So this recent story from the National Parks Traveler website made my heart sing....
A group of feral burros inadvertently saved the life of a hiker lost in Death Valley National Park by leading him to water.
Park officials said the unidentified man set out for a hike on May 5 at Saline Valley Dunes, an area in the northwestern corner of the park that you need a four-wheel-drive rig to reach. Four days later, rangers received word that a white pickup truck had been parked there for several days.
"Rangers searched the area on Sunday but were unable to locate anyone associated with the truck. Through investigation, they determined that it had been rented by a single person and had not been returned by the rental contract’s termination date," noted District Ranger J.D. Updegraff. "On Monday, the Beverly Hills Police Department checked at the man’s home and confirmed that he was overdue and a search was begun."
This past Tuesday, around 10 a.m., the man was found roughly five miles from his vehicle and to the east of the dune complex.
"The man reportedly set out alone for a day hike on the morning of Tuesday, May 5th, and became disoriented. Unable to find his way back to his vehicle, he followed a group of burros to a watering hole where he subsisted until rescue arrived," the district ranger reported. "The man was transported to Northern Inyo Hospital where he is being treated for second degree sunburn and a rhabdomyolysis," a disease in which muscles breakdown.
Thanks to Paul H. for sending this to us:
For Immediate Release
U.S. Pilot’s Aviation Nightmare in Mexico
Think Twice About Flying Your Plane to Mexico
The press release on Mexico's extreme treatment of a private pilot in Cancun has identified even more concerns about Flying to Mexico. But first the specifics of the C210 incident.
The pilot was cleared to land at Cancun Feb 27 and the plane was immediately impounded and held until March 6. He and his wife arrived Cancun from a two night visit to Belize following a Fly In to Guatemala with Caribbean Flying Adventures.
There is a 2008 Mexican Civil Aviation (DGAC) regulation requiring aircraft arriving Mexico airports from other than the U.S. to land at Tapachula in the southwest or at Cozumel. Unfortunately, this restriction is not posted as a NOTAM. The average GA pilot would not have a clue as to its existence and would not even think to look for it beyond checking NOTAMS for Cancun airport which is listed in all directories as an airport of entry. The C210 pilot checked NOTAMS, filed a Mexican APIS, filed an international IFR flight and was in constant radio communication with ATC including Cancun approach and Cancun tower.
DGAC knew the aircraft was arriving from the south and nevertheless cleared it to land. It then immediately impounded the aircraft and kept the pilot waiting for six days before making him pay a $1,000 fine. The only aircraft authorized to land at Cancun from the south are those carrying very senior Mexican government officials and diplomatic flights with very senior officials from other countries. The other 99% of the flights from the south must land at Cozumel. It remains inexcusable that Mexican Civil Aviation chooses to clear the 99% to land - knowing that they are arriving from the south - and then immediately impounds the aircraft and threatens the pilot with fines up to $25,000.
Caribbean Flying Adventures (CFA) has made two requests to the Mexican DGAC: 1) please publish a NOTAM for Cancun instructing pilots to land at Cozumel when arriving from other than the U.S., and 2) instruct Cancun approach and tower to notify aircraft coming from the south to land at Cozumel. These two actions would easily prevent future incidents. When the C210 arrived on Feb 27 it was one of two planes in the same predicament. The C210 was not an isolated incident. How many more unsuspecting private pilots wishing to spend their tourism dollars in Mexico must be put through this same nightmare? Obviously, there is a critical need for a NOTAM. Mexico's Civil Aviation Authority has refused both requests.
Hopefully, those with an interest in advocating for U.S. private pilots will encourage the Mexican Civil Aviation authority to issue a NOTAM at Cancun.
Send an email, if you like, to the following DGAC officials suggesting that their harsh treatment of private pilots is discouraging private aviation tourism to Mexico and would they please publish a NOTAM for Cancun regarding arrivals from the south. Would they also please instruct their officials at the major airports of entry to follow existing regulations consistently and welcome private aviation tourism with open arms instead of open palms: Enrique Moreno Navarro firstname.lastname@example.org and Guillermo Alberto Magana Hernandez email@example.com
Caribbean Flying Adventures recommends that private pilots with limited international experience who are used to landing in the Bahamas and clearing customs in 10 minutes not fly their aircraft to Mexico. There are simply too many hassles and potential pit falls. To mention a few . . .
1) a recent aircraft was cleared for takeoff but was escorted back to the terminal by police vehicles because Mexican authorities had made a $3 mistake with the airport fees. He paid the $3 and was then charged another $100 ramp fee; 2) last year CFA obtained a multiple entry permit coming from the north and was forced by Cozumel to buy another multiple entry permit coming from the south; 3) Chetumal (MMCM) insists on making payment with credit cards for airport fee and charges $95 for a multiple entry permit - Cozumel insists on paying with dollars and charges $140 for a multiple entry permit; 4) Cozumel does not require immigration forms or passenger departure taxes for a fuel stop (as is the internationally accepted rule for "technical" fuel stops) - Cancun and Chetumal insist on immigration forms and collecting passenger taxes for a fuel stop; 5) a fuel stop in Cozumel takes approximately 90 minutes - in Chetumal, 3 aircraft spent 2.5 hours for a fuel stop in February; 6) a private pilot last year was invited to the Commandante's office at Cancun and invited to pay a $100 fee to expedite his airport experience; 7) Mexican regulations for the new APIS remain unclear. Currently, Mexico does not respond to APIS submissions so the pilot is completely exposed should some local official decide to create a problem; 8) Mexican management of the now strictly enforced overflight permits and fees are unreliable. There have been instances in the past six months where highly experienced pilots whose overflight fees have been paid have been turned back at the boundary for lack of payment!
To repeat, for those pilots accustomed to flying to the Caribbean islands with a flight plan and few General Declaration forms and clearing customs in in 10 minutes, Mexico may not be a good choice for a you and your aircraft. Unless your Spanish language skills are passable and you are comfortable "tipping" officials to resolve " problems" you should think twice about flying your plane to Mexico.
Mexico is a great tourist destination generally but Mexican airports and local Civil Aviation authorities seem to operate on whims. On the other hand, the Baha side of Mexico is much more inviting and less problematic than the east. And of course when Flying with an experienced tour operator such as the Baha Bush Pilots, there are no worries at all.
Communicating in English is problematic and the entry and departure procedures are overwhelmingly bureaucratic. Go if you are confident or are flying with the Baha Bush Pilots. Otherwise, fly your plane to tropical destinations where you are welcome and safe.
President and Pilot
Many of you know Kathie and Mark Cassidy from former trips. Kathie has become the premier National Park junkie, even creating a Facebook profile for her alter ego, Ranger Kathie. Every time these guys visit another Park, they always take the time to buy a postcard, date stamp it at a Visitor Center, and mail it off to Cat Herder. Here's their latest National Parks passport stamp!
Sorry folks, American Samoa is probably a little too far to include on a future trip itinerary!
Received this advice from Leslie Howell.
A Pilot Father's Tough Love
Most people today think it improper to discipline children, so I have tried other methods to control my kids when they have had one of 'those moments.'
Since I'm a pilot, one method that I have found very effective is for me to just take the child for a short flight during which I say nothing and give the child the opportunity to reflect on his or her behavior.
I don't know whether it's the steady vibration from the engines, or just the time away from any distractions such as TV, video games, computer, iPod, etc.
Either way, my kids usually calm down and stop misbehaving after our flight together. I believe that eye to eye contact during these sessions is an important element in achieving the desired results.
I've included a photo below of one of my sessions with my son, in case you would like to use the technique...
Should work with grandkids also.
Cat Herder and Collin helped launched 78 dog teams out the chutes for Iditarod 2015. These amazing racers have to cover 1000 miles through the Alaskan wilderness en route to Nome. It was an exciting, cold and tiring experience. These dogs are uber athletes and pull HARD. All they want once they get hitched up is to run, so it takes a lot of work (and several handlers per team) to keep a team of 16 dogs restrained. We were lucky enough to be placed with 4 different teams, including Dan Kruse's high school buddy, Jim Lanier. He was a bit too focused and distracted by last-minute prep for me to introduce ourselves, but it was cool to have the connection.
A variety of security concerns caused us to cancel the Beyond the Border tour to Mexico. Among other things, Cat Herder was looking forward to checking in on the Monarch butterflies, still an imperiled species that tenuously hangs on to its dwindling population and changing migration patterns. Just one cause of concern is the continued, illegal logging in the sanctuaries located in Mexico. You can read the transcript from a recent public radio story here.
So instead of flying towards Mexico's warm weather and blue skies, we remained in Alaska, and played host and tour guide to two Parkwest friends: Mike and Ginny. While it may seem contrary to travel to Fairbanks in February, this time of year in the Last Frontier is replete with activities, like the Fur Rendezvous winter carnival, International Ice Carving competition and, most importantly, fabulous skies for viewing the Aurora Borealis. The beauty of the snowy Alaska Range and Denali didn't disappoint, either.
We learned to drive dog sleds, toured the wilderness on snow machine, laughed our way through Improv comedy night, boogied down at the Jim Beam Country Jam, watched Outhouse Races in the streets of Anchorage, and enjoyed a dinner of moose and caribou, cooked by Cat Herder herself. It was a full week, akin to any Parkwest tour schedule.
Just a few snaps of our time together are below.
After a decade of work by locals, regional businesses and up through Congressional channels, Browns Canyon has been granted National Monument status by President Barak Obama. Parkwest gets to boast another NP overflight this fall on its Fall Migration tour, which just so happened to be overflying this very spot!
Some of you might remember this! Yes, Parkwest pilot Bill Bernard, in addition to celebrating 50 years of flying, asked the girl of his dreams to marry him on a Parkwest tour back in 2012. We have enjoyed so many flying adventures with Bill in his self-built Tailwind and, in the latter years, Bill and Mary in the Cutlass.
Bill tells me that May 8 will be the big day, and we couldn't be happier for them both! (Though, I hope by now he's replaced Mary's duct tape engagement ring!)
For clarity purposes, this was a re-enactment photo. He didn't actually propose in front of a camera-wielding tour guide! He's got more class than that, duct tape engagement ring notwithstanding.
I've seen Grand Canyon National Park countless times--from the air looking down, from the rim looking across, eight days on the river looking up. But never before have I seen anything like this cloud inversion, and the video captures it well. As one comment describes, it's like watching the Canyon breathing.
Thanks to Parkwest pilot Dirk Kruse (aka Alpha) in Germany for sending this link!
Cat Herder (aka Marisa) has been guiding pilot tours in the American West for over a dozen years. Keep tabs on your Parkwest pilot friends, National Park news and other tidbits here!