Alaska Highway

Home
Aviation Stories
"In Memory Of"
Net Sites
Sign Guestbook
View Guestbook
Email Ron
Sell your Trust Deed



Search my site:

Case-sensitive?yes
exact     fuzzy
Masthead


Serene Great Annual Flyin

An Indian Hills Airpark Great Fly-out

Story and Photos
By Ron Kilber

Saturday, January 4, 2003

It's a beautiful day (as in U2's top hit) while Glen Cheney and I blast off from El Rancho Estrella (Arizona) about 10:30 a.m., en route from this remote private strip to the Serene Field at the bottom of Rainbow Valley. We're in my Cessna 150 going to the annual Serene Fly-in, which is a private gathering of pilots and friends each January in the remote wilderness area of the Sonoran desert. We're the last to join a group of airplanes loaded with pilots and friends from Indian Hills Airpark, ready to have a wonderful day and rendezvous with people some of us haven't seen since last year's event.

I'll explain later how it came that we started out from El Rancho Estrella.

En route to Serene Field
Glen and Ron En route to the Serene Annual Flyin, dusting the McMullen Valley in the background.
Click photo for high-resolution image

When I invited Indian Hills resident Glen to fly with me to Serene today, he hesitated, wanting to first know who signed off my annual. I had to laugh a lot out loud, for it was Glen who helped me get through my extensive annual inspection on my C-150 in December. We spent more than two weeks on the project. Glen is an IA (FAA "inspection authorization") who signed off on my "annual". So it was really funny when he hesitated to accept my invitation. But it's very comforting for any pilot to know that his IA will jump in and test fly with him.

Getting There

From the Salome Arizona area, getting to Serene Field is a cake-walk. Just beeline southeast for the steam plums rising from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, then continue another forty-five miles. Serene is right on the Mode C boundary of Phoenix Class B airspace. The airport is one of dozens that can be found in the Rainbow Valley, most built from scratch by rugged, independent, survival-minded pilots who just want to be left alone to enjoy life without rubbing shoulders with society's misfits, which seem to be growing exponentially in numbers as the world's population continues to explode.

Oh, dog-leg a good distance around the power plant. Owing to 9-11, flying directly overhead is prohibited.

After about one hour aloft, Glen's not trusting my ded-reckoning ability or believing my claim that Serene is on our nose a ways off. He uses my Omni receiver to fix our location. Sure enough, not only is our destination straight ahead, but it begins to come into full view in the Phoenix-area haze.

Runway 35, Serene
Runway 35, Serene
Click photo for high-resolution image

The Landing Strip

Serene Field is 1451 MSL with a length of 3,900 feet. It's an excellent strip made of up a mixture of hard-packed dirt and sand. There isn't a rock of any size on the surface. It's as smooth as brand new asphalt, which you wouldn't know but for the lack of tire sounds when the wheels hit the dirt. Most runways out here are built like this -- low cost and low maintenance.

Two Homesteads

Serene was started by Dale Bowden in the 80's after he retired from the Salt Lake City area. As he made improvements to the land, Dale also made trips to a 14th-street dance hall in Phoenix on Saturday nights. That's where in 1990 he met Angela, who retired to Arizona with her husband from New Jersey in the 80's, who passed away two years later. After meeting Dale and many years as a widow, she promptly bought 40 acres next to Dale's homestead. Today, 113 acres make up their combined homesteads. Angela's house and hangar are on the southwest end of Serene. Dale's homestead is on the northwest end (see aerial photo).

Angela's Homestead

Angela wanted a rock house, so Dale used material provided by her and built a rock house with an A-frame top and crow's nest. It's a cozy little place complete with a fireplace, spiral staircase and three levels (four, counting the crow's nest).

Angela's house
Angela's rock house with an A-frame top and crow's nest.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Angela
Angela recounting her memories of meeting Dale.

Angela's living room.
Angela's living room.

Angela's kitchen.
"Angela's kitchen.

Dale's Homestead

You know you're among good people where there's a welcome stone. The engraving reads: "Dale J. Bowden, Oct. 86, Wawahosa, AZ (Welcome all who are honest, others stay away)".

Wawahosa, AZ
Dale J. Bowden, Oct. 86, Wawahosa, AZ (Welcome all who are honest others stay away).
Click photo for high-resolution image

Dale's home includes subterranean living quarters, which remains cool throughout the summer without the need of air conditioning equipment. The entrance and spiral steps remind me of entering a medieval dungeon. The temperature drops noticeably as we descend into a great room, where there's plenty of room to wait out the harsh day-time temperatures during the summer above. There's also a fireplace so the room can be used during colder times.

Tex & Dale
Dale Bowden (right) with his friend and my Indian Hills neighbor, Tex McClatchy.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Dale's entrance to his subterranean living room.
Dale's entrance to his subterranean living room.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Subterranean living room with fireplace
Subterranea living room with fireplace.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Dale's Taylorcraft
Dale's Taylorcraft
Click photo for high-resolution image

An old rock house, believed to be a stage-coach stop during the 1800's.
An old rock house, believed to be a stage-coach stop during the 1800's.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Moving On

Dale and Angela bought more property four miles south, where they're jointly building another homestead. It already has an excellent dirt runway, partially completed hangar and temporary living quarters. Their thoughts now lie with eventually selling Serene. At an asking price of $275,000, it seems a good bargain when you consider all the improvements, which include multiple wells (not a cheap undertaking today).

The Gathering

Meeting fellow pilots and friends
Glen with Don Miller (Indian Hills lot owner) and world renowned performer Frederick Antonio and wife from Branson, Missouri. Frederick simultaneously plays two grand concert pianos. He and his wife came to visit Don.
Click photo for high-resolution image

The main event
The main event -- food for hungry pilots and friends.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Indian Hills residents chowing down.
Roger Kolbo, Tom Washburn and John Neville chowing down while an ultra-light aircraft provides flavor and setting.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Indian Hills residents chowing down.
Bob Bumgardner, Bill & Linda Jones enjoying hamburgers and hot dogs, proof that the best way to a pilot's heart is with food.
Click photo for high-resolution image

No food shortage here
There's neither a food shortage nor anyone holding out their hand to charge you five bucks for a burger here. This is the way all flyins once were, before bureaucrats entered the fray with big-town events, which can now cost more than a hundred bucks for a family to enjoy.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Try to find hotdogs like these at the ballpark.
Okay, maybe not the healthiest food, but try to find wieners like these at the ballpark.
Click photo for high-resolution image

One of the many arrivals today
One of the many arrivals today.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Tex McClatchy hanging Tom Washburn
Tex McClatchy hanging Tom Washburn.
Click photo for high-resolution image

McClatchy's turn
McClatchy's turn.
Click photo for high-resolution image

Crop Circle
Rainbow Valley's crop circle (Eat Me!).

One of the many varients of flying machines arriving today.
One of the many variants of flying machines arriving today.
Click photo for high-resolution image

A Nord (Polish)
A Nord (Polish)
Click photo for high-resolution image

Yak
Yak
Click photo for high-resolution image

Homeward Bound

Going home is as easy as flying here. Just head for the generating station again. Only on the way back, we decide to make things a bit more interesting. First, we decide to fly by Bert Hook's place at an airpark in the Harquahala Valley, just east of the Eagletail Mountains. He has a place at Indian Hills, as well. Then we circle Courthouse Rock to see if any rock climbers are perched on the world-class crag in the remote desert wilderness area. There aren't any, but we maintain 2,000 feet clearance in observance of the designated wilderness area.

By now the trip home is getting too long for Glen, so we have to make a pit stop at the pipeline station west of Courthouse. Five minutes later we're back in the air. Fifteen minutes later we're back on the ground at Indian Hills Airpark.

What a fantastic day. It was T-shirt-perfect weather. Plenty of pilot camaraderie. And it was a safe trip for everyone.

Oh, I almost forgot to explain how it came that we started out from El Rancho Estrella today. You can find out by reading my Indian Hills Editorial.

###

Copyright (C) 2003 Ron Kilber rpknet@aztec.asu.edu     RonKilber.tripod.com You may reprint this story for non-commercial use provided this copyright notice is left intact. Permission will not be unreasonably withheld for all other uses.

7:52 PM 1/4/2003



© Copyright 1996 - 2003 Ron Kilber All rights reserved.
rpknet@aztec.asu.edu