Yesterday Tammy and Fred went with me in a Cessna 172 P around the summit of Mt. St. Helens, and then for dinner at the Flight Deck Restaurant at Salem’s Airport. It was a tremendously hot day by Portland’s standards: 37° C (98° F), with a Density Altitude of 2800 feet at the time of departure, so we used up quite a bit of runway on takeoffs and landings, and our climb performance was exceedingly pathetic.

Tammy sat in the back, left seat so she could get some pictures out the left side of the airplane, since the plan was to circle the summit counterclockwise, and Fred sat in the right seat. We departed to the north from Hillsboro Airport and began a very, very slow climb to the south face of Mt. St. Helens. During the climb we encountered some fairly close traffic off to our left that suddenly turned in our direction, but passed safely under us. We reached the south face of Mt. St. Helens at about the same time we reached our cruising altitude of 9,500 feet. It was a pleasant 65 degrees at altitude, and we were in no hurry to get back to the hot surface temperatures. We circled the summit of the volcano, and Tammy took some amazing photos from the back seat. When we came around to the north face where the crater and lava dome are visible, we could see steam rising from several locations, and we noticed that the mountain’s snow was tainted a dirty brown color, presumably from volcanic ash.

Once we had completely circled the mountain, I had Fred set up a radial for us to intercept and track to the Newberg VOR, and once we were established I had him take the controls and fly us over the top of Hillsboro’s airspace and south to Salem. It had been a while since he’d tracked a VOR radial, so it was good practice for him. Fred earned his Private Pilot certificate at about the same time I did last year. We began our descent to Salem when we were about 20 miles to the north, and it became increasingly warmer as we descended. Fred made the call to Salem tower, and I took the controls to enter the traffic pattern and land on Runway 31. We taxied right up to the restaurant and had some tasty beef for dinner. I had a Bleu Cheese Burger, Tammy had a Cheeseburger, and Fred had steak.

We departed Salem Airport just before 8PM. On the return flight we navigated exclusively by pilotage to Haag Lake, west of Hillsboro. We followed a road with accompanying railroad tracks north to the town of Amity, then over McMinville, Carlton, and then to the lake. The combination of the setting sun and thick haze created some incredible atmospheric effects over the Oregon Coastal range. When we arrived at Haag Lake we were in no hurry to land, so we circled it a few times and let Tammy take some pictures as we took in the scenery. It really was a perfect flight, and a wonderful way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon.

2 Responses to “Tour of Mt. St. Helens and Dinner in Salem”

  1. Tammy

    It was a beautiful flight.

  2. Tiffany

    Hey Marcus,
    My mom mentioned you and david might go flying tomorrow (on his birthday) the 22nd.
    and she asked me yesterday if I could ask some of his friends to come over to the house for dinner and games for his birthday, so I thought I’d ask you if you’d like to come over as well and hopefully not cancelling any plans you guys may or may not have had? anyway let me know. (trying not to let david know who all will be there) but if he checks your blog today or tomorrow he’ll see this comment haha.. oh well.

    you can txt my phone at 503-730-8331 or email me at gmail. :) thanks!

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