Sunday, January 21, 2007

A winter tour of Alabama

I had the good fortune to ride with a very skilled student who was building hours for an Alaskan Seaplane job one December a few years back. He was already a fine seaplane pilot, so we decided to check out some of the state’s other lakes and rivers. We planned to start around 9 a.m., but frost on the wings kept us in for a bit. Eventually, we taxied the plane out into the sunny part of the lake to burn the frost off instead of waiting for hours for it to melt on its own. Sunshine has an amazing effect. It was gone in minutes, and it served to give the really cold engine time to warm up.

We flew from Lake Martin over to Lake Jordan on the Coosa River where we enjoyed a nice low level flight all the way up the river to Gadsden. It’s a wonderful way to see the state from 500 feet. We did splash and goes in each lake and many of the wider and safer river areas. The winter lack of folliage allowed us to see deep into the woods and revealed all kinds of interesting things along the way. The Coosa river is a bit murkier than Lake Martin; landings require a more careful fly-by to verify the depth of the water and the absence of floating or slightly submerged objects which can flip a seaplane.

From Gadsden we flew over to Lake Guntersville where we stopped for lunch after exploring the lake for a while. It was really nice to be inside the warmth of the restaurant at Covenant Cove Marina/Resort. It never really got much above freezing all day and the winds were 8-12 knots, a pretty intense wind chill for Alabama. We had a fine meal and headed home.

The next weekend we flew up the Tallapoosa river. We flew over Horseshoe Bend National Military Park and several very quaint small towns on the way. The Tallapoosa has some nice looking, easy rapids. A canoe or kayak trip may be in order in the spring. We flew up to Lake Wedowee, explored for an hour and did multiple landings.

Then we headed home for lunch at Sinclair’s restaurant on Lake Martin. It has nice seaplane access, with a nice sandy beach and good docks. They have some excellent specials on the weekends and the experience is almost always positive. We had planned on doing some more splash and goes on the lake, but a leaky prop seal made a visit from my mechanic necessary before much more flying could be done. We have a great state with some beautilul lakes and rivers. The unique view from the air is often breathtaking, always interesting