WINGS OVER THE OLD SPANISH TRAIL
By John Sedey, Trail Boss
Submitted By Lee C. Bowden, Owner/Pilot, Independence Municipal Airport (IIB)
The eight Iowa participants were: Rick and Sharon Hannen, Center Point, Cessna 182, N9361G; Chuck and Carol Wehage, Cedar Rapids, Bonanza, N8556R; Lee and Linda Bowden, Independence, Taylorcraft BC12D, N39911; and Lee and Mike Dudley, Raymond and Gilbertville, Cessna 172, N733FA .
Seventeen small airplanes and six automobiles carrying 47 members of the Historic Trail Flyers met in Santa Fe, New Mexico on September 23, 2005, for a reunion and to travel the Old Spanish Trail.
Our group had its beginnings in 1993, when we flew the Oregon Trail. For that flyover we had 42 aircraft and 90 persons starting in Independence, Missouri, and terminating in Independence, Oregon. The Old Spanish Trail flyover was our sixteenth trail air tour. Our members come from throughout the United States, with two of our members living in Canada. Generally, our aircraft have only one engine and from two to six seats. Our speeds range from 90 to 200 mph.
Saturday morning started with a chartered school bus to Abiquiu, New Mexico with the Old Spanish Trail Association’s, OSTA’s, Pat Kuhlhoff as our guide. After a one-hour drive, we stopped at Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu for rest and to place orders for lunch. This store is miles from the next one, and if they do not have it, chances are that you do not need it. Back in the bus we went to two spots selected by Pat where we put our feet to the trail. It was an awesome feeling to realize that more than a century ago mules, burros, and people walked on the spot where we were standing. They were making history and did not know it.
After lunch and more trail investigation, we returned to Santa Fe, New Mexico for rest and our first rendezvous dinner. This meeting is especially important because it is where the new members and “old timers” meet and find out about each other. At this meeting, Pat gave us a more in-depth vision of what lay ahead. Also, we were introduced to Sarah Schlanger of the Bureau of Land Management, BLM, who gave a slide presentation. After the meeting we retired for a good night’s sleep before hitting the trail for our next destination – Farmington, New Mexico near the four corners. As we deplaned here our feet actually hit the red carpet.
The weather the following morning was perfect – clear and cool with light winds. We flew past Los Alamos with its one-way runway next to the foot of the mountains. We departed to the north, flying over Abiquiu and the spot where we stood the previous day. Although we were flying at 10,000 feet MSL, we were not that high above the local terrain. (All flying altitudes are measured in feet from sea level and hence called “Mean Sea Level” or MSL.) The town and Georgia O’Keefe’s art center where we visited was plainly visible, as was Rio Chama Canyon with its imaginary pack train plodding along under the warm spring sun so many years ago.
At Farmington, New Mexico we bused to the Aztec Ruins. The village was not built by the Aztec, but was given its name long ago in error, and the name stuck. We now know it was the Anasazi, the local natives, who built it. After dinner we were honored with more presentations by OSTA’s Doug Knudson, and James Copeland of the BLM, with information unique to the area.
The next morning the weather continued to be fair; in fact, the weather all the way to Los Angeles was picture perfect. Our next stop was Page, Arizona, and the “Crossing of the Fathers.” We knew the crossing would not be visible, since construction of the Glen Canyon Dam had flooded the area. However, we were scheduled for a cruise on Lake Powell that got us close to the actual crossing area. The cruise up Antelope Canyon was a great diversion and enjoyed by all of us. Continuing the flight we went trough Monument Valley among the towering 1,000-foot monoliths and passed Goulding’s Resort where we motor-toured a few years back. What a different perspective from the air! That evening after dinner we were treated to another guest appearance by OSTA’s Paul Ostapuk, followed by another good night’s sleep to prepare for the next day’s departure to Las Vegas, Nevada.
The view of the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell behind, and the beginning of Marble Canyon and the Grand Canyon to the south was inspiring. Flight over the Grand Canyon requires special permission and flight at unusually high altitudes, so we stayed to the north of the park boundaries using GPS navigation to insure that we did not violate sacred air space. The regulation protects the solitude of those enjoying the depths of the canyon. Flying into Las Vegas, Nevada also has specific requirements necessitating special charts, radio, and radar contact with the controlling authorities.
The day in Las Vegas was a free day, planned so those who have never experienced the “Strip” would have a chance to try their luck. Early the next morning we were joined by OSTA’s Hal Steiner, and boarded a charter bus to view the Old Mormon Fort, Red Rock Canyon, and Blue Diamond, all the way to a point where the original trail abruptly ended because of extensive off-road vehicle operation. Hal did a great job of showing and explaining the trail sites west of Las Vegas, Nevada. There was a large demand for his book about the trail. We really enjoyed him.
Edwards Air Force Base lived up to all expectations. It is located on the Rogers Dry Lake bed in the great Mohave Desert of Southern California. We enjoyed both the outdoor and indoor displays of the modern jet aircraft and the famous retired aircraft of yesteryear. Some of the aircraft included: the space shuttle transport, B-1 Bomber, X-18, the flying bullet piloted by Chuck Yeager, the flying body, the critical wing, the fly-by-wire aircraft, and the lunar landing module.
Friday morning we flew to Lancaster, California. We boarded the Metro Link to downtown Los Angeles, California where the Union Station terminal is only an easy one-block walk to El Pueblo de Los Angeles that marks the official end of the Old Spanish Trail. I am hopeful that those who could not make the train trip will be able to do so in the future.
Our last evening was our traditional “Last Supper” where we discussed the fun we had in the past week, and planned for our next event. It was agreed that the next Historic Trail Flyers Air Tour would be the Chisholm Trail, the cattle drive trail, used in the mid-1800s from central Texas to the railhead at Abilene, Kansas. The time frame will be late September when the summer heat is on the wane and the air is smoother.
The Old Spanish Trail Air Tour was a wonderful event with a great group of people. We could not have done it without the quidance and help of OSTA. We offer our sincere gratitude to all we had contact with. We will certainly support your efforts whenever we can.