I wanted to take one more camping trip this year before it got too cold. After all in the plane so this seemed like the best time to go. I put out the word on another forum I belong to and asked if there were any takers in my neck of the woods for a camping trip to Gravelly Valley (1Q5). A friend of mine from EAA Chapter 90,Mike, and also a friend from the other forum, Joey, decided they wanted to go too.
Gravelly Valley Airport (1Q5)
Columbia Airport (O22)
So we decided to head up there this past Saturday. The plan was to meet up enroute to Gravelly Valley over Clear Lake. However, a thick marine layer was covering the hills we needed to get to. Joey and I decided to head for our alternate of Columbia (O22). I tried to get hold of Mike but he had already departed. I hung out at my airport for a few hours while getting text updates from Joey that it was looking more and more like we would head to our alternate. Finally I got a phone call from Mike who had flown all the way up to Gravelly and confirmed that it was socked in. Since Mike and his son had their heart set on fishing they headed south toward Lake Isabella. Joey, my son Scotty and I, headed up to Columbia.
Columbia has two runways, a paved runway and a grass runway. The campground is located next to the grass runway. I got up there about an hour before Joey arrived so I set my camp up. Since I had forgotten my tiedowns I had to park closer toward the paved runway. I hung out along the runway and watched landings until Joey arrived.
After Joey had set up camp we took a walk into town. Columbia is an old preserved mining town and a state park. Actors in period costume stroll the streets, you can ride a stagecoach, pan for gold, or like the three of us, eat. Most of the restaurants in the park are a little spendy so we walked one block out of the park and ate at El Jardin, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants.
After dinner we hiked back to the airport along the nature trail that runs between town and the airport. Joey went out for a quick 30 minute sunset flight. I stayed in my chair along the runway and smoked my pipe. Joey landed and after admiring the sunset we went and talked to our neighbors, a FA-18 pilot on leave. He’s normally flying off the USS Ronald Reagan. Nice guy. By then the sky was black, full of stars, and all of us were sleepy.
The next morning we packed up and took off on the grass runway, and then dove over the ridge into the ravine that leads to New Melones Resevoir. After Joey found me we circled round, flew through the "star wars trench", a huge spillway that protects the New Melones Dam. Then Joey took some air to air shots of my plane as we flew down river toward Oakdale. The plan was for my to offload my gear and then continue on with him to a fly-in at Rio Vista. However, my son, who is a special needs guy, had enough. He was ready to head home. So as Joey headed skyward again, Scotty and I drove on in to town and to the local IHOP.
It was a short trip by air, but still a lot of fun for my son and for myself too of course!