries have a far more robust rail and tram system than here.
Aitona (11 of 61) Aitona (12 of 61) Aitona (13 of 61) Aitona (14 of 61) Aitona (15 of 61)

My shadow….
Aitona (16 of 61) Aitona (17 of 61) Aitona (18 of 61) Aitona (19 of 61) Aitona (20 of 61) Aitona (21 of 61)

East of Aitona. This is a 6m/18ft tall pile of crates. I drove to it the next day and climbed them, along with a bunch of other people. Since its Spain, nobody cares. Germany….verboten! The USA…someone would have come out with a rifle…..
Aitona (22 of 61) Aitona (23 of 61) Aitona (24 of 61) Aitona (25 of 61) Aitona (26 of 61) Aitona (27 of 61) Aitona (28 of 61) Aitona (29 of 61) Aitona (30 of 61) Aitona (31 of 61) Aitona (32 of 61) Aitona (33 of 61) Aitona (34 of 61) Aitona (35 of 61) Aitona (36 of 61) Aitona (37 of 61) Aitona (38 of 61) Aitona (39 of 61) Aitona (40 of 61) Aitona (41 of 61) Aitona (42 of 61) Aitona (43 of 61) Aitona (44 of 61) Aitona (45 of 61) Aitona (46 of 61) Aitona (47 of 61) Aitona (48 of 61) Aitona (49 of 61) Aitona (50 of 61)

“Your blog has too many photos.” Yeah, and I took 3,100 images on this flight, so what should I do, hide them all on my hard drive? That and I get to put lots of push pins on the map (which I am procrastinating doing anyway).
Aitona (51 of 61) Aitona (52 of 61) Aitona (53 of 61)

North of Lleida airport – haze in great abundance. This is the beginning of the foothills.
Aitona (54 of 61) Aitona (55 of 61) Aitona (56 of 61)

Vertical rock.
Aitona (57 of 61)

Riu Segre – not that I knew… I was wandering in the haze without looking at the map. There’s mountains north, flat south, home is northeast, and there were no airspace concerns, so I flew until I got to somewhere recognizable. Maps take the fun out of everything.
Aitona (58 of 61) Aitona (59 of 61) Aitona (60 of 61)

Cadí-Moixeró – no haze, of course. 
Aitona (61 of 61)

Flight: Spain: Catalonian Central Depression

Castellano abajo.

Finally, after months of angst and anguish, the weather cleared enough that I could take a flight down to the Catalonian Central Depression, an area of farmland that had eluded me since I came to Spain. Perpetually covered in haze, the place is substantially desert-like; yet, somehow managed to be fogged in for two straight months, producing some incredible imagery when I took a flight along the inversion to Montserrat a few months ago.

I learned my lesson from Wyoming: spring in semi-arid regions is the time to go flying. Vegetation has maximum texture, and the earth is on display as the seasons turn. While one season is prettier than another, it is not to say that one is not worth seeing. I have sat in front of my computer, time and time again, wishing I had flown to a certain destination in a different season, waxing poetically that it “must be fantastic when its green.”

This was a test run, to get a clue of what the spring around here would be like. As you can see, La Cerdanya was a wonderful shade of brown, while green did materialize down lower. This flight took place in March. Before one thinks the snow was over in the Pyrenees…..it snowed here until late April.

Finalmente, después que meses de angustia y dolor artística, el clima aclaró suficientemente para que estuvo posible volar sin inversión hasta la Depresión Central de Catalunya. Es lugar casi desierto, excepto fue cubierto en nieblas para meses, un fondo de frustración y raramente, un poco de belleza.

Aprendí en Wyoming, EUA que la primavera es estación muy importante para texturas y colores, porque los campos de agricultura cambian mucho en la progresión de verano. Es imposible decir que una temporada es inútil visitar en vez de otro (con la excepción de nieblas), pero es cierto que hay unos que son mejor que otros.

Este vuelo fue una prueba para averiguar lo que está pasando aquí en Catalunya, en preparación para las temporadas que vengan. Tardando con un montón de fotos, el vuelo pasó en Marzo, cuando La Cerdanya se mostró con falta de color. No te preocupes: recibimos nieve aquí hasta el fin de Abril!
Lower Cerdanya….clad in raiment brown.
CCD (1 of 32)

Lower Cerdanya is pretty gnarly with terrain. Most of the time, I am 2,500 feet higher than this. 
CCD (2 of 32)

I had intended to clear La Seu’s airspace and wander down the river valley below, except they smugly ignored me. Back up to 6,000 feet we go to overfly terrain…
CCD (3 of 32)

Spain: land of texture. There is no end to it.
CCD (4 of 32)

Pantà d’Oliana (reservoir below) with a giant piece of rock.
CCD (5 of 32)

Serra de Turp i Mora Condal-Valldaran
CCD (6 of 32)

Serra de la Valldan
CCD (7 of 32)

Getting lower, a bit hazier, and greener!
CCD (8 of 32) CCD (9 of 32)

Some things can only be explained with alcohol. / Algunas cosas sólo pueden ser explicado a causa del alcohol. 
CCD (10 of 32)

Northeast edge of the Catalonian Central Depression.
CCD (11 of 32) CCD (12 of 32)

Home on the range….Catalunya style. 
CCD (13 of 32) CCD (14 of 32)

CCD (15 of 32)

Chaotic order. There is a profound beauty to it.
CCD (16 of 32)

Non-chaotic order.
CCD (17 of 32) CCD (18 of 32)

Why live in farm country, when you can live here?
CCD (19 of 32)

This has a distinct Kansas feel. Just add a tornado.
CCD (20 of 32)

Near Selvanera.
CCD (21 of 32)

I failed to see the potential in these textures at the time. They annoyed me as too cluttered. Some of the flights I have gotten recently are practically spiritual of features like this.
CCD (22 of 32) CCD (23 of 32)

Wandering back toward home. Slightly higher terrain altitude. Note trees without leaves and field textures losing green.
CCD (24 of 32) CCD (25 of 32) CCD (26 of 32)

Edge of the Pre-Pyrenees. Catalunya has more forests than I gave it credit for.
CCD (27 of 32)

Serres de Busa-els Bastets-Lord (hill on the right), Pantà de la Llosa del Cavall (reservoir). Colors are real.
CCD (28 of 32) CCD (29 of 32)

Serra del Verd (on the right).
CCD (30 of 32)

El Pedraforca. 
CCD (31 of 32)

South side Cadí-Moixeró.
CCD (32 of 32)

Book: Flying Jackson Hole

Español abajo.

Book number 10 has been published, finally: Flying Jackson Hole. The title is self-evident- a compendium of images over and around Jackson Hole, with a special emphasis of looking down from high mountains and perspectives of areas that most are too lazy to hike to on the ground.

“But wait, didn’t I see something on Facebook about this, or your AOPA blog?” Yes, you did. I really am terrible at self-promotion and procrastinate. “AOPA blog? What is this about?” Yes, I have that too, and I am not the greatest about cross-posting. I half wonder if I like having siloed audiences so I can play mind games with myself. At any rate, I do write for a few magazines, and link to my anthology on my website. Click here to see it.

The book publishing process took a full year hiccup as I secured a literary agent in New York and spent an absurd amount of time as my work was paraded in front of some of the largest international publishing houses in the world. Time after time, I saw emails from acquisitions editors brought to the brink of orgasm by my work, followed by an inexplicable rationale for declining publication. After going through the process, I have come to find that the traditional publishing world resembles the fashion industry, operating by trend, fad, hazy group consensus, and just plain chance. Some day, I’ll win the poker match and a fancier book will be born. Until then, CreateSpace seems to have upped the quality of their printing presses, so full steam ahead.

Publication of my Wyoming-based activity will be picking up speed. At some point, I’ll make up my mind about an orderly flow of European titles (there is a concern over language choice, among other things). Needless to say, I am getting extremely backlogged, and the creativity is only taking off. Stay tuned as I get involved with more ambitious ideas.

Voy a decir primeramente que la versión española específicamente no será una traducción de lo que escribí en inglés. No estoy interesado en escribir la misma cosa dos veces, y también, estoy comunicando con dos grupos distintos.

Finalmente, publiqué mi libro número 10, en inglés (disculpe): Flying Jackson Hole (Volando Jackson Hole). El sujeto es un lugar en Wyoming, EUA muy famoso de esquiar y los parques nacionales Grand Teton y Yellowstone. Esta área es imprescindible, precioso, y casi lo más caro en todo el país, una Cerdanya de América, excepto con precio de triple.

He dejado el proceso de publicación por obtener un agente literario en Nueva York, que duró un año de trabajo fuerte comunicando con empresas internacionales, logrando a ellos al borde de orgasmo, solo para finalizar con una falta de contrato para razones que no hacen sentido. Por eso, sigo publicando con CreateSpace una lista larga de libros concentrado en el sector oeste de los Estados Unidos. Un día, decidiría mis planes en cuanto al montón de fotos que tengo aquí en Europa.


Flight: Spain: 2 of 2 – Length of the Pyrenees

For the flight back, I wasn’t precisely sure which route I would take. My focus had been the Pre-Pyrenees as the air was clear and the region quite interesting. At minimum, I planned on overflying some of the rough terrain just west of Pico Aneto, the highest point in the Pyrenees, and also where I had previously been. The sections even further west than that looked a bit scary from the maps, and I hadn’t made my mind up. Recall that the Western Pyrenees get slammed with significantly more snow than Central and Eastern parts, and therefore have glaciers and more rugged terrain.

After consulting with local glider pilots at Santa Cilia, I determined it would be a good day to head north right into the heart of the rugged terrain, then head east long some of the crazy stuff. As they noted “this is about as perfect as it gets for weather.” Fair enough. With some trepidation, I climbed north toward high terrain, wondering what I was getting myself into.

The closer I got to the big, bad mountains, the more nervous I got, as I looked at thick pine forests with few emergency landing locations, set against spires of rock covered in snow with indications of avalanches. Then once I got over said harsh avalanching terrain, I hit my Zen-style calmness where I am in a transcendental state of spiritual bliss, and continued over some of the harshest terrain I have yet seen in the Pyrenees, not rendering a shred of care if I had to land in 10 feet of snow in an emergency.

Every moment of it was wonderful, until the last quarter of the flight, where I was freezing cold, tired, and worn out after having taken almost 5,000 photographs. After landing, I couldn’t seem to function speaking Spanish, and went home with a brain that turned to mush. The last time such a thing occurred was in high altitude, wickedly cold Colorado, doing something similar in the Cub.

Some people do sweat lodges; I do the opposite.

For all I know, they stopped construction in 2008 when the economy crashed. Its not like anybody would care….except the Germans.
Pyrenees Binge (1 of 31)

Approaching the Western Pyrenees.
Pyrenees Binge (2 of 31)

Western end of the Pyrenees.
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Parque Natural Valles Occidentales
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Between Canfranc and Biescas – cruising altitude only 9,000 feet.
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West of Río Ara
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Parque Nacional Monte Perdido – for any aviation Nazis, I was, in fact, legally above the restricted flying zone.
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The pinnacle to the middle right with a bit of snow on it was featured on the last blog post. I cruised very close to those smaller hills down below.
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Valle de Pineta. Pretty badass. The French border is at the end of the valley.
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Somewhere in the Pyrenees….
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Somewhere else in the Pyrenees….
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Pico Espadas (3.332m / 10,928 ft)
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Parque Natural Posets-Maladeta
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Pico Aneto – highest point in the Pyrenees – (3.404m / 11,165 ft). It is quite chilly up here. There is also a glacier on the left side of the mountain, hiding under winter snowpack.
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Saharan dust on mountain snowpack.
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Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes – Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Aragón anymore….
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Other side of Aigüestortes. Usually power lines are not that compelling, though the perspective is pretty interesting.
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Western end of Cadí-Moixeró, almost home.
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Last bit of the Pyrenees descending toward La Cerdanya.
Pyrenees Binge (31 of 31) [Read more…]

Flight: Spain: 1 of 2 – Length of the Pyrenees

Although this was one day of flying, I decided to break up the outbound and returning leg of the flight into two blog posts, as I ended up taking almost 5000 photographs, and there is just too much to show. That is a record for one flight. While I don’t per se keep track, I definitely smashed the crap out of any prior flying day by a wide margin with the image count.

The way out is straight west, flying the length of the Pre-Pyrenees. The next post will be the same leg coming back, except over the spine of the Pyrenees – nearly the entire length of the mountain chain.

The Pre-Pyrenees are interesting in that they are not exactly foothills, as the terrain can exceed timberline, yet the rock features are immensely varied, with all sorts of interesting things going on. The Pyrenees themselves are as one would expect: big ass mountains.

The terrain contained things that reminded me of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Appalachia, New York, farm country, hill country, scrub brush, snow, thick pines, and everything in between. I was like a kid in a candy store and my arm literally got tired holding the camera and my hand fatigued from pressing the shutter button. With 548GB of camera cards and 11TB of hard drive space, I am awaiting the arrival of my new computer, as the current one is ready to start on fire when I start retouching photos. Too many pictures….

Map of flight out and back. Outbound leg (this blog post) is bottom half of the white line. Yellow line is border of Spain and France (France north, Spain south for the geographically ignorant).

Inversion – though it will not be affecting this flight!

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Serra de Boumort
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Embassament de Sant Antoni
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Vall Alta de Serradell-Terreta-Serra de Sant GervàsPre Pyrenees (8 of 38)

Muntanya d’Adons
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Vertical rock is a very nice thing to see in an airplane.
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More or less the border of Aragón and Catalunya. Més o menys la frontera de Catalunya i Aragón. Hey, imagine that….Catalan! Más o menos la frontera de Cataluña y Aragón. Spanish too!
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Unnamed terrain. Closest village is El Sas.
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Apparently terrain like this is so common, it has no name. Closest village complexes all end in Serradúy….
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Highway HU-V-9601.
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Collado de el Santo. 
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Peña Montañesa
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More vertical rock!
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It is getting exhausting figuring out the names for these things (that, and in an Aragonese symbol of not giving a crap, the hills stop having a name on Google Maps). These are between the last named mountain and Jaca.
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There are three churches at timberline on this hill, all duly named after some long dead saintly figures, yet nobody can bother to name the mountain itself? 
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East of Sabiñanigo, looking east toward where I came.
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West of Sabiñanigo, looking toward Santa Cilia airport.
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There is a terrain feature like this in southwest Virginia, deep in hillbilly Appalachian coal country. I really don’t know what to say as the comparison is unmistakable yet I have no desire to defile Spain with the Confederacy….
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What the hell is this? 
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West of Jaca, just before the airport.
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I heard some strange noises coming from behind the fueling station at the airport. I walked back to find out that chickens live there. If one wishes to understand why Mexico and all of Latin America is the way it is, may I suggest non-Catalonian Spain as an explanation?
Chickens - 1 (1)


Flight: Spain, France: Mediterranean Coast, Pic d’Canigou

Narration for this flight is provided on my monthly AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) blog post, though in keeping with tradition, I am including a large amount of photos not tendered on the AOPA post.

Additionally, I skipped a few weeks ahead with this post, as I had entered into a period of flying repeatedly in the local area, capturing relatively amazing photography of Cadí-Moixeró and Pedraforca over and over again in the winter, with varying cloud formations. While interesting, it is a bit repetitive AND… I decided that capitalism and book sales can shove it. I am so madly in love with Cadí-Moixeró that I am going to do an entire book of photography on the park, even if nobody buys a book. The last time I said that, the book in question was one of my better sellers for that season, so I give up on that front. Readership can be a collective fickle mistress.

La Masella – I was tempted to ski down this valley last month (out of bounds) and decided against it.

This clump of rock stands between me and Barcelona Approach.

Foothill of Serra Cavallera

Serra Cavallera.

Haze far worse than expected based on observations.
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Rocks below are the border. France on the other side. Pic d’Canigou with snow on it.

Some sort of old military installation at the border.

Geologic terminus of the Pyrenees at the Mediterranean. Haze is actually a precursor to a Saharan dust storm.
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France left, Spain right.
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Banyuls sur Mer, France

Port Vendres, France. I was wondering what on earth a train terminal was doing here, until I found out its a deep water freight and cruise port.
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Pic d’Canigou, from the Mediterranean.

Platja Grifeu, Spain

Punta Blanca

Looking back the other way.

Same place, with Pic d’Canigou. France, Spain, the Mediterranean and snow-capped Pyrenees….all in one image!
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The last time I kayaked, my kayak sprung a leak and sank in the middle of a 40 F (4 C) lake.
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Underwater textures.

Near Cadaques.
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Near Roses, Spain

Old military installation near Roses, Spain. I am beginning to think the star pattern is not for looks….
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An interesting take on haze in Catalunya.

Pic d’Canigou, France.
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French Pyrenees
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Spain is technically the foreground.