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Gear Down—or Not

Glideslope intercept, gear down.

Hmm…the indicator shows the barber pole, not the pretty green gear down indication. The Gear Down annunciator is dark, too. Hmm…this isn’t good.

Move the handle back to the up position, and try again.

Still no joy.

Landing gear circuit breakers? Nope: all look just fine. Okay, let’s try cycling the breakers and trying again.

Same thing. The landing gear just stayed up, in their cozy gear wells.

“Approach, 2FR has a gear problem. Going missed.”

“2FR roger, climb and maintain 4,000, fly the missed approach procedure. Say intentions.”

Darn, darn, darn. Things were looking great on this solo instrument proficiency flight. The clouds were cooperating (i.e., they were there), there were just enough bumps in the clouds to keep me from being bored, I was on centerline and glidepath, airspeed and power were just where I wanted them. This was looking to be a good exercise.

Then, it became an even better exercise.

There was no instructor aboard playing games with me. This wasn’t a simulator. This was the real thing: in the soup, in the bumps, with a bona fide landing gear problem.

“2FR, radar vectors, please, to Palo Alto.”

“Mooney 2FR, are you declaring?”

“2FR, negative at this time.” Why not declare the emergency? It wasn’t yet. I didn’t feel I needed priority treatment. I had a plan: climb, get someplace out of people’s hair (airports aren’t such places, especially when someone else wants to get in), slow below the 140 knot gear extension speed, and go through the checklist for manual gear extension.

“Mooney 2FR, roger, turn left heading 150, climb and maintain 5,000. Proceed direct Woodside when able.”

“2FR, left to 150, 5,000, direct Woodside.”

I made the turn, got the climb going, and got the navigation set up. While leveling off, I decreased the power to stabilize at about 130 knots.

Even if the gear stayed stuck in the wells—certainly possible, but I guessed that to be unlikely, and the manual extension procedure likely to be effective—an intentional gear up landing isn’t a major emergency. Keep your wits about you and you’ll scrape the belly, bend the propeller, and maybe break the engine (at least, the engine will need to be torn down for inspection: engines don’t like going from, say, 800 rpm to 0 rpm when forced to do that by the propeller!). Keep your wits about you, make a good landing, and you might skid around a bit, but you’re not going to cartwheel or do flips or explode into a ball of flaming av gas. You’ll clog the runway for a while until someone can come haul your airplane off the runway, but that’s about it.

Things got a bit busy in here, what with the turn and the climb and the navigation and the leveling off and a frequency change. I realized that some of that might have been eliminated if I’d declared an emergency. Short of that, I could always have told the controller to stand by, or asked for something different, or said “unable.” I wasn’t yet really at task saturation, though, but did recognize that the workload was—momentarily, I hoped—rather high.

With the checklist on the seat beside me, I went through the items.

  1. Airspeed: 140 KIAS or less.
  2. Landing gear actuator circuit breaker: PULL.
  3. Gear switch: DOWN.
  4. Manual extension mechanism: UNLATCH.
  5. Gear extension T-handle: PULL SLOWLY 1-2″ to engage the clutch.
  6. T-handle: PULL AND RETURN 12-20 times, until GEAR DOWN indicators are seen.
  7. Gear down indicators: CHECK.
  8. Manual extension mechanism: STOW.
  9. Landing gear actuator circuit breaker: RESET.

I was glad I had only one interruption here from the controller (a frequency change, just after I’d pulled the circuit breaker). I acknowledged, thanked the controller for her help, and contacted the next controller. That exchange was pretty routine. I returned to the checklist. Sure enough, the gear came down after 16 pulls of that handle. At least, the indicators showed the gear was down, and the airplane flew as if the gear was down. Through this all, I had the autopilot engaged, and I was monitoring it. Good way to shed workload. (I had been hand-flying the approach, for the practice. George [the autopilot] took over after I was established on that 150° heading.)

“Approach, 2FR, landing gear indicates down. I’ll continue to Palo Alto with the gear down.”

“2FR, roger. This will be radar vectors DOCAL” (for the instrument approach to Palo Alto).

“2FR, understand.”

After some maneuvering, “Mooney 2FR is 2 miles from DOCAL, cross DOCAL at 4,500, cleared GPS 31 approach.”

“Mooney 2FR, DOCAL at 4,500, cleared GPS 31 Palo Alto.”

Down the approach I went, no problems. Not long after I broke out beneath the clouds, NorCal Approach told me to contact Palo Alto Tower. I thanked the controller for his assistance, as I had his predecessor in the previous sector.

“Palo Alto Tower, Mooney 2FR, inbound on the GPS 31. Landing gear appears down. I’d like to make a low approach and have you visually check the gear, then come around to land.”

“Mooney 2FR, Palo Alto Tower. That’s approved: cleared low approach, then circle north for landing.”

“2FR, clear low approach, then I’ll fly a normal pattern to land.”

“2FR, approved.”

I flew at 75 knots about 50′ off the runway, and tower reported that the gear appeared down. Doing a go-around from 50′ and 75 knots when already in level flight is pretty straightforward, but still not trivial: I just kept flying the airplane they way I’d been taught, the way I’d trained, the way I’d flown for 30-some years. Except this time, I left the gear down during the climb-out! During that climb-out, tower cleared me to land, informing me I was #1.

Right downwind abeam, where I’d usually lower the gear, I found myself with nothing to do. Well, nothing other than to fly the airplane, and ensure I was ready for the approach—complete with a soft field landing, touching down gently just in case something was wrong with the gear.

Right downwind, 800′, about 120 knots, at the 45° point, I reduced power to 1700 rpm, let the speed decay, then brought in approach flaps (15°). Turn base. Everything looks good, turn final.

Full flaps, retrim. A touch high: speed brakes out. On airspeed, on centerline, on glidepath, slight left crosswind, corrected, aligned with the runway. Speed brakes stowed. On centerline, on glidepath, airspeed looks good, runway alignment good. Flare, keep a touch of power in. Ease down, ease down, a gentle SQUEAK-SQUEAK! Leave everything alone, keep the nose up, nose up, now fly the nose onto the runway. Gentle braking, roll it out to the end.

“Mooney 2FR, turn left on Echo, Ground 125.0 when clear.” The only acknowledge I gave immediately was a click of the mic: I was too busy. Tower could wait. Then, when I’d slowed nicely, still tracking straight and approaching the left turn onto taxiway Echo, “2FR, left on Echo, then to Ground.”

After clearing the runway, I paused a moment, then got the airplane ready to taxi. When I was ready, I called Ground. While taxiing to the hangar, I called, “Ground, 2FR, my thanks to everyone in the cab for your help today.” “2FR, roger, I’ll relay that.”

I’ll call the shop tomorrow and get them to look at the gear. My uneducated guess: a broken micro-switch, broken wire, or dead gear motor.

Thank you, Rick, Ann, Barbara, Heather, and Peter. Your good instruction helped make this a simple thing to bring to successful completion, and helped me fly the best soft-field landing I’d ever flown.

Headset Flight Testing

In my posting on emergency descent training, I mentioned that the primary purpose of the flight was a test flight. Specifically, I was testing a headset after a warranty return. Though this wouldn’t normally make a worthy topic, this time is an exception.

Many years ago, I upgraded a DC H10-80 passive noise reducing headset to ANR, with a retrofit kit. (This was my second aviation headset. My first was a Telex D-950. That was back when most airplanes didn’t have a built-in intercom, so I bought my own portable unit. I even rigged up a battery pack for it, using an old ELT battery that I got for free from my local shop, since many airplanes then had no work 12V or 24V power plug.) It worked wonderfully, and I really like the setup. That headset was very comfortable (despite what some others said and reviewers wrote: I’d worn the set on a few very long flights—two and three legs of four hours per leg), and the ANR retrofit made a notable difference. I was absolutely sold.

Eventually, I decided it was time to get a new headset. I wanted something at least as comfortable, and ideally more so. Given the advances in materials and other technology, I figured that shouldn’t be harder, since all the manufacturers were touting lighter and more comfie and quieter.

Oh, and expensive. Oh, well.

I chose a Lightspeed Zulu. But, there was a concern. The Zulu’s specs noted something like 15,000′ or 18,000′ as the listed maximum altitude, and I wanted something for FL250. I called Lightspeed and asked them if they had tested it to, or heard of anyone successfully using it at, those altitudes. No, they had not. After discussing things for a while, we agreed that I’d check back in a few months.

A few months later, sure enough, I checked back. Still no data.

Another few months later, I checked back again. Still no data. I offered to test fly the unit if they’d send me one, there being no place locally I could buy one. I’d buy the headset if it worked, return it if it didn’t. A few days later, a headset showed up. As I’d promised, I flew it up to FL250 (maybe even FL270: I don’t recall now), and it worked beautifully. I’d found my headset.

When Lightspeed came out with the Zulu.2, I bought when. Again, expensive. Oh, well. In fact, my partner and I also bought one for the airplane—i.e., that headset just lives in the airplane. I found the Zulu.2 a bit quieter, with overall better performance. I liked the Bluetooth hook-up. It was more comfortable, too. But, on my Grand Tour (and others) trip last year, when I was climbing through about 16,000′ on the first leg (KPAO-KSJN, en route KGTU), my Zulu.2 started warbling, exhibiting feedback. Pushing gently on the earcups eliminated the feedback. I tried the ship’s Zulu.2, which I also had along, and that exhibited no problems at all.

I contacted Lightspeed and shipped them the headset for a warranty repair. They accepted the warranty request with no qualms at all. I got the headset back and, when I continued the trip after a month’s layover, found the same problems with the headset. Lightspeed gave me some advice on some adjustments, and I tried those out—to no avail. I called again, and they gave me some more recommendations.

It was a few months before I could get back to high enough altitude to give the headset another try. Although it was better, it still wasn’t good enough. Again, Lightspeed authorized the warranty repair immediately when I contacted them. Moreover, they returned the headset pretty quickly. This time, I didn’t want to wait: I carved out time to fly.

Assuming this headset was properly repaired this time, I decided just to plan from the start to head high. I know that going into the Class A isn’t trivially done: it’s all IFR up there, and ATC’s not in the habit of just letting you “fly around here for a while so I can check this thing out.” I figured I’d call Oakland Center (for those who aren’t pilots, this the the air traffic control facility handling high altitude and trans-Pacific flights, with rough north-south boundaries of Mt. Shasta and San Luis Obispo) and ask them what would work well for them given the time (early evening) and altitude (FL250—25,000′) of my flight. They recommended PXN-CZQ-OAL and return. I filed for that.

ATC was great. I really didn’t care about the routing, but they allowed me to cut the KPAO-PXN-CZQ corner and head direct CZQ pretty quickly after departure. Even better, there was a minimum of step climbing: my climb to altitude was about as direct as I’ve ever received, especially once I was clear of the KSJC arrival corridor. NorCal Approach and Oakland Center did a fine job.

Climbing through 15,000′, the headset was rock-solid.

Climbing through FL180, the headset was rock-solid.

Arriving at FL250, the headset was rock-solid.

“Oakland Center, Mooney 2FR, request FL270. I’d like to continue this test a little higher, please.”

“Mooney 2FR, climb and maintain FL270.”

“2FR, out of 250 for 270.”

Climbing through FL260, the headset was rock-solid. But, around FL265, I started picking up a very, very slight amount of feedback ringing. It was a little worse at FL270, but the headset was still usable there. Since I don’t cruise above FL250, this effectively gives me 1,500-2,000 feet of headroom.

I was a happy guy, and I turned for home—interrupted slightly by that emergency descent work I mentioned.

Emergency Descent Training

Most of the people I consider to be good pilots think about flying a lot. Much of that thinking goes into emergency planning. What do I do if X or Y or Z happens? What’s my memory checklist for this situation? How can I simplify what I’m doing to make it less susceptible to error? Can I change my flying to manage the risks I choose to take more effectively? How can I be more comfortable in this environment?

One thing I think about a bunch is handling emergencies at high altitudes. For me, high altitude runs from somewhere between 12,000′ and 15,000′ up to FL250 [25,000′], depending on the situation. For example, a cockpit fire is a “high altitude” emergency starting around 12,000′ (and maybe lower!), because I want to get on the ground, in a controlled manner, really really really quickly. An oxygen failure represents a “high altitude” emergency at around FL220. (Why do I choose this altitude? Two reasons: first, it’s high enough that time of useful consciousness is relatively short, 5-10 minutes; second: if you lollygag around, you’re in trouble, because you need to get down to thicker [i.e., breathable] air right now.)

My typical long-range cruise altitude eastbound—when I have a tailwind—is FL250. Time of useful consciousness is around 2-4 minutes. I’ve been thinking about oxygen emergencies for many years, and have had one in-flight oxygen exhaustion problem. Though I was at comparatively lower altitudes then—FL190, if I recall, on my way to Boise (KBOI)—it’s still not my favorite place to be with no supplemental oxygen. (The problem was a leaky connector. We—I was with one of my sons on that trip—first noticed it when one of the oxygen flow indicators started showing more red than green. A double-check of the quantity gauge and the problem was clear: we were out of oxygen.) I was very glad that I had a small emergency bottle on board, and all I had to do was to turn on the flow and ask ATC for a descent to 11,000′. At 11,000′, I turned off the emergency oxygen, which had a total of about ten minutes’ duration when the bottle was full, with the plan to exhaust that bottle as I descended and prepared for the approach.

On that trip, I had a cannula plumbed into the emergency bottle underneath my mask. It was a reasonably good setup.

These days, I use the same emergency supply system, but now plumb it directly into the mask feed line. I cut the feed line, spliced in an aquarium T connector, and connected the emergency bottle to one arm of the T. Now, I don’t even need the extra cannula.

But, what would I have done if I’d been cruising at FL250, instead of FL190, on that trip to KBOI? What will I do when I’m heading, say, to Colorado or points east and have an oxygen emergency at FL250?

I’ve practiced the drill a bit in a PCATD-style simulator, reviewed the procedures at some length, and done a bunch of visualization drills, but never flown the real thing. Until last night. Though the primary mission for last night wasn’t this drill, I took advantage of being at altitude.

When I turned for home, approaching CVQ VOR (this test flight took me to CVQ, then OAL, back to CVQ, and home to KPAO), ATC asked me to descend to FL240. I then asked ATC for a very rapid descent to 12,000′, and explained that I would be exceeding 4,000 fpm in the descent. The controller thanked me for that info (otherwise, she would have been very alarmed at the descent rate!), and coordinated with the next controller. I quickly received my descent to 12,000′. Check the time, wait about 20 seconds to simulate the delays in awareness, recognition, and beginning my response. Then:

  • Emergency oxygen on.
  • Throttle idle.
  • Speed brakes deployed.
  • At 140 KIAS, gear down.
  • At gear down, 160 KIAS (max gear down speed is 165 KIAS).
  • When able, prop full forward (increases drag).

Wow. Hang on to your hat! It felt like I was pointing just about straight down!

As I established the high speed descent, ATC gave me a frequency change. In an actual emergency, I would have declared a MAYDAY by then, and perhaps declined the frequency change, or at least delayed it. As it was, I had good oxygen flow and had no problems complying promptly.

6,000 fpm, and down I went. (For the math geeks out there, 160 knots ground speed and 6,000 fpm down translates to a 37% gradient, or about a 20º descent angle.) It really was quite a view out the windscreen.

I tried adding a 45º banked 360 to the mix (with ATC approval). That added a lot of extra workload, and was extremely disorienting, making it more difficult to hold airspeed and to roll out on the desired heading. (It might be easier to manage this if IMC, actually, if one has practiced steep turns on instruments recently enough.) It didn’t increase the descent rate enough to make it worth the extra workload. I’ve deleted the bank from my emergency descent checklist.

Starting about 2,000′ above my target altitude, I began leveling off. Knowing how quickly I was descending, I wanted to make this very gentle, and give the engine time to respond. (What if the engine hadn’t responded, and I had an engine failure? Heck, I still had 12,000′ of altitude to glide with, and I was talking with ATC. Getting to a reasonable place for an emergency landing—even an airport—wouldn’t have been a big problem, since I was well within 20nm of lots of places to land.)

The drill went very smoothly, overall. From FL240, I was at 12,000′ in under 2½ minutes from when I checked the time, and below FL200 in just over a minute. With time of useful consciousness increasing rapidly with descending altitude (~10-20 minutes at FL200, depending on just whose data you accept, 30 minutes or more at FL180), the emergency situation improves fairly quickly even if not on oxygen, though an emergency oxygen supply makes this whole situation much less dire.

Mission accomplished. I now have the additional confidence of knowing what to expect, and what the view out the window will be like, when I have to initiate this drill for real.

Early TIshrei crescent moon at sunset, from above the south SF Bay Area.

Early Tishrei crescent moon at sunset, from above the south SF Bay Area. I took this on the outbound leg.

Norway: Celestial Ballet

Our plan for the next day (Monday? yeah, I think so): not much. Relaxing and some snowshoeing were on tap. After another wonderful dinner by Henrika, we joined two other Lodge guests to venture out hunting the aurora on our own, Patrik (our host from Magic Mountain Lodge, where we were staying) being occupied with transporting other guests to and from night dog sledding. We headed back to the same side of the island as Patrik had taken us the previous night, mostly because we’d had a good view of almost the entire dome of the sky. We searched for a dark spot on the road without streetlights, not in the same place as the previous night’s spot so we could have a different foreground. The turnouts are scarce around there, but we found one. And, as we pulled into it, I saw the Magic Mountain Lodge van, complete with Patrik and a few guests! We reckoned we were likely in a good spot, if the previous night was any indication.

We reckoned right.

Not only do words do this night’s auroral display an injustice, pictures do, too—for the aurora danced, undulated, spun and flew, shimmered, grew, shrank, ran a ring around Jupiter. It wasn’t quite as bright as the previous night’s display, but it was far, far more dynamic. At one point, as I mentioned, the aurora raced in a circle around Jupiter with a diameter of about 30º (three first-widths held at arm’s length), closing the circle in perhaps ten seconds. Another time, we watched it run up from the horizon past the Big Dipper and toward Polaris near the zenith (remember, fellow mid-latitude dwellers: at polar latitudes, Polaris is very high in the sky—at an elevation of nearly 70º in Lyngseidet), and then following itself up as it vanished along that stretch while opening elsewhere.

The dancing lights made some of the pictures seem somewhat washed out: the green glow of the aurora covered much of the sky over the course of an exposure (given the lens I had, which gave me an f/3.5 aperture at its widest). For the photogeeks among us, the captions on each of the next few aurora pictures give an idea of the exposure. In each case, the aperture was that f/3.5.

3454: ISO 1250, f/3.5, 20 secs

ISO 1250, 20 secs

3457: ISO 1250, f/3.5, 15 secs

ISO 1250, 15 secs

There were no extraneous lights where we pulled off the road. All the foreground lighting in the picture above is a result of the exposure duration and what available light there was, which mostly came from the sky. (The moon had long-since set, too.)

3461: ISO 1600, f/3.5, 8 secs

ISO 1600, 8 secs

3470: ISO 800, f/3.5, 15 secs

ISO 800, 15 secs

One night, a bridge to the gods. The next night, a celestial ballet.

In addition to the celestial beauty, Lyngseidet graces us with much beauty here on earth. As a fond farewell, here are a few pictures from in town.


The Fjord from upper Lyngseidet


Fjord Panorama


End of the day(light—which comes early in these parts this time of year!)


Norway: A Bridge to the Gods

Skiing near Lyngseidet

Skiing near Lyngseidet

Sunday brought pleasant weather: moderate temperatures, a nice, though not clear, sky, but windy. We took an enjoyable ski to Vartohytta, where we got tea and shared a waffle (with brown cheese and jam, Norwegian-style). The hut is owned and operated by Rottevik bygdelag (Rottevik Building Team) on a voluntary basis. (One may also stay overnight at the hut: bring food and warm sleeping gear!) The wind made it easy not to overheat: just open one’s jacket briefly, cool off as needed, and adjust. Into the teeth of the wind wasn’t always easy skiing, but the scenery and company more than compensated.

After dinner—our host, Henrika, is a great cook—we went out to hunt the aurora. The sky had cleared, and we were hopeful. After a drive of perhaps 30 minutes, Patrik (our other host at Magic Mountain Lodge, who was driving) stopped the van, looked up at the sky, and said that there was an auroral display and we should get out. We wasted little time. Those with cameras set up and the aurora built. And built. It changed slowly, but it changed, sometimes to the north over the mountain, sometimes to the south across the fjord. At one point, Patrik proclaimed, “A bridge to the gods!” as the aurora, green and scintillating, stretched from one horizon through the zenith to another.

Aurora with Dipper

Aurora with Dipper

Reflections on Aurora

Reflections on Aurora

Wow. I am not a good enough writer for my meager prose to do justice to the splendor of the display. Perhaps a better essayist than I could, though perhaps it takes a poet. Or, perhaps, words alone cannot suffice: pictures are needed. In this case, we needed a 360º × 180º complete vertical panorama to capture the full extent of this display, now green, now with red edging in places, through the Big Dipper and past Jupiter, diving down through Perseus and past the Pleiades, with fingers and strings and torches appearing and disappearing.


Aurora from the Mountaintop

Aurora from the Mountaintop

Norway: Ethereal Glows

Norway. Northern Norway. Troms county: Tromsø and Lyngseidet. Above the Arctic Circle, ~70º north latitude.

We were hopeful, but not so optimistic. The first day, Thursday, February 12, it was snowy and windy and overcast. In fact, it was snowing heavily. Still, we went, because we had booked a tour to see the aurora borealis. Our tour guide, Marcus, was good, and nothing if not persistent. Starting in Tromsø, we drove (well, our driver drove, we rode in the back of the van) down the Balsfjorden, past Skibotn, for about two hours, 130 kilometers, into Finland and past Kilpisjärvi, to Könkämäälven. We stopped, Marcus looked out, we continued, we stopped, Marcus looked out, we turned back to where we’d been, and Marcus once again had us stop as he looked out and declared this to be about the best spot. And it was: a small hole in the overcast, and an ethereally faint white glow in the sky.

Had Marcus not told us it was the aurora, I would not have recognized it.

All aboard quickly set up cameras and started shooting.

The viewing was fleeting before the clouds moved in and the near-translucent aurora hid behind the cloudy curtain. We adjourned to dinner at the campfire, which Marcus struggled to light because of the wind. But, he succeeded, and dinner was a fabulous traditional Norwegian stew made of dried fish (rehydrated for a full day), potatoes, tomatoes, and who-knows-what herbs and spices.

Disappointed? No: I saw the aurora, for the first time in my life. It wasn’t much, certainly not what I’d hoped for, but I had seen it. I even took a picture or few: they showed scant little, a very faint green curtain (Barbara’s were much better, but still not spectacular because the aurora itself wasn’t)—but it gave me a chance to learn.

Little did I know what was yet to come.

Barbara Plies Her Favorite Craft

Barbara Plies Her Favorite Craft

The view on the ferry crossing the fjord.

The view on the ferry crossing the fjord.

The plan was to head out from Tromsø on Friday morning, meeting our friends Craig and Denise, who live in Kiruna, Sweden, for a long weekend’s activities, including time in Lyngseidet. (Craig works at EISCAT, the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association, where they study sun-earth interactions as evidenced in the aurora.) The weather did not cooperate, and we spent Friday in Tromsø. It was still snowing hard on Saturday, with avalanche danger closing roads leading to the two nearby ferries across the fjord from Tromsø to Lyngen, but one was open—though it would be a four hour drive, instead of an hour and a half. We set off. About halfway up the fjord, the weather broke, the skies cleared, and we had a very lovely view.

Getting Good Doggie Scritch Time

Getting Good Doggie Scritch Time

Our plans for the day had included dog sledding with a racer, Tommy by name, in Lyngseidet. Despite the late arrival because of the closed roads and detours, Tommy was flexible and able to accommodate us.

After welcoming us and ensuring our jackets and pants were sturdy enough to handle dogs jumping on us (Tommy had oversuits for those whose clothes needed protection), Tommy introduced us to all the dogs, and the dogs to us, each in his or her own turn. The dogs were very friendly, exuberant, well-trained, and certainly obedient. They demonstrated affection for Tommy, and seemed to want only his (and our!) affection, food, and to run with the sleds.  Tommy taught us how to harness the dogs, which was a very simple thing (guide the dog’s head into the appropriate loop in the nylon web harness—each dog has his or her own, so Tommy can determine which ones, if any, are chewing their harnesses—and then maneuver the harness over the dog’s forelegs), and to connect each dog’s harness to the sled’s traces.

Who's Driving Whom?

Who’s Driving Whom?

The best part was, for me, a complete surprise: Barbara had made the arrangements, telling me were were going to “go dog sledding,” and I had not inquired or checked further. I had envisioned riding on the sleds pulled by the dog team, but we got to drive!

Barbara and Her Team Lead Mine and Me

Barbara and Her Team Lead Mine and Me

Tommy gave us brief, basic driving lessons (the brake, leaning a little to help turn the sled [but unnecessary on Tommy’s 1 mile track through the forest: the sled will follow the dogs, anyway, so turning is just to help things along], and holler LOUD if you fall off!) Tommy and his team led the way, then Barbara or Denise (we swapped off watching and driving with Denise and Craig), then Craig or me. What a hoot it was to drive. When Tommy started each run, it was all I could to keep my team from following immediately, rather than leaving room between them and Barbara, who, in turn, had to wait for Tommy to get a bit of a lead. The team of four dogs was very, very strong, and it took all my weight on the “parking” brake to keep them from taking off too early.

Once we’d all driven, though not to anyone’s content, as we all wanted more!, we unharnessed the dogs, helped get them in their respective individual quarters, and bade them farewell. Tommy invited us down to the fjord’s edge for some tea and coffee by the campfire. (After night sledding, if it’s clear, he and his guests often see the aurora.)

Tommy and his dogs is definitely a highlight of the trip!

While out for a brief night ski after dinner at Magic Mountain Lodge in Lyngseidet, Craig spotted another white auroral glow. We stopped and watched it as it shifted a little, then noticed a faint but distinctively evident green streaked glow in a different direction. Definite aurora, though none of us had cameras to record the event.