Today was my first backcountry flight in my new 500B. It's one thing to read the manuals and say "It *should* be able to land there" and it's another to do it.
My first strip of the day was Cuba, NM (NM2, 4137 long, elev 6840'.) It's pretty much just a straight chunk of dirt where there are fewer bushes. I made a first pass at 800,' a second at 10', and then it was time to land. Well, it was worse than it looked. I selected the last 2000' instead of the first, and that turned out to be the section where the herd of cattle went over it after the last rain. It was pretty rough. The runway end was just 2000' feet away when I touched down and it seemed to be coming fast, but I stopped with hundreds to spare with gentle braking. The 500B spun easily in the 40' of dirt and I trundled back to the departure end. The first 250' was REALLY rough, so I just departed from the last good spot and easily made it off after about 1500' of ground roll.
The next stop was Lindrith, NM (E32, 3300 long, elev 7202'.) This was a "real" airport with markings, a boundary, and a parking area! One quick pass told me it would be fine. The soft sand of the runway made the touchdown feel like I'd been flying a commander forever - even when I stalled it in from about 3' up. I did another mid-runway spin & taxi back, followed by a slightly longer ground roll as I headed uphill to the west.
A quick glance at the sectional showed a private strip to the north. I was wondering if it was one I'd seen from the ground, so I headed that way. I was passing about a mile south at 1000' AGL and looking at a Cessna on the ground near a small house when the radio that I'd left on 122.9 crackled to life: "Aircraft passing over Murrow field, are you intending to land?"
"Well," I said - "I wasn't planning on it, but if you're inviting - I'll come on in."
"My friend's already dropped in today, so come on by."
So I set up to do a low pass at Murrow Field On The Divide (that's the full name.) It's NM99, 4,000 feet long and 7,550 elevation. A quick pass showed that the phone line had been buried midfield, and most of the prairie dog holes were filled. I could see the 182 didn't have bush tires so I thought "If his gear is still attached, mine'll be fine."
After rolling to a stop and parking I met Rol Murrow and two of his friends. Rol is justifiably proud of his field that straddles the continental divide. If you take off to the west, it's downhill to the Pacific. If you take off to the east, it's downhill to the Atlantic. He was very excited that I was the first twin to land in his field, ever! He'd been filling the holes the night before in preparation for a landing today. The prairie dog holes are big - the big ones will eat a 6.00x6 tire. If you go over them with speed, they're OK - but if you drop into one going slow, you may not come out.
Well, we started chatting about planes and one thing leads to another, and the next thing we know the density altitude is over 10,000. It's time to head home. Both the 182 and I are light - we both have 1/2 tanks and extra seats removed. He goes first and shows me how it's done with a 1600' ground roll from a pretty rough surface. I go second and show HIM how it's done with a longer ground roll, but a 2800' 50' obstacle clearance. I have to say for anyone who's thinking of turbos - unless you're going at full gross out of Leadville on hot days, don't bother. The planes are amazing as-is. I have both hands on the throttles ready to chop at the first sign of yaw, but as soon as I'm past the end of the runway it's downhill and I lower the nose to get some extra safety speed.
Well, that's it for the first day of rough strips - here's hoping there are many more to come!