After missing a trip to Big Bear a couple weeks ago with a maintenance issue found during pre-flight (I need to write that up) we were able to fly there today to meet up with some other Mooniacs. (Mooney owners for those of you not familiar with the term)
We took off into fairly clear skies which transitioned to a broken layer at about 5,000′ with it getting higher as we headed East. The forecast had said that Big Bear should be clear and the weather on my tablet was showing it broken at 7,000′ (which puts the clouds at about 14,000′ feet up there. The only issue was that the mountains between San Bernardino and Big Bear quickly climb from the valley floor at 1,200′ to about 8,000′, and the weather was showing clouds over San Bernardino at about 6,000′. I knew if we couldn’t find a break in the clouds we could easily head East towards Palm Springs where it was clear and loop around to the East and North of San Gorgonio.
As we got closer to San Bernardino I could see some very large breaks in the clouds, they were just getting hung up on the mountains. We turned to the East and started a quick climb up to 9,500′ before turning back Northeast toward the lake. The views were amazing with the clouds hanging along the mountains, covered in snow, and the patches of clouds below. Reported winds were 180° at 4 knots so we entered a left downwind for runway 26 where we would have a very manageable 4 knot crosswind. From the heading we were tracking it was apparent the reported winds were not correct and we came in for a passable landing with a small bounce… As we were rolling out my wife asked “Did you bounce?”
As we taxied to transient the windsock was straight out meaning it was closer to somewhere around a 15 knot direct crosswind. We spotted a familiar red and white RV parked and got to say hello to our hangar neighbors inside followed by a nice lunch with some new friends that had flown down from Vegas. A third friend didn’t make it because he was polishing up for his IFR Checkride (which he would end up passing with flying colors on Monday).
We departed runway 26, climbing out over the lake. The views were again spectacular with the clouds hanging low on the ridge-lines. Fullerton was showing clear skies, but we wanted to get down under the broken layer that was over Corona/Riverside so that we could fly along the I-15 corridor to the south and look at the green hills and poppies. Nearing the end of the lake we could see enough space to duck down under the clouds. The hills were greener and the poppies much more plentiful than just a couple of weeks prior when we went to French Valley.
After a little flight-seeing we headed back to Fullerton, calling up the tower about 10 miles to the east and getting a straight in approach to 24. This time the landing was nice and smooth.
What an amazing blessing to be able to fly around and see all the beautiful sights from the sky!