Saturday 8/5/23 marked a somewhat odd change in our weather pattern. All week we have had some to a few clouds in the morning with mostly clear skies in the afternoon and temperatures mostly in the high 70's, with a few low 80's. I expected that to last through the weekend, but it didn't.
There was a system coming in from the southeast bringing with it some moisture and thunder storms, but the moisture was mostly all upper level, probably very little of it making its way to the ground. Animating the radar image this morning showed the counter clockwise rotation of the system. While we didn't get any moisture out of this, we did get some upper level clouds and worse, smoke.
The upper level (above 12,000') clouds aren't really a problem as they don't get in the way and they tend to moderate the temperatures, the bad thing is that they also tend to make the air more humid. All of this I could live with, but the smoke making its way from the brown side of the mountains was not at all a good thing. Fortunately, on the ground, it isn't really noticeable, but I did notice a smoky haze around the tops of the mountains as I drove to the airport.
Carl was still having airplane issues, so I was on my own again. I didn't really know where I wanted to go, but I heard from Frank that today, this weekend actually, was the fly-in at Eastsound on Orcas Island. I had been to that one in the past and it was fun, but I wasn't too interested today. For starters, to get a good parking spot I would have wanted to leave earlier. The last time I was there, I was in the Sportsman in 2016 (video here), and parking it in the rough was a lot easier and I didn't mind parking it in the boonies. The high wing and struts to push on make the parking task much easier.
Not knowing what the plan for the day was going to be, I stopped at Safeway on the way to the airport to get a sandwich and things for lunch. One of the possibilities I had thought of was to go to Hoquiam and bring my lunch to eat by the airplane then go do the bird walk. The main drawback to this plan is that they no longer have a picnic table, or really any place to sit around there, so I would have to bring my own chair. This is no big problem, but I have to move things around in the airplane to get it to fit and then remember to load both the chair and the cooler in the airplane. This is where the plan sometimes fall apart.
I had also thought that maybe I would go fly over Orcas and if it didn't look too bad land and have my lunch there, but that had the risk that if I didn't feel like landing, I didn't know what I would do for lunch. In the end, since it was nigh on to lunch time anyway when I was trying to figure all this out, I opted to choke down my sandwich before I left.
I decided that I would go up to Orcas and see what the fly-in looked like. From there, I figured I'd just wing it (see what I did there?). I took off and leveled off at 4,500' for the trip to the islands to get a decent view with the thought that I would eventually go higher. At 4,500' the visibility wasn't too bad, but smoke and haze were definitely detectable. As I got up in the vicinity of Skagit Bayview, I looked to the valley that led to Concrete and there was very visible smoke hanging out in the valleys.
Once I got home, I saw on ForeFlight that there is a TFR for the Ross Lake area. That is undoubtedly where this smoke is coming from.
The other thing that I noticed was that the outside air temperature (OAT) at 4,500' was a lot higher than I expected. I didn't notice the OAT at first. The first thing I noticed was that my oil temperature was higher than I expected, 191 degrees. At the top of the climb, it was at about 188. Under most circumstances, when I level out in cruise, the oil temperature goes down, at least some. This time, it kept going up after getting into cruise. I kept an eye on it, but it didn't go above 191. On my AV-30 I was showing an OAT of 79 degrees. It seems that my OAT readings are a bit high in warmer air, though they seem more reasonable in cooler air, so the actual OAT was probably more like 73-75. Not bad, but not as good as I would have liked.
Once past Skagit I turned to the west heading toward Orcas Island. There was still a lot of haze visible, but what really got my attention was how bumpy it was getting. From a little south of Orcas Island, all the way around, it was really pretty bumpy, enough that I considered slowing down, but I didn't. I kept thinking it would go away soon.
As I got around the north edge of Orcas Island I noticed 2 things: first, that there were a lot of boats at Sucia Island, but not as many as I had seen there before, and second that there didn't seem to be that much going on at Eastsound. Sure, there were more airplanes there than a usual Saturday, but not at all like what used to be there in years past. In fact, there were still some good parking spots available, which indicated to me that not a lot was going on. On the one hand, I'm glad that they got the fly-in going again, but on the other, it didn't look there was enough going on to get excited about.
The year that I was there last there were airplanes parked in the grass along most of the length of the taxiway. I was parked near the north end (bottom of the photo above) of the field almost all the way to the marina that is visible in the lower left of the above photo. The grass area on the left near mid-field is the typical camping area and some people come in on Friday night and camp all weekend. That makes absolutely no sense to me as the camping gene is obviously recessive in me.
From Orcas I took a turn toward Friday Harbor and figured I would loop around there and head back to the mainland and maybe do the Concrete-Darrington loop. It was still pretty bumpy here so I didn't want to dawdle over the islands. I did notice that there were an awful lot of airplanes on the ground at Friday Harbor.
Once past Friday Harbor I started a climb to 7,500'. I was hoping for cooler air and hopefully also smoother air. The cooler I got, the smoother, not so much.
When I got to about Anacortes, I looked over toward Mt. Baker and it was barely visible through all the smoke and haze.
As I got further east past Skagit, the mountain became a lot clearer. There must have been a layer of something between me and the mountain. The good news is that once I got back to the mainland, the air got much smoother.
I figured that I should try to make a turn around the mountain since I hadn't been up there in quite a while. One thing that goes along with this weather pattern is that the winds are fairly light. I took a look at the winds aloft forecast and it looked like winds were supposed to be reasonable until later in the afternoon so I cautiously approached the peak.
As I neared the mountain I climbed from 7,500' to 9,500'. The summit is at about 10,800'. I went around the mountain between 9,500' and 9,800'. There were a few bumps, but not too bad. As I came around the north face of the mountain and was looking east, it got a little disconcerting because there was not much of the world visible in that direction.
As I headed back to Arlington, or what I thought was back to Arlington, I looked down at my iPad and it looked like I was heading towards Bellingham. That didn't make sense. It turned out that the body of water that I thought was Port Susan was actually Bellingham Bay. What would we do without GPS? With the reduced visibility, it was harder to tell where I was going.
It took a long time to get down from that altitude, so I had to fly out over Port Susan to continue my descent. Fortunately there wasn't too much traffic at Arlington and I had a pretty easy time getting in.
One thing I noticed on base leg was that there are a whole lot of Amazon trailers parked outside the Amazon warehouse that hasn't opened yet. It looks like they may be in the process of filling it up and getting ready to open it. I'm not sure how I feel about that, that is going to add a tremendous amount of traffic to a system of roads that can't handle the traffic it has now.
With the previously mentioned relative lack of wind, a decent landing was almost assured, so fortunately I made one.
I noticed when I took off that some less than customer service minded individual had decided to park a jet right smack in the middle of the AFS ramp. It wasn't completely blocking the pumps, but it certainly didn't add anything to their utility.
I was hoping to get gas before I put the airplane away, but that proved to be problematic. I noticed that Ted's airplane was there, but it was pushed back in the grass and not really in front of the pumps. There was a twin blocking Carl's spot, that I was planning on using, and a C-150 that was just kind of there. There was no room at the inn and I didn't want to wait, so I just put the airplane away.
After I put the airplane away as I was removing the wing camera I noticed a coating of ash on the leading edges of the wings. It wasn't as thick as I have seen in the past, but it was definitely there. I noticed as I was descending from Mt. Baker that as I passed through about 6,000' I could really smell the smoke. When I got below about 4,000' I didn't smell the smoke any more and I could see a whole lot farther. So while it wasn't great, if this is the worst that our smoke life gets this year, I would be pretty happy.
Once again, it was most definitely better than not flying even though it wasn't what I was hoping for.
The track log can be found here.
The video can be seen here.