Sunday, February 21, 2010
ANZA-BORREGO'S MIGHTY MOUSE PILOT & SURPRISE VISITORS IN THE AFTERNOON
KELLY McCAGUE.... HER AIRPLANE & HER HANGAR
After today's 'Tailgate Tour' at the Borrego Airport with California's only State Park pilot, Kelly McCague, I felt I had just met a real life 'Mighty Mouse!!' This little lady is a prime example of a sure fire modern day multi-tasker. Kelly is a full blown State Park ranger complete with a gun, nightstick, & a bullet proof vest she sometimes has to sit on. (more about that later) And, she carries whatever else peace officers may need in the line of duty. I think what makes Kelly special is her pilot's license, her 5 foot something frame, her big friendly personality, & the fact she truly loves her job.
We went to bed last night with the wind & we woke up with the wind this morning. Again, the sky was a mottle of huge iceberg clouds hanging over the valley casting long dark shadows on the mountains & canyon walls. Our walk up the footpath on Coyote Mountain was short but Max & I did manage to get a little further along than the other guys. His leg was bothering him so we turned back.
PEG LEG SMITH BOONDOCKERS ON RIGHT.... HIGHWAY LEADING TO BORREGO SPRINGS ON LEFT WITH AN ATV AREA LEFT OF THE CURVE & BORREGO SPRINGS ITSELF IS VISIBLE AT TOP CENTER OF PHOTO MOVING BACK TOWARDS THE SAN YSIDRO MOUNTAINS. PHOTO TAKEN FROM COYOTE MOUNTAIN
FIRECRACKER NEIGHBORS ARE BOTTOM BUNCH OF VEHICLES, WE ARE ABOVE LEFT & NEIGHBORS RUE & DON ARE IN THE TRUCK TRAILER COMBO AT RIGHT
Our 'firecracker' neighbors pulled out about 11 this morning so things should be a bit quieter now. They set off fireworks last night around 9 which really spooked Checkers & little Cora but other than that they were surprisingly quieter than either Kelly or I had expected.
MY BOY MAX ON THE MORNING TRAIL
Headed for the small Borrego Airport about 11:45 & joined a group of about a dozen people for the the noon Tailgate Tour. Ranger pilot Kelly McCague met everyone in the terminal office & walked us all down the tarmac to a long hanger building. Because of the heavy wind gusts & dust in the air this morning Kelly did not put the plane outside. At about 2,000 pounds the 180 horsepower Aviat Husky A-1 is light by aircraft standards.
KELLY McCAGUE MEETS US IN THE OFFICE & TAKES EVERYBODY OUTSIDE TO THE HANGER
Anza-Borrego State Park is the largest SP in California covering over a thousand acres so Kelly is a very busy Ranger with many duties. She prefers to fly her patrols in the quieter morning air but developing situations never play by the rules. She has had times where it took her 3 attempts in the 30mph crosswinds to finally get the plane down onto the runway in one piece. She has flown the canyons with headphones on listening to the tell tale signal from tagged Bighorn Sheep. Other times she's had to fly Park & civilian personnel in the tiny back seat to check out property markers & future Park real estate. She said that idea never really worked well because the back seat passengers often became sick in the light bouncy aircraft. She just ended up photographing the various properties herself & filling out the reports. Much easier & less messy that way. She also flies the Park's boundaries checking for encroachment.
IT'S A SMALL COCKPIT IN THERE PACKED WITH ALL KINDS OF INSTRUMENTS
Kelly flies searches for missing & injured hikers, stolen cars, & vehicle accidents of all kinds. She has to co-ordinate all the ground personel in directing Rangers up canyons & mountain sides to locations only visible from the air. Gun calls always make her nervous. Whenever a call comes in about firearms being fired somewhere in the Park she takes to the air in search of the location. She said she has never been shot at that she knows of but did have a gun pointed up at her one time & that is why she sits on her bullet proof vest rather than wares it. Most of the airplane is made of fabric so it is no deterrent to a bullet coming up from the ground. But, there is another danger in the air that she has no control over even though it could easily be prevented. She doesn't always see them until they rocket by her & at times underneath her even when she herself is under a thousand feet off the ground.
Fast flying American fighter jets train in this area & it is not unusual for those jets to be in the canyons flying only 50 feet off the ground. About 6 weeks ago a boy scout fell high up in one of the canyons & was badly injured. Two helicopters were brought in as the rescue began. Ground units & Rangers on foot made their way to the boy's site. Kelly was above flying a circle pattern round & round the scene co-ordinating the helicopters, the ground Rangers, & relaying messages between several radios back & forth to various departments on the ground. Her radio suddenly crackled with a Ranger's voice several miles away down the canyon telling her to watch out, two fighter jets had flown into the canyon. No sooner than that when she saw the first jet flash by beneath her followed closely by the second one. The California State Park officials have spoken to the military about the dangerous air space problem but the military's answer is, "There is a war on!!" So, basically speaking, the military fly's where it wants, when it wants, as fast as it wants, & as low as it wants.......period!!
HANDY DEVICE ENABLES KELLY TO MOVE HER OWN PLANE AROUND.....WING MOUNTED DIRECTIONAL ANTENNEAS FOR DETECTING TAGGED BIGHORN SHEEP.....AND A LITTLE BIT OF HOME AT THE HANGAR
It's a dangerous job she has but in her own words, "l love it." So, if you are in the Borrego Springs area be sure to drop into the Desert Nature Store on main street & pick up a monthly brochure of events & don't miss coming out to meet a dynamic little Mighty Mouse with a big personality, a big job, & a little airplane:))
I was back to the rig about 1:15 & headed inside because of the big winds going on & that reminded me of something Kelly had mentioned in her talk earlier that I didn't like. She said her hardest flying times are from mid February to mid June because of the bad winds. So, let me see now, we are only one week past mid February so I guess we can expect big winds for the duration of the time we are here.
BIG WINDS WERE KICKING UP THE DESERT DUST THIS AFTERNOON...THAT IS TOM'S RIG OVER THERE & HE IS THE ULTRA LITE GLIDER PILOT WE MET A COUPLE DAYS AGO. (not the one who had the wind gust problem)
It was about 2:45 this afternoon when our dog alarm went off. I was sitting in my chair with our new laptop on my (where else) lap & was somewhere between dozeville & typing when there came upon our door.......a knock!! Kelly opened the door & I heard, "Hellooooo, are you the Bayfield Bunch!!" It was RICK & PAULETTE http://rickpaulettervjournal.blogspot.com/ who had driven over via Julian from Desert Hot Springs on the other side of the mountains. Needless to say it was quite a pleasant surprise as we scrambled to set up some lawn chairs. I had just laid them all on the ground plus taken the flags down an hour before because of the heavy winds. Our motorhome is basically set up for 2 people & 3 dogs so whenever we get company (which isn't too often) we generally sit outside. ( in hindsight we should have all come inside out of the wind) It was great to finally meet Rick after all this time of blogging & emailing back & forth. We had us a good chuckle about some of our blog followers maybe being concerned about our different views of the RVing lifestyle when we kind of locked horns in a couple recent blogs.
HEY, THIS OLD DUSTY DESERT DOG GOT HIS ARM AROUND ME!!!!
The cool winds did not let up as we all chatted back & forth. Rick was wanting to catch the afternoons Olympic hockey game back home between Canada & the U.S. so they didn't stay too long. Rick & I grabbed our cameras & had us real quick shoot out & it wasn't until after Rick & Paulette left that I realized I had left my camera set on manual focus so was disappointed my pics were probably not going to be good. However, all may not yet be lost because WANDERING WILLY http://wanderingwillystravels.blogspot.com/ is probably heading for Borrego Springs next week & Rick said he would like to come back & meet WW so we may be having us another dust up in the desert very soon.
SANTA ROSA MOUNTAINS AT SUNSET
Oh ya, & we had to scramble our F16 Furry fighter squadron late this afternoon when an unknown truck & fifth wheel approached almost unseen very close from the southeast. The guys did their job well again & bounced the bogey in focused short bursts of battlefield barking. Last we saw of the intruder he was lost in a trail of dust heading back out to the road:))
GROANER'S CORNER:(( Did you know a shotgun wedding is sometimes thought of as a case of wife or death.
BLOGGER WEBSITE http://thebayfieldbunch.com/
OUR PHOTO ALBUMS http://picasaweb.google.com/stargeezerguy/
The only thing better than right now will someday be the memories of right now...... AL.