Sunday, September 25, 2016

Goat Mountain

With Emily in San Francisco with her parents touring the city and heading to Alcatraz I was alone with Leo for the weekend.  With beautiful weather predicted I searched the internet for a place to take Leo where I could legally practice flying my DJI Phantom outside of a designated wilderness area.  I found a great ridge line hike just north of Mount St. Helens which looked perfect and probably wouldn't be too popular.

Leo and I got a late start on the trail around noon but the hike was pegged at 8 miles so I thought we'd have plenty of time to finish up before dark.  Right from the start it was a very steep ascent to the ridge with Leo and I making great time.   From the ridge we had amazing views East towards Mt. Adams and south to Mt. St. Helens over the ridge of Mt. Margaret.  We continued along the ridge towards Goat Mountain, Leo following happily along and me looking silly in my 5,500 cubic inch pack that I needed to carry the Phantom in it's case.  

Just before we reached the ridge the trail plunged downhill towards a lake. I saw a faint herd path along the ridge and after consulting at length with Leo we decided to press onward towards what looked like an impassible knife edge ridge of cliffs just before the broad summit of Goat Mountain.  The sun was definitely hot above us as we pressed on through the tall grass of the ridge and I could tell Leo was getting tired.  When we reached the steep section we took our time skirting around the backside of the cliffs safely.  It was steep and I kept Leo close on some of the tough parts but soon we were on top of Goat Mountain with a wonderful view of Mt. Rainier to the north of us. 

Leo took up a spot of shade underneath some bushes while I enjoyed about half an hour of flying the Phantom out over the small lake and back along the ridge line.  I also got it to circle (orbit) us at the summit of the mountain which looked pretty cool upon review later.  After hand-catching it successfully on the summit to avoid crashing it into the tall grass and receiving a phone call from Emily and her parents (still can't believe that call went through where I was) I packed everything up and we headed back down along the ridge.    

About half way back along the ridge I took out the Phantom 4 again to test out the "follow me" tracking mode.  It took a few tries but eventually I had it following Leo and I down the trail as the remote bounced against my chest via a shoelace.  When we got to the outskirts of the woods I flew it down to hand catch it again but this time it didn't go so well as it kicked and bucked trying to get out of my hand.  No matter what I tried to power it down I couldn't so I let it go and it immediately sought out the ground for landing, tipping over and kicking up dust with it's props as it landed in the tall grass.  Whoops....

From there it was a quick descent back to the car that required a lot of encouragement for Leo.  The 8 mile hike had stretched to over 10 miles under a hot sun and Leo was pretty pooped trying to keep up with me.  He was very slow and very far behind me and when he got the truck I could tell how excited he was to hop in and go right to sleep.  It was a beautiful hike and definitely good practice for my flight skills.  

I had just passed my FAA Remote Pilot exam just a week or so before so I could use all the practice I could get.  Can't wait to fly again, just wish it wasn't so cumbersome to carry into the woods. 

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