Motoring the Meteor
May 10, 2007 Flagstaff, AZ
Kirk Sellinger warned me: don't miss highway 89A from Sedona, it's
spectacular. Boy was he right.
Much of the drive is sufficiently open to keep the canyon's colorful
expanse well in view. There was only one slow switchback road and it rewarded
us with an incredible scenic overlook. Timing was perfect—the caretakers kept it open just enough for us to check out our
just-driven route from the ledge. Trees, trees everywhere! Neither Tim or
I wanted to fly that canyon—a motor out would have let us into the
It was too late to fly Flagstaff by the time we got there. Too windy
anyway and blowing the wrong direction. Plus the call of Chili's
restaurant was more than we could bare. After 3 days on PBJ sandwiches
and cereal bars, it was mighty fine.
Mike B., a world traveler if ever there was one, recently dove into
powered paragliding with a vengeance and had just finished another adventure
with several pilots in monument valley. He met up with Tim and I at Meteor
Crater. The original plan, to motor from the unpaved county road west of
the crater was traded for our overnight location just north of
I-40. It was fairly large, unused and offered a launch in any direction.
Shortly after sunrise we got set up and checked out the launch with
benefit of light. A decreasing wind was coming the
wrong way down an incline. A couple hundred yards upwind was a 5 foot
berm. I'd be ok with the Black Devil pushing my efficient Spice but Tim
didn't stand a chance with his Top 80 and Silex. I love that
combination, mind you, but not for an uphill launch at 6000 feet over an obstruction.
He elected not to try it.
Mike and I barely managed to clear everything then headed for the crater 6 miles south. It came into view
immediately after liftoff. I mean the thing perks up over a hundred feet
tall and nearly a mile across—it's pretty hard to miss.
What a view. It's nowhere near as spooky as the Maricopa Copper mine
near Phoenix but knowing the weird winds that curl around such
formations convinced us to mind our distance and altitude. It would have
been fun to soar the rim but, alas, mine aren't big enough.
It was scary thinking about what caused this crater so many years ago. If it
happened today, it would devastate several thousand square miles
As usual the air up high was smooth but, on the way back, I couldn't
resist the road. Up high was a headwind, down low was the road. The foot-draggable
and barely used road. It would soon fill with crater-bound tourists, but not yet. Foot dragging is a challenge when it's bumpy
because a down bump puts your feet down hard on the pavement if you
don't manage the brakes and power. Fortunately, you can almost always
run. That's why I only do this upwind.
Upon our return Mike landed but I had a lot more fuel and interesting
terrain sprouted just east of our launch. It was fun exploring that
terrain, too, although it obviously didn't compare to the crater.
This wound up being the final flight of the trip. A forecast strong wind
came in with vengeance that afternoon and we headed for Albuquerque after
visiting the Meteor Crater Museum—a worthwhile jaunt.
My biggest regret is that we never made it to Albuquerque as planned.
Apparently we missed a good party. But I'll be spending a lot of time
there in June so that eases some pain.
This trip was among my favorite. Mostly because of the loose
agenda and minimal driving. Five days with 8 road hours and lots of
flying. That's relaxing
Below are some highlights of the trip including the hike in Sedona, the
scenic overlook and a visit Meteor Crater's museum.
Top: The hike. What started out as an easy 2 hour trek turned
into a 4 hour burden. The first 3 hours were great, though. What's
with the piled up rocks? The ones where we're laying on the ledge is
just over the cliff where we stopped on our way to Flagstaff Middle
pictures: Meteor Crater was cool. We flew it in the morning then
went to visit it in the afternoon. In the gift shop I saw a sign that
said "Please pick up," kind of like the sign above that said "please
touch" on the big crater chunk. Not so, it actually said "Please don't
pick up." The shop keeper was very nice about it.
Also check out
Mike's Meteor Crater Pics