The Passage of Summer

For the majority, summer is an “active” time. Summer means long days, outdoor activities, long vacations, get-togethers of all kinds. It’s the time of year most people look forward to, and they hate to see it end. Pilots generally are at their most active during the summer months.

On the other hand, if you live in the desert, summer has just the opposite effect. Desert dwellers spend much of their summer indoors, making the most of mornings and perhaps evenings when we can, and otherwise spending a lot of time poolside if we’re going to be outside much at all. Pilots get all the VFR weather they want, but heat ensures that early mornings are the rule; flying on a 118-degree afternoon is possible, but contains a distinct lack of  comfort.

So, the “end” of summer is something desert dwellers obsessively anticipate. Cabin fever works the same as in northern climates, but in reverse; we wait impatiently for cooler temperatures to release us from our air-conditioned confines, and when it doesn’t happen, we get a little uptight. Testy, one could say.

Our predominate weather pattern this summer was a persistent ridge parked over the intersection of Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. Instead of sticking around for a few days, they tended to hover for weeks at a time, baking the landscape in a seemingly never ending string of record high temps. Instead of breaking up in late September, they persisted right up into early November. Our late-summer cabin fever was acute this year; we might get a couple of moderate days with a frontal passage, then we’d be right back to 2-3 weeks of 10 degrees above-normal. Now that it’s almost mid-November, we’re crossing our fingers that it’s finally behind us.

So, I’ve done very little fun flying over the past several months. Usually, I get a flying camping trip or two to a cooler place, but circumstances conspired to prevent that happening this year. My own airplane has only flown 18 hours since it’s annual inspection in mid-May when I returned from the first AK trip. Sure, I’ve done quite a bit of early-morning instruction, but simple fun flying has been pretty thin.

Last weekend, an unexpected convergence of moderate temps, a few spare hours, and a fully functional airplane all made for my first opportunity since March for a “just for the fun of it” flight; 3 hours of VFR cruising on a simple quest to find whatever fall color I could locate. What few photos I took are included:

Now that reasonable weather is finally here, I hope to have the opportunity for more of this in the next 3-4 months before the inexorable return of summer heat. Stay tuned…

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