It is a difficult time in my life right now. Getting out to go flying is a much needed escape and I'm so grateful to have a beautiful set of wings at my disposal.
I set the alarm for 0darkthirty so I could get out and back before work. After the mandatory cup of coffee and a quick email check I looked at the weather. Runwayfinder was all reds and yellows due to fog and mist. Time enough for another cup of coffee.
By 7:30 some blue was starting to poke through, although Pittsburgh looked like it was getting some showers. I gathered my gear and jumped in the car for the short 10 minute trip to Butter Valley. A hot air balloon lifted off from a nearby lot climbing straight up in the still air. When I got to the airport a small flock of geese were feeding on the taxi way. After preflight and start, while waiting for the oil to warm to 122 a helicopter called in for traffic. I alerted her to the geese and her rotors chased them off. What a magnificent machine. I think she and her passengers came in for breakfast but unfortunately the grill was still closed because of power outages from Hurricane Irene. They took the courtesy truck into Bally.
Visibility wasn't great. (I love my)696 showed the storms in western Pennsylvania hadn't moved much and the air was still and smooth. Banks of mist still laid in the valleys and it was beautiful to see the fog pushing its way through the gap at Slatington. The windmills on the ridge to west were motionless. No one in the traffic pattern at KHZL, I chose an extended left base for runway 28 and landed well short of the first turn off. Nothing was moving.
I taxied back to the approach end and prepared to depart. A dozen wild turkeys were busy in the field to the left. These are LARGE birds. Fortunately they stayed there and my departure was uneventful. I used the VOR coupled to the autopilot for the return trip. The analog input constantly rolled the airplane from one side to the other as it tried to find a course to stabilize the CDI. I liked it for sightseeing but don't think most would care for the constant rocking motion.
As I began my descent a flight of four Blackhawks traversed beneath me from left to right. My wife heard my radio calls on the handheld and came out to the airport to help with cover and tie down. That deserved a fresh breakfast over at the Strawberry. A lot of aviation for one short flight. Pretty cool.