I’ve made it to the furthest west point of my journey, and will be spending the next week or so with Jerry and Barbara Friedman here in Fruita, Colorado.

Today’s weather was nearly perfect for the last leg of my outbound trip. Santa Fe had clear, cloudless skies and nearly no wind when I arrived before eight this morning.

I dropped off the rental car, preflighted 493, and started the engine. Got the ATIS information, set the radios, gave it some throttle.  The airplane refused to move. Shut down the engine and checked the tail – no, I’d untied the rope back there – checked the tires – chocks sitting next to the left wheel where I’d kicked them, no chocks on the right wheel – parking brake not set. Restarted the engine, gave it some throttle – still no motion. Shut down the engine. Got out and looked at the airplane. Dope slap. Kick chocks out from nose wheel (note to self – airplanes have three wheels, got to check all of them). Restarted engine and after the usual stuff (runup, etc.) taxied out to Runway 33 for takeoff.

The direct route northward from Santa Fe is blocked by higher terrain, so I headed west to clear the ridge before turning northwestward. CABZO intersection provided a convenient waypoint. The countryside is basically desert, with ridges and dry riverbeds to add a bit of interest.

After a while we passed south of the ridgeline, and turned northwest toward Rattlesnake VOR (RSK). The ridge continued higher and parallel to our course to the east. The local communications companies were taking full advantage of the heights…

Between CABZO and RSK the desert is pretty flat, but occasionally mesas poke up above the desert floor.

From Rattlesnake VOR the direct course would have been to the Cortez VOR (CEZ), but that would have taken us directly over the Mesa Verde National Park. I decided to divert east a bit to the MANCA intersection (near Mancos, CO) to avoid the park. The FAA requests pilots to stay at least 2,000 AGL over national parks and the like, but it’s probably better to avoid them entirely if it’s not too much out of the way.  Even from the edges of Mesa Verde you can see why the Anasazi found the canyons such a good place to build their secluded and defensible cliff dwellings.

The next waypoint was Dove Creek VOR (DVC), and from there you can see the mountains you’ll have to climb over and/or go around on the way to Mack Mesa (C07), our destination.


I started to climb to 10,200 feet and headed northeastward toward Gateway (9CO3). That altitude would get me over the high plateau (though still well below the peaks). It also kept me in contact with Denver Center – unlike my last trip, this time my higher altitude (I was at 9,700 feet most of the way from RSK) and more easterly path (last time I went westerly through Canyonlands) meant that I had advisories nearly the whole way. It was only after I approached Gateway that I finally dropped off the radar, and by then I was only 40 miles out from Mack.

Gateway sits in a valley surrounded by very steep cliffs, which are really spectacular from the air.

Once I was over the valley, I could follow it northwest for 20 miles to the Colorado River, and then I just needed to follow the river to Mack. So, here it is – the River of the Day – the mighty Colorado on the Utah border.

From this point, Mack is 25 miles northeast. Fifteen minutes later, I was landing on Runway 25 at Mack, and Jerry was waiting outside his new hangar. The 172 was pushed into the hangar – it fit, barely, with about a foot’s clearance from each wingtip – and my flying was over for the next week.

The trip out went very well, and I’m looking forward to heading back next Monday or thereabouts. Watch this space for the news as Jerry and I head back…

Update: I added up the various legs of the trip, and the journey out took about 27 hours for 2500 miles. For reference, the great circle route from Ithaca to Fruita is about 1500 miles, so I added about 1,000 miles by choosing the southern route through Dallas (and, of course, going from Denver to Fruita by way of Santa Fe).


2 thoughts on “Day 7 – Santa Fe to Fruita, Colorado

  1. Mike,
    I really enjoyed your reports on your flight to CO. It was like “Flight of Passage”, but for adults.
    I especially like your honesty, admitting to a couple of minor fauxpas. This should inspire some others to properly plan the flight, do it all safely, expect some diversions, but mainly “Go”. Looking forward to your powerpoint presentation to the Club (which I hope you do), upon your return.
    Thank you. Safe return.
    Mario Tomei

  2. I do plan to do a presentation at some point – I’ll have to edit the thousand-plus pictures I’ve taken first, of course…


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