Sunday, May 24 2020

Day 15

We woke up before sunrise in Richfield and headed to the plane for some early morning shooting of Bryce Canyon, the Canyonlands, Moab, and the unnamed beauty in the expansive, alien landscape between these spectacular places. Richfield at dawn was so peaceful, so still. The surrounding mountains, capped in snow, sat in silent observation of our flight preparations.

We took off just as the sun rose over the horizon and flew Southeast, following a valley down to Bryce Canyon, an expansive, gnarled pit of red rocks. Beautiful in the morning light, I circled in lazy spirals overhead as Filip shot, following the twisting canyon maze. We then pressed on to Canyonland Airport, and along the way photographed some of the craziest landscapes we’d seen so far, including the Grand Staircase and Canyonlands National Park. The most notable thing on this flight was just South of the airport, and barely noted on the chart. I mentioned my new obsession with the salt lakes—these were similar, evaporation pools meant to extract minerals from the waters. They were brilliant blue and soft, buttery turquoise pools gridded out in the red rocks of Moab. Truly looked like someone had taken a paint brush and run it across the ground. Stunning and strange, I flew in varying altitudes above it, until fuel called and I landed at Canyonland.

We explored Moab for the afternoon, grabbed lunch and coffee, and marveled at how, though many of the popular parks were closed right now, the town was absolutely bustling with outdoor fans and tourists. It was probably the most “normal” any place has felt since this trip began (indeed since this pandemic began), which of course in itself felt a bit strange. So we kept our distance and observed, and then headed back to the airport to prep for a sunset flight.

Before going up, we grabbed our camping gear and the airport car graciously lent to us, and drove out into the desert, where we set up camp and noted the location so we could find it upon return. Utah is amazing in that you can basically camp anywhere; we weren’t the only ones wild camping on the desert that night.

We headed back to the airport to preflight, and as I was untying the plane, a pilot pulled up in his car and asked if we were taking the plane across America—he’d seen a post about it online and recognized Old Rusty! We all had a pretty good laugh about it, and then both fired up and took off into the brilliant afternoon light. We plugged 123.45 into our radios and talked to each other throughout the flight—so fun!

We landed and were extremely fatigued at this point, so we headed back to camp, lit a fire and were asleep under the stars by midnight.

Flight Path

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