Captain's Log 1XE, Day 10 in the month of April in the Earth Calendar Year of 2014.
After what has turned out to be a very busy and productive March flying schedule due to some long awaited good news about the Colorado River (see Spring 2014 Newsletter) we are back on the Captain Log airways. 1XE lifted off to the far reaches of our known world or continent.... California. A strange and wonderful state populated or over-populated by a mixture of do-gooders and do-badders. Today our mission is to work with some do-gooders in a rarely used unearthly ritual known as planning. The focus of this planning is the Coachella Valley, an area that runs from Banning Pass to the Salton Sea, and which is surrounded by the San Bernadino, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. Coachella Valley includes the towns of Palm Springs, Cathedral City, through Palm Desert and Indian Wells to La Quinta. For a bit of perspective, Banning Pass separates the desert proper from the bowels of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. As the crow flies it is a scant 95 nautical miles. With the added acceleration of the venturi effect of the wind blowing sometimes at 50 mph you can get from the ocean to the desert in 20 minutes in our starship. And for more perspective for the eclectic, the Coachella Valley is home to the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, America's biggest music festival.
The reason for our flights was to give elected officials, business owners and conservationists an aerial perspective of the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CVMSHCP). The CVMSHCP is a regional conservation plan that will add over 240,000 acres of permanently conserved open space, and protect 27 species, safeguarding the desert's natural heritage for future generations. The wildlife corridors that will be protected by the CVMSHCP also have the potential for connecting the Coachella Valley to Joshua Tree National Park via a number of proposed trails.
This ambitious project highlights the best of a concerned citizenry: politicians, representatives of the California Fish and Wildlife Department, local hiking groups, representatives from planning departments, mayors past and present, and just plain old concerned citizens. The organizations involved, the attention to detail with hand-outs and maps, and the diverse mix of the passengers was extraordinary. Preflight briefings, powerpoint presentations and debriefs after the flights provided textbook aerial educational tours. Flying 3 aerial tours a day, over 3 days, we helped put the areas of interest into perspective.
Anyone who knows this country knows the temperatures can be brutal at times and we "lucked" out by having the thermometer hit 120 on some of the flights. Density altitude had to be calculated and take off distances taken into consideration, not to mention the venturi effect of the strong winds coming off Banning Pass, in planning for climb performance.
I have had the good fortune to climb in the Joshua Tree National Park bordering this valley and it is one of the really wild and wonderful areas of our country. I was impressed and grateful that the citizenry of this unique valley had the wherewithal to get out in front of many issues and proactively plan for a future based on a sustainable conservation ethic to preserve some of the unique qualities of this desert landscape.