Fly In

Episode #802

June 15, 2024

I live in a mountain valley just west of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians nation.



The Cahuilla have lived in this valley for 5000 years, since they migrated south to North America with the Shoshone tribes. From my house on the western ridge of the valley I can see Cahuilla land as far northeast, east and southeast as the eye can see. 

To my south, the valley is bordered by the Palomar mountain range dotted with the white dome of Palomar Observatory. The southeast valley boundary are the Beauty Mountains. East is the Pacific Crest Trail which runs along the ridge line of Santa Rosa and Thomas mountains. On my north is Mount Cahuilla, a semi dormant volcano. Eons ago the south face of Cahuilla exploded into the valley riddling it was massive granite boulders.

In 1775 Juan Bautista de Anza led 200 settlers from Mexico to San Francisco where he established a mission. His exploratory trail came through the Cahuilla valley, having a profound effect on the indigenous natives. Many were converted to Catholicism. The Cahuilla began to trade with the Spaniards that traveled the Bautista trail.

Later, following the Bautista trail was the Butterfield Stage Mail route. The Butterfield Stage delivered mail from Saint Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, California. The Parks family migrated in ox-drawn wagons along the former Butterfield route in the late 1800s arriving in nearby Aguanga and driving their livestock to the Cahuilla valley.

The Parks family coexisted with the Cahuilla, enjoying a lucrative trade from travelers of the Bautista trail. In the early 1920s the grandson of David and Frances Parks, Gaylord Parks, saw an airplane do an emergency landing on a flat area of the valley. This area was the site of the airport in what is now Lake Riverside Estates, where I live.

My friend Duffy belongs to a flying club. Members of the club take turns organizing an airport fly-in at different locations throughout Southern California. Last month it was Duffy’s turn to pick the airport. He chose Lake Riverside Estates airport.

The private airstrip in Lake Riverside is 3200 feet long and 75 feet wide of paved runway. The altitude is 3400 feet MSL and is nestled in a mountain valley.

Because of its altitude and east-west orientation the airport valley has its own climate and weather patterns. The day of the fly-in the forecast was cloudy, clearing to patchy clouds. At 2pm rain clouds were predicted to spontaneously form over the valley. It was going to be a cold, breezy 50° F.

Most of the 7 airplanes in the fly-in were coming from the San Diego area which meant they would be flying over the Palomar Mountain range. At 8am I observed the clouds just scraping the 6,000 foot peak. There were strips of blue all along the ridge line. Skies were clear in all parts south of Palomar. Duffy decided it was a GO.

At 10am a Cirrus SR22 flew over my house. I watched it fly a perfect approach pattern and land.

Paula and I drove down to the airport to greet the pilot. The pilot and his wife were nice. We chatted about their beautiful cloud scattered flight.

We saw a Piper Comanche circling the airport. He made a perfect landing as well. Duffy arrived in his Cheetah about 10:30 as planned and began organizing the airplanes in the transient parking area. One by one a Taylorcraft, two Bonanza A35s, and a Cessna 182 arrived. Duffy marshaled them into parking spots.

Blue skies blessed the picnic lunch. It was enjoyed by all. Later I spoke to the fliers, telling some of the history of the Cahuilla tribes, the Parks family and the Lake Riverside valley airport.

At 1 PM clouds were beginning to form. Everyone said goodbye and one by one took off to the west, waggling their wings at my house on the ridge. Finally, Duffy’s Cheetah leapt off the runway to dance among the gathering clouds.

On Mount Cahuilla the spirit of an indian chief looked down to the Bautista trail, pointed a spear at the departing aircraft and said, “naxenic ʼáʼawet.” (my friend, you are clever, like a fox).

As Paula and I walked to our car the rain started to sprinkle. Timing is everything.


“Skydivers Know Why Birds Sing” by Ricki T Thues is now available on Amazon.
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  1. Danielle L BARLOW June 15, 2024
    • Rick Thues June 15, 2024
  2. Claire F Ratfield June 20, 2024

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