Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Flight to Vale, Oregon

Near the Eastern Border of Oregon is a small rural town with a lot of character.  Vale, Oregon has a population of about 1,800 and a few of those folks must be really good Artists!  Many of the buildings in downtown Vale have beautifully painted murals on the sides of the historic buildings celebrating the grit and determination of the Pioneers that braved the Oregon Trail when settling the West.

Vale is only 39 miles as the crow flies from where our airplanes are based in Nampa, Idaho.
Vale, Oregon is only 39 miles from Nampa, Idaho.
Not even far enough away to count as an "Official" +50mile Cross Country Flight

I was surprised to find that Vale also has a really nice runway facility.  The main runway in Vale is a nice paved runway.  The “U.S. Chart Supplement”…Formerly the “Airport /Facility Directory” (A/FD) shows the runway as 3,872’ long by 65’ wide.  The name of the facility is Miller Memorial Airpark.

Miller Memorial Airpark - Vale, Oregon

I decided to fly over and check it out since I had never flown into Vale before.  I grabbed a bag with my running shoes and some running clothes and headed out for an adventure.  From looking at some maps it looked like the downtown area was easily within running distance and I was feeling like I needed some exercise anyway.

On the way over I would be passing over many other familiar airports in the area so there are lots of places to land in-case of an emergency.  The route took me directly over Greenleaf Air Ranch which looks like a really nice runway but isn’t shown on the current sectional charts.  Greenleaf Air Ranch

Aerial View of Greenleaf Air Ranch 1/10/2018
The main runway at Vale is 36/18.  There is also a dirt runway that crosses 36/18 but I walked that runway and it was pretty soft and muddy this time of year in January.

Aerial View of the Runway Environment - Notice the Malheur River just to the East of the Runway.

Once arriving in the Airspace around Vale I noticed a lot of birds in the area so I had a real watchful eye out for avoiding any close encounters with our feathery friends.  It also looks like there could be deer or other animals grazing in the area surrounding the airstrip so I decided to do a couple low passes to make sure no animals were going to dart out in front of me on landing.

Once on the ground I decided to taxi over and park next to some other airplanes on the ramp and that turned out to be a really bad idea.

Airplanes parked at Vale, Oregon
As I got closer to the other airplanes I noticed that maybe they hadn't been flown in a while...maybe in a LONG while.  Not only that, but they were parked in mud.  The gravel surface actually looked pretty good even though it was wet, but it was very deceiving.  The gravel was like the hard coating on a good Creme Brulee.  It was hard on top but there was a soft gooey mud under the gravel.  As I slowed down I could feel my tires slowly sinking into the mud.

It took me about a half an hour of pushing on the wing struts and rocking the plane back and forth to get the airplane back onto somewhat solid ground.  After that I was able to taxi over to this small island of concrete that was safe from the Creme Brulee Mud of Despair.

An Island of Dry Ground!

After getting the plane safely to the concrete island I explored the airport a bit.  It looked like someone else had the same fate and then had devised a system of staying above the muddy mess below the gravel surface using expanded metal catwalk material to support the tires of their airplane.

The other airplanes were not so fortunate.

I have no idea what this airplane is.  It looks like a hombuilt.  It has Flaperons like a Kitfox which is pretty cool but it has very odd proportions.  It does say it has a Lycoming Engine.  If anyone knows what this plane is, please add to the comments below.  I looked it up on the FAA registry and it is listed as a Vulch-Air which I thought was a pretty clever name!

This is a 1946 Luscomb.
Seeing these abandoned airplanes always makes me wonder what the back story is behind them.
It also makes me wonder if they will ever fly again.

After exploring the airport it was time to put on my running shoes and head into town.  On the way I saw some funny goats and sheep and horses.  Being in rural areas like this always reminds me of being a kid.
These Black & White Goats on Logs are so Funny!

This horse looks just like my horse named "Banner" that I had when I was growing up.
I ran across this little creek called "Bully Creek" that empties into the Malheur River.

Bully Creek - A Tributary of the Malheur River

Vale has some beautiful Architecture as well as the artistic murals that adorn the towns buildings.  I particularly liked that there are so many different styles of architecture styles for a small town.  From the indigenous stone building vernacular homes and historic buildings to international style civic buildings such as the Malheur county courthouse. I even spotted a really cool mid-century modern home on my run into town.

Rinehart's Stone House and Stagecoach Inn

Malheur County Courthouse - International Style

Stone House built with Indigenous Stone collected from the surrounding area.

This building in downtown Vale, Oregon reminds me of buildings in Chicago that were designed by Burnham & Root in the late 1800's and those of the "Chicago School of Architecture".  Although not as extravagant it does remind me of the Auditorium Building in Chicago designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler.
Auditorium Building - Chicago, Illinois
I wonder who designed this building?

This building reminds me of a very simple example of  Romanesque Revival style.  One thing that I noticed was that the lower arch above the door doesn't match the radius of the other two arches over the windows creating an interesting non-symmetry to the buildings facade.  The stone detailing on this building is amazing! 

Ornament Carved in Stone on a Historic Building in Vale, Oregon

A Very Cool Mid-Century Residence in Vale, Oregon

...and here are some photographs of some of the beautiful murals in town.  You really need to see them in real-life to appreciate the detail of many of these paintings.

The Escort
Artists: Don Prechtel and R.E. Pierce

"As settlers move West, the United States built Army outposts to provide protection.  When mining flourished, the federal government provided military escorts for precious ore shipments and payrolls.  The Army built military roads through the area, often following existing trails established by wildlife, Native Americans and early emigrants.  Many of our modern roads evolved from these military roads. 

"Our camp this night was on the Malheur Creek, a stream about two rods wide at the crossing.  Here we found a rock bottom with springs of hot water boiling up in the bottom of the ford.  At this place there is a large butte of red lava that looks like it had not got cool yet, and one would hardly suppose that it had, from the number of hot springs along its base.  The grass is here good, but the water rather warm.

"Still exciting after all these years!!"

"Dear Helen,
Hope you're getting settled in since being stations in North Africa.  There you are patching up soldiers and I guess Warner is in Iceland building runways.  Wanted to send you a postcard from Vale.  On the fourth of July I went to town with Emil to the rodeo.  Say, one cowboy darn ner got bucked to the moon!
All is good here on the farm.  Boy, believe me it's been really hot here.  105°.
Keep your head down!  Love, Benny

After visiting downtown I headed back to the airport.  The airplane was still safely on the concrete pad so I started up the engine and headed back to Nampa.  After a few touch and goes and making sure the traffic pattern was clear of other aircraft both visually and verbally on the CTAF I did a practice spiral 360 to landing with minimum power to simulate an emergency.  I think it is always good to practice these types of maneuvers in a controlled environment so you are prepared if it happens in an emergency situation.  It is also good practice so that you have an idea of how far you can glide and not over-glide or out-glide your landing area.  It is a bit of a balancing act to manage the energy of the airplane so that you have just the right amount of energy to put the airplane down where you want to.  I also thought it would be kinda fun to do a 360 degree spiral to landing since the runway heading is at 360 :)....A 360 to Runway 360!

It was really relaxing to pull the power back and do a shallow gliding spiral down to the runway.  Here is a video of the spiral approach and landing.  The sun was getting low on the horizon and casting this beautiful light on the surrounding area too.

Along the way home the sun began to set and it was another spectacular sunset from the air.

I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing sunsets reflecting on the wings of an airplane!

~Tad Jones

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