If there’s a nicer way to be awakened than by the arrival of grey jays I haven’t found it. Gary soon had them landing on his hand. I got up and went for a walk. Dog-gone, it was a nice place. Behind the meadow a balsam and spruce forest bade me come closer. I wandered along the carpeted aisles inhaling the alpine perfume. Thoughts were piling upon thoughts in my mind, like how nice it would be to stay awhile. Would it be a desecration to build a cabin here? Certainly making an axe mark would be a sin. Had we learned anything from man’s mistakes? Please, God, let us always be fond of this place without loving it to death.
We wouldn’t land our planes on the meadow again but would find a place less fragile. I climbed out of the forest and up onto a rocky ridge. I could see Gary down by the end of the lake. He was down on his hands and knees examining the water. I guessed he’d found some trout. I whistled to get his attention and motioned for him to come and join me. I sat on a weathered old log and waited for him. After he rested a bit and told me about the fish he had been watching, we hiked over to the far slope of the mountain.
There the ground was standing on end and we looked down about five hundred feet to a stream running below. It wasn’t a cliff but it was steep and had been burned over years ago. An odd thing about it was a layer of cap rock on top about six feet thick and extending for a hundred meters or more along the edge. The steep mountain side came up under it, leaving an overhang or roof that you could walk under. Here was an ideal camping spot for us. We could build our fire under here and sleep dry through any kind of storm. We followed a deer trail down the side through the old burn and there among the silver snags and sun-bleached roots of downed trees, the huckleberries were growing in profusion. We ate and ate ‘till we were blue-lipped and blue-fingered.
Gary noticed the trees were casting long shadows and said, “Grampa, we better get our birds in the air or we’re going to get caught in the dark.” We soon had our planes up and flying side by side high over the Ashinola river. It wasn’t long before we were over the main valley and following the highway back to Princeton. From there we were home in about twenty minutes. We glided in and set down by the garden like two big red-tailed hawks. We stuck around home a couple of days and then loaded our planes with sleeping bags, groceries and spare gas and dragged them back to the fence by the stile. There was a nice breeze blowing in our face as we made a run toward the house. We were into the air as we passed the garden and, waving good -bye to his mom and dad and Lynn, Gary turned left and flew out past the big cottonwood tree to the river and headed down stream. My little plane was hot on his tail and, as we passed Birk’s bridge, we were up about two hundred feet and climbing.
Gary’s dad had warned us about flying to slowly. He said it was the air flowing over the wings that kept a plane flying and if we slowed down to were there wasn’t a fast enough flow we would simply fall out of the sky. I believe there are planes designed to go into a dive, if slowed to this critical point, and thus regain flying speed. We didn’t build this refinement into our ultra lights. We each mounted a tiny toy propeller about an inch long on the front of our planes where we would always see it. As long as it was buzzing around we knew we were up to speed.