JOHNSON CREEK, IDAHO (3U2), East of McCall, ID
Airplane Camping Checklist 6/29/96 (with some images from later trips)
GENERAL NOTES: Unless extended overnight hiking away from the airport is on the agenda, do not use backpacks with pack frames: The rigid geometry makes it difficult to stow them into the baggage compartment of a Cessna 182 without scratching the rear window. Instead, use soft duffle bags or cardboard boxes that allow full use of baggage area volume.
Johnson Creek has a 150' wide by 3,400' irrigated sod runway with parking right in front of the campsites at the sides of the runway. The campsites all have fire rings, briquette type barbecues and picnic tables. Firewood is provided; the caretaker will even lend you his ax to chop it up. Pit toilets are relatively new and clean. There is power, so there are hot showers (well, warm showers), and there are a couple of small bunk houses in case really bad weather forces you to seek some solid refuge (a weather surprise is not that uncommon, and since there is no telephone, the only weather briefings come from recently arrived pilots which means that VFR only and even IFR pilots sometimes have to stay a few days longer than planned waiting for a launch window). There is no fee for all this, but donations are accepted...and we did!
We departed late Sunday morning. With 15 degrees of flaps and soft field procedure we didn't break ground until we had used up almost 2,000' of runway. I kept the airplane in ground effect in order to build up as much airspeed as possible over the remaining grass. I wanted as much energy (velocity) margin as possible before I hit the tree line. As we left the airport boundary and headed toward the creek (which was probably 50 feet below the airport elevation in a ravine) we got our first big surprise. The winds, which were also blowing toward the creek were following the terrain downslope and were dropping into the ravine which caused a sink hole just before the creek. I had been visually targeting the tree tops beyond the creek in order to minimize my climb and maximize speed gain, when suddenly we sank about 30 feet or so.
I suddenly had a windshield full of timber. I re focused on the tree tops, resisting the impulse to pull the nose up any harder than would be required to clear the trees. Silence reigned in the cockpit (except for the pounding in my ears) as we seemed to be stuck in a hole for a few long seconds. Then just as suddenly, the downdraft that had been created when the winds dropped into the ravine turned into an updraft as the winds exited the same. "Oh what a relief it is" to feel that buoyancy lift us out of that hole. Still, we only barely cleared the tree tops. But when I finally looked again at my airspeed indicator, I found that we were doing almost 100 knots...plenty of energy margin left to pull up without sinking or stalling, had I needed to.