Going on a backcountry safari to explore the airstrips long ago hacked out of what became the the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Areas ranks second on my all-time list of best aviation experiences. (First was flying, with six other airplanes, a Glasair Sportsman 2+2 from Arlington, Washington, up the trench, to Anchorage, Alaska.)
The safari would have ranked first had I held the stick and rudder, but I was there for a story and the learning experience, not to scare myself, or worse. This is Soldier Bar. Perched 4,190 feet up the side of a mountain, it’s a 1,600-foot, one-way uphill dirt strip with two bumps and a dog leg. The safari pilots called it “an interesting little strip.”
It’s always been my hope to one day get good enough to visit some of those backcountry strips as pilot in command. To keep the dream alive, I visit often the Recreational Aviation Foundation, which is dedicated to “preserving, maintaining, and creating public-use recreational and backcountry airstrips nationwide.” On my last visit I learned that may not happen unless all pilots so interested comment now!
The US Forest Service is revising its land management rules, something it does regularly. Under the proposed rules, many of which are vague and inconsistent, public recreation in all forms takes the backseat to uses of the land, such as timber. Like the FAA and its proposed regulations, the USFS is accepting public comments on its proposed land management rules until May 16. To add your two cents, start at the RAF website for more details and link to the rule and to comment on it. –Scott Spangler