Flight Training - August 2014 - 28

FLYING CARPET

By Greg Brown

PLUS See the Grand Falls and
Roden Crater in this slideshow.

AT 185 FEET, Arizona's Grand Falls is taller than
Niagara (note cars in foreground), but flows in
volume only a few times a year.

SUMMER SIGHTSEEING

NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST

O

nce or twice a year I hear of friends visiting Grand Falls, a seasonal waterfall on Arizona's Little Colorado River. Although
the little-known 185-foot desert cataract is taller than Niagara
Falls, it runs in volume only occasionally following mountain
snow-melt, monsoon thunderstorms, or rare widespread rain.
Jean and I have always wanted to visit
the landmark, but have been hampered
both by its ephemeral water flow and
the tortuous drive over primitive roads
to reach its remote location northeast of
Flagstaff. The rugged journey favors highclearance vehicles, and traveling in pairs
in case of breakdown. Invariably we either
hear too late that the falls have been running, or are otherwise committed when
invited to go.
Given the magnitude of the waterfall
when flowing, I'd always assumed it
would also be exciting to view from the
air. But it's not marked on sectional charts,
nor many other maps for that matter, so
finding it seemed a task in itself.
Then one late-summer morning I found
myself desperate to fly. Armed with a new
camera that demanded testing, I decided
on a lark to seek out Grand Falls and mark
it for future reference in my GPS navigator. There'd been little rain lately, so I

28 /

FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

field of vivid yellow wildflowers bordering
Lake Mary southeast of town. I diverted
in that direction and sailed over the sea of
golden blossoms. Floating in their midst
like a spidery space station was the Navy
Precision Optical Interferometer, an
observatory that collects starlight from
distant galaxies via widely dispersed light
tubes, and calculates their distance from
Earth via parallax.
Following a joyous few minutes savoring chrome-yellow flowers, I departed
Flagstaff's pine forest over high desert
to intercept the Little Colorado River.
I found it chiseled as if by a coping saw
through crimson rock north of Winslow.
Tracing the channel toward its distant
Colorado River junction, I almost missed
Grand Falls, as it proved virtually invisible
from the upstream side. But for whatever
reason, I happened to glance back. To my
surprise and delight given the dry summer
weather, the falls flowed vigorously.
Not until spotting a pair of sightseer
autos overlooking the waterfall did I fully
comprehend its scale from the air. I was

didn't expect the falls to be running. But
knowing their location would be useful
for a future aerial visit when the right
opportunity arose.
I first gleaned general coordinates and
nearby landmarks via Internet search.
I also knew the Little Colorado River
runs northwestward from Winslow to
ultimately join the Colorado River in the
Grand Canyon. By intercepting the Little Colorado near
Winslow and tracing it downstream, I should easily find
Grand Falls.
The instant I departed the
ground, I knew I'd picked
the right day to fly. The sky
sparkled cobalt, punctuated by snowy puffs of
fair-weather cumulus. No
sooner had I turned downwind for departure than I
LATE-SUMMER wildflowers tint the Coconino Plateau near
Flagstaff, Arizona.
was mesmerized by a huge


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Flight Training - August 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - August 2014

Contents
Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover1
Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover2
Flight Training - August 2014 - Contents
Flight Training - August 2014 - 2
Flight Training - August 2014 - 3
Flight Training - August 2014 - 4
Flight Training - August 2014 - 5
Flight Training - August 2014 - 6
Flight Training - August 2014 - 7
Flight Training - August 2014 - 8
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Flight Training - August 2014 - 26
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Flight Training - August 2014 - 28
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Flight Training - August 2014 - 31
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Flight Training - August 2014 - 37
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Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover3
Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover4
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