Mount Hood, OR.

By admin on August 5, 2010

The problem with flying from the Oregon Coast to the higher areas of high desert to the east is that you have to cross two ranges of mountains, the Coastal Range and the Cascades. This year the weather on the Coast has been pretty cloudy and foggy in the morning so an early departure time is not that easy to achieve. We planned on visiting the small town of Sisters to the east of Eugene and just on the east side of the Cascades, it’s been a favourite destination of ours ever since we first flew in there a few years ago. Crossing the Cascades during the heat of the day, especially with the 90 degree plus temperatures that are the norm in the Willamette Valley to the west of the Cascades and the high desert areas to the east, is not to be recommended so we decided to cross the Coastal Range and then stay the night camping at Mulino Airport just next to the foothills of Mount Hood. This would position us for a more reliable early morning crossing of the Cascades and for a flight past Mount Hood to have a close look at the giant (11,249ft Elevation).

Flying over the Willamette Valley.

Mulino is a great little airport to visit. It is in a scenic area, has a great approach over trees and a wide river, is nearly always quiet and has a great little cafe just outside the airport perimeter. The old FBO office building (the airport is no longer attended) is always open and has a coffee machine so you can make yourself a drink, a very clean toilet (always nice to find!) and loads of comfy chairs to sit on, relax and read the masses of aviation magazines available on the coffee table. AVGAS is reasonably priced as well.

Parked up at Mulino Airport.

On the flight across the Willamette Valley to Mulino there was a layer of brown stretching across the sky, this was smoke from far away forest fires that had been burning in Washington State and the west side of Idaho……or so we thought. There were a number of fires burning in the Valley, probably controlled burns of fields ready for the planting of new crop, it was boding well for our scenic flight the next day. After landing at Mulino we walked to the cafe for some food and I just so happened to take my GPS over to look at and to charge up using their power. After switching on the GPS and looking at the TFR data from the XM Weather feed I found out that the smoke we had seen had come from a large forest fire just to the south of Sisters at Rooster Rock and that a TFR was in place to allow fire fighting aircraft to tackle the blaze. Luckily the cafe has wi-fi so I was able to look at the FAA TFR web site for more details. The Eagle Airpark at Sisters was within the TFR zone so our plans for the next day were thrown away and a quick re-plan had to be made.

Starting the climb up to Mount Hood, leaving the Valley overcast behind us.

We departed at 6:30am in the morning from a runway covered by a low overcast. However to the east, where the foothills start to climb, there was a clearer patch of sky and we used this to climb up over the clouds to the clear sky which extended all the way to Idaho. At first you can only see the very top of Mount Hood as the Cascade foothills climb very sharply up to a level of 6,000ft. As always climbing into the early morning sunshine the way ahead was hazy but this would burn off very quickly as the heat was already beginning to build. We very quickly received a 15 knot tailwind which was a suprise as the air on the ground was still, as we reached our target height of 9,000ft the tailwind was at 25 knots. We had to adjust our plan slightly due to the wind as passing around Mount Hood to the north and east would have been a bumpy ordeal, by staying to the south we would avoid the lee side of the mountain and avoid a lot of the turbulance being generated by it. As well as haze and light cloud we could also make out fire smoke settling into valleys and drifting low across the ridges below us.

Mount Adams in the distance to the north.

Fire smoke mixed in with haze and light cloud. This smoke could have been from the Rooster Rock fire 70 miles to the south or the fires raging 100 miles to the north.

Mount Hood looking very impressive in amongst the cloud and haze.

Little rotor clouds being generated by the increasing wind.

The southwest side of Mount Hood. Mount Adams can just be see in the far background to the left.

The Mount Hood ski area which is located two thirds of the way up the south side was easily visible and looked fully operational even though it was now August with temperatures in the 90′s.

The south side of Mount Hood.

Close up of Mount Hood, the groomed ski area can be clearly seen on the middle left.

9,000ft up above the lower terrain to the south of Mount Hood.

Mount St Helens and Mount Adams to the north, and Mount Jefferson to the south were all clear. Looking down to the south we could clearly see the forest fire at Sisters and it’s smoke was travelling right up the eastern side of the Cascades to the great Columbia River. It looked pretty hazy and the smell of burning pine was in the air.

Mount Jefferson to the south of Mount Hood.

We left Mount Hood behind and turned to the south east towards the town of Madras, a reasonable sized farming town 30 miles to the east of Mount Jefferson. As we could not make it to Sisters we planned on getting to Madras Airport to see what other plan we could come up with. Visibility was reduced due to the fire smoke which was formed a thick layer at around 6,000ft, we would have to descend through this to get to Madras Airport.

Descending down the east slopes of the Cascades. You can clearly see (left to right) the Sister Mountains, Mount Washington and Three Fingered Jack. Black Butte is just off the picture on the far left.

Leaving Mount Hood behind us. The deep canyons with rivers running through them are typical of the landscape to the northwest of Madras. This is serious rattlesnake country!

Wide angle view looking south, hopefully giving an impression of what the landscape looks like in real life. The wall of fire smoke can be seen stretching across the horizon to the left, the Sister Mountains can be seen to the right. Madras lays behind and underneath the smoke.

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