During my years of ski instructing and ski patrolling I have “gone over the pass” many, many times. And I have spent hours on patrol handling dispatch at the top of Hoodoo Mountain Resort. From there you can see what we call Sand Mountains, and the multiple snowmobile tracks that climb up their smooth, snow-covered banks as high as possible.
Weather in Oregon can be overcast and cloudy most of the fall and winter. I have a shirt that says, “Oregon State Rain Festival: January 1 to December 31.” Rain and overcast had set in, yet there was a week of clear, sunny weather, and my hopes of flying over the Cascades to the Sisters airport and back reawakened.
I had not flown above 5,000 feet yet. With the pass at 4,800, the surrounding peaks at 10, 000, we would go first to 5,500, then 7,500, and then 9,500 as needed to help ensure distance from other airplanes. I was excited. Sounded like more fun than practicing stalls. My CFI was willing. My husband-photographer would go along.
Ground school before the flight had Steve explaining the angle needed as we came up on the elevation of the ridge as the high and low pressure might make the turbulence more than we (I) could handle. As we took off and headed east, first over our four acres and then over the towns in Santiam Canyon that I knew so well, we noted the smoke from home chimneys rising straight up in the cloudless calm skies.
As we climbed higher and talked about potential landing spots in the seemingly endless forests in these mountains, the tops of the Three Sisters came into view. We noticed the snow on the top of North Sister being blown strongly south and west by the winds coming up from Eastern Oregon.
Sure enough, as we came to the summit of Santiam Pass, seeing the road under us winding its way over, the winds began to shake us up quite a bit. “I don’t like this!” I said. And, angled as we should be, I slowly turned us away and back into smoother air. But not before Rob took a photo of the ski area we have enjoyed for years. We saw the backside of Hoodoo Butte and the runs coming down in parallel rows. And, to our amazement, we discovered that the Sand Mountains were actually part of a row of small craters. The view from the air opened our minds to this incredible new understanding of the earth terrain we had travelled and viewed for years.
And I had a new respect and understanding of winds.—Jean Moule
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