The clock on the computer finally indicated 3 o’clock on Friday and I hurriedly packed up and made my way quietly out of the office. After a quick rendezvous with my friend at the airport entrance, we readied the airplane and in no time were tracking around the back side of Pikes Peak. Within 45 minutes our Cessna 182 was making its way over Hayden Pass and dropping down into the valley below, our destination in sight. The breathtaking expanse of the San Luis Valley never ceases to amaze me as the jutting peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Range to our left give way to the valley floor.

 We made a few circles above the Hooper Pool private airstrip to check conditions and then lined up on final for runway 25. The wheels touched down on the freshly graded dirt strip and shortly afterward we began unpacking the camping gear out of the plane. Even though it was mid March, a few of us decided to arrive the night before and take advantage of the warmer than average temperatures.

 In the designated tent sites, we made quick time of setting up our tents knowing what lied ahead. The remainder of the night consisted of filling our empty stomachs with the freshly prepared meals from the Mile Deep Grille, resting our tired bodies in the 105°F hot tub, and telling grand adventures around the campfire. For us, this is the very reason the high costs of aircraft ownership are so rewarding.

In the morning the planes started to arrive. The winds were calm and only a high layer of clouds blanketed the valley. Cessna’s, Piper’s, Stinson’s, Maule’s, and homebuilts all started to arrive and fill the dirt parking lot. Old friends were greeting each other and new friends were introducing themselves. The owner and manager of the Sand Dunes Pool were there to say hello and welcome each pilot. The ear-to-ear smiles were easy to spot and it was apparent everyone was having a good time. A few children arrive and they quickly became impatient of the endless chatter as they knew a pool, diving board and water slide awaited inside.

 After an hour of watching planes land, a dozen aircraft filled the parking lot and we all found ourselves looking over the mouth watering menu at the Mile Deep Grille. It’s a safe bet that no matter what you order off the menu is delicious as it is all high quality, home grown produce. As the afternoon progressed everyone was keeping a watchful eye on the incoming showers that were forecasted to come in later that day. So after many handshakes and farewells, one by one we started to depart back to our home airport before the weather became a factor.

 Our flight path back to Denver took us east over the Great Sand Dunes National Park and then north around several military airspaces. Before we knew it, runway 35R at Centennial was in the middle of the windscreen. Centennial Ground cleared us back to the hangar and we both couldn’t help but think about our next trip to Hooper and the Sand Dunes Pool.

 A very big thank you to Donnie and Carly at the Sand Dunes Pool for being so accommodating and hospitable! If you ever feel the need to experience warm company and a hot pool, take a trip over to the Hooper airstrip (Prior permission and a friendly phone call is required).