Day 9: Eastbound to Idaho

The Snake River, along the Oregon (on the left) and Idaho (on the right) border

The Snake River, along the Oregon (on the left) and Idaho (on the right) border

Today’s flight isn’t long (375 nm and 2.5 hours — we’ve recalibrated our definition of “long flight in the Mooney”), but it’s a turning point in the trip:  our first eastbound leg of the journey!  We’re leaving the west coast behind and heading to Boise, Idaho (KBOI), where we’ll spend the night with our friends Max and Maria.

The weather was “classic Seattle”, with overcast skies at 800 feet, so this is also the first leg of the trip that we’ll actually need that expensive instrument rating.  The off-route obstruction clearance altitude is 16,800 feet around Mount Rainier, so going direct isn’t exactly Plan A. Instead, we file an airways route to Boise that keeps us over “lower” terrain — but the minimum enroute altitude for the airway is still 9,000 feet, so it’s all relative.

It’s Jim’s turn in the left seat, and we takeoff from the middle of Everett’s 9,000 foot runway and are quickly in the clouds. Seattle Departure vectors us on course, and after about ten minutes, we’re in the sunshine and enjoying a gorgeous view.  We didn’t need to fly IFR for long, but who knows how long we would have been grounded waiting for the weather to clear up, and we’re glad we had the capability.

Seattle reminds us that we can request “VFR-on-top” — still technically on an instrument flight plan, but flying at visual altitudes and navigating ourselves.  We’re happy to oblige, and they cut us loose, direct to Boise.

It takes only about 20 miles before the clouds thin out and we’re treated to a great view of the mountains around us.  Further east, the Cascades give way to the Columbia River Plateau, and we overfly Yakima, Washington as we head southeast and into the high desert. It’s amazing how much geographic diversity we’ve seen within each state along the Pacific.  We cross the Columbia River at Umatilla, Oregon, and follow Interstate 84 through the valley between the Blue Mountains to our south and the Wallowa Mountains to our north.

Crossing the Snake River and entering Idaho, Boise really is the “City of Trees” that they claim, especially in contrast with the surrounding desert! Runway 28 Right, which is on the civilian side of the airport, is closed for construction, so Boise Tower clears us to land on runway 28 Left — the Idaho Air National Guard has two A-10 Warthogs holding short of the runway, and we’re holding them up!

We park 7CF at the Jackson Jet Center for the night, and spend the rest of the day relaxing with Max, Maria, and their gigantic Newfoundland, Buck.  Tomorrow brings another short leg, this time to West Yellowstone, Montana, and we plan on being back home just two days after that!

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