Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Katmais And Cubs: A Desert Adventure
Two superb backcountry aircraft take on the Utah Canyonlands
A short hike from the airstrip reveals the ruins of cliff dwellings built here by the Anasazi Indians some 900 years ago. Standing on the opposite ledge, we each admire the ruins across the precipice and wonder who these people were, living in this harsh but breathtaking environment. As quickly as we came, we're off to Monument Valley.
The key to the Katmai conversion is the canard concept. A canard is a small horizontal surface (or "foreplane") attached ahead of the main wing, on the nose. A mini-horizontal stabilizer, the canard has a moveable "elevator" section that deflects seven degrees downward at full aft yoke and roughly one degree up when the yoke is forward. The net effect is super-enhanced pitch authority and stunning slow-speed performance, allowing for nearly flat attitudes at extremely low speeds. It makes getting into and out of these remote strips safer.
With hot midday temperatures, the density altitude at Happy Canyon (elevation 4,934 feet) reached nearly 9,000 feet.
I'm filled with a sense of humility as I survey the desert below. Peterson and I discuss the contrast between the hardships the Mormon pioneers faced when settling this land, and how we glide above it, listening to music in comfort, watching the miles tick away at 140 knots. Only in a small aircraft can we experience the contrasts here.
Back at Moab, we park the Katmai with the sun low behind us. We're tired, thirsty and sunburned. Each of us carries the treasures of the day not in our pockets, but in our memories. We haven't so much conquered this land as we've been guests of it; this living desert allowing us a glimpse from a magic carpet that few will ever experience. With all of us smiling through the red dust that covers us, I'm assured that adventure still lives.
Page 4 of 8