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kaosfere

Furnace Creek to Leadville

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I decided to take advantage of the holiday today, combined with the wife and kid being out of the house, to make a flight I've been planning for a little while:  From Furnace Creek, CA (Death Valley -- the lowest airport in North America) to Leadville, CO (the highest airport in North America).  It's a perfectly manageable trip in a zippy little prop, especially one with enough power to handle the higher elevations.   I decided this would be a great run for the RealAir Legacy.

 

Here are a few shots from the trip...  following a northerly take off from Furnace Creek I circled the airport to head back south.  Furnace Creek is in the top right here.

 

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Then it was through the Badwater Basin to say "hello" to the lowest point in North America (-282 MSL) before a quick climb to get out of the valley and head west over Las Vegas.  I made for 11500 in order to clear KLAS airspace and headed right over the city.

 

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Then it was on towards the Grand Canyon.  I flew over the Peach Springs VOR and then followed the southern rim of the canyon until I could cross via the Fossil Canyon VFR corridor.

 

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Through the corridor and then eastwards until picking up Marble Canyon...

 

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And then follow Marble Canyon nice and low, buzzing L41 on the way.  I just couldn't resist.

 

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After a climb out of Marble Canyon, I flew over the town of Page and then headed in a straight ENE line for a good hour or so, out over the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. 

 

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The scenery was all much the same, and was starting to get a little bit draggy, when what should appear below me but some vegetation, and on the horizon... green!

 

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I was so happy to see a change of pace and feel like I was finally getting somewhere that I did a nice circle around the town of Blanding.  (Great name, that.)

 

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Then onwards and upwards as we head towards the Rockies:

 

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When I started seeing real peaks on the horizon I knew I was reaching the end of the trip.

 

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The last stretch began with a turn over Montrose, then a steady climb as I followed the river towards Gunnison and the highest part of the trip.

 

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As you can see from that shot, the clouds started lowering.   This bit got rather tense...  in real life it would have been too risky to carry on as I was, but in this case, well...  it's simulation, right?   It was time to break out the oxygen bottles just in case and see if I could make it through the pass I was headed for without losing VMC.   I think this next shot is my absolute favorite of the trip:

 

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Though this one's pretty good, too:

 

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I made it through the tight spots -- though at some points keeping it between the surface and the cloud deck felt very much like threading the needle -- then headed down towards Alexander Field, planning to follow the valley KANK - KAEJ - KLXV to get to my destination.   As I was heading northwards weather began to take a real dip, but stayed legal.  I wanted to get home fast.

 

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Sure enough, as I approached KLXV the snow started coming down.   My approach was, uh, a bit hairy, but I brought it down in one piece, taxied to the ramp, and shut her down.   Quite a pleasant little trip, now it's time to stretch my legs...

 

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This is so unbelievable seeing Furnace Creek from high up. Brings back memories of last summer for me. Wonderful shots.

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I should say, thanks to the folks I polled for some real-world flight planning advice, by the way.  And yeah, vc10man, doing this made me want to go back there soon.  That whole part of the country was totally new for an east coast boy like me, and I was astounded by a lot of it.

 

pugilist2, I'm using BlueSky scenery for the little bits in California and Nevada, and UltimateVFR in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.

 

(And, to round out the suite, ASN, REX4, and Soft Clouds)

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I could not believe how how it was at Badwater Basin, and out guide told us a wonderful anecdote to it. As I bent on one knee to compose a shot, the skin literally fried off!!! To see huge blocks of crystallised salt under that fierce sun, was jaw-dropping.

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I could not believe how how it was at Badwater Basin, and out guide told us a wonderful anecdote to it. As I bent on one knee to compose a shot, the skin literally fried off!!! To see huge blocks of crystallised salt under that fierce sun, was jaw-dropping.

 

What I really liked at Badwater was looking wayyyy up on the cliff behind the parking area to see the little sign they have that says "SEA LEVEL".   That drove the elevation home.   I think my single favorite part of our trip, though, was going to Mosaic Canyon a bit too late in the day -- we'd spent the afternoon at Beatty -- and not really getting there until dusk was well under way.   We started walking up the canyon as it got progessively darker, until night finally fell hard.   We had a flashlight to guide us out, but I was happy sitting there in the total dark in this tiny little slot canyon with not a sound except for my own breathing and that of my wife and daughter.   It was like being at the end of the world.  I'm not sure how long I would have stayed there entranced by it all if my wife hadn't gotten creeped out by it and insisted we go back to "cilvization", such as it was.  Even in the most remote natural places I'd been there was always some sign of life, even if it was just the slightest rustle of wind on leaves or grass; sitting in the dark of a still night in Death Valley I finally learned what true, cavernous silence is like.   It was erie.

 

Wow, derail. :)   Not that I mind, I love that place.

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What I really liked at Badwater was looking wayyyy up on the cliff behind the parking area to see the little sign they have that says "SEA LEVEL"

When our guide first pointed it to us, it was so surreal to look up at that cliff, and come to terms we were way below it!

 

Luckily we still had enough daylight to see Mosaic Canyon and the wonderful changes in colour.

 

The night skies there were worth dying for as somebody interested in celestial bodies. Only wish I could have brought my telescope with me. But I agree, that sense of cut-off from civilisation brought it home to me why burros were man's best friend to those miners who first trekked through there.

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Nice set of images and descriptions.  And interesting to see a comprehensive set of images with UltimateVFR.  This is an area I know well, both IRL and in the sim, as I live and fly (well, flew really as I'm not current right now) here, and the UltimateVFR scenery looks a bit lower in detail than what I see with BlueSky and MSE v2, but perhaps you can comment on that.  Certainly nice to see the vegetation, though.

 

Thanks for these,

 

Scott

 

Edit:  Definitely would not have done Monarch Pass in these conditions IRL, but yep - in the sim it's fun to push the envelope a bit sometimes.  :-)

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Nice set of images and descriptions.  And interesting to see a comprehensive set of images with UltimateVFR.  This is an area I know well, both IRL and in the sim, as I live and fly (well, flew really as I'm not current right now) here, and the UltimateVFR scenery looks a bit lower in detail than what I see with BlueSky and MSE v2, but perhaps you can comment on that.  Certainly nice to see the vegetation, though.

 

I don't have any of the MegaScenery states, so I can't compare to that.  I could grab some of the BlueSky blocks in AZ and UT and do a comparison, though, if you'd be interested.   I didn't feel like the resolution of the UltimateVFR imagery was low enough to be noticable, at any rate, regardless.  Most of what stuck out at me at times was the poor way that the images get stretched over some of those vertical cliff faces in the southwest, but that's hardly the scenery's fault.

 

I am rather curious now how BlueSky would look in comparison, though.   Time to fire up the downloader...

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Isn't BlueSky scenery free? If it is... I'm impressed!

 

It is, yep.  The coverage isn't as broad as some others, but they do tend to at least get the "interesting" areas.  And it's (mostly) 1m/pixel, whereas UltimateVFR is 1.2m/px, so it is higher in raw resolution, yes.

 

I'm downloading the BlueSky Grand Canyon area and southwestern Utah around Blanding.  Hopefully tomorrow night I'll have time to do some comparisons.

 

 
Edit:  Oh, what the heck.   PC Aviator still have megascenery stuff on sale in their AU store.  I just bought Utah for $17 US and can do a three-way comparison at some point this week. 
Edited by kaosfere

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Isn't BlueSky scenery free? If it is... I'm impressed!

 

It is, and you should be!  Especially when you consider that Gottfried includes hi-res mesh and corrected airports.

 

 

 


I'm downloading the BlueSky Grand Canyon area and southwestern Utah around Blanding. Hopefully tomorrow night I'll have time to do some comparisons.

 

Awesome!  For Utah, I use BlueSky, while for Colorado I have to depend on MSE v2 and high res Denver (which is quite impressive), so I'm VERY interested to see the comparisons.

 

Thanks much for taking the time to do this,

 

Scott

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Am looking forward to the comparison shots being as I am trying to decide between Mega Scenery V2, Ultimate VFR 2.0,  and BlueSky.

 

Could you post a couple of night shots of Ultimate VFR 2.0 showing the city lights?  It says at their website they include night lighting. 

 

Also wondering if Mega Scenery 2.0 has water masking for the ocean and inland lakes such as Lake Powell near Las Vegas?

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I don't normally fly in the west, but I guess I have to now after seeing that Blue Sky scenery!

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I don't normally fly in the west, but I guess I have to now after seeing that Blue Sky scenery!

 

I think it actually works best in the southwest, where the beauty comes from the actual geology, not from plant cover or human construction.  I find photo scenery over urban areas or woodlands to be disappointing unless it's something that uses an overlay for autogen or placed objects.

 

The best combination I've seen is SimHeaven scenery for X-Plane combined with World2XPlane data which draws object layers based on openstreetmap data, so in places with good OSM coverage you get both photoreal imagery and real-world accurate object placement to the level of individual buildings.  The effect can be stunning, and I'd love to have widespread availability of this in FSX/P3D.

 

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I think it actually works best in the southwest, where the beauty comes from the actual geology, not from plant cover or human construction. I find photo scenery over urban areas or woodlands to be disappointing unless it's something that uses an overlay for autogen or placed objects.

 

Spot on with this comment.  It's great in the SW US, and BlueSky covers that area quite well from SoCal to much of AZ, southern portions of NV and all of Utah, so you can have that coverage for free if you prefer.  Lot's of downloading so patience is required, but very nice results.  I can't recommend BlueSky strongly enough for those who want to get their feet wet trying photo, but aren't sure if they'll like it or not.

 

BTW, your shots drove my flight last night, as I realized I simply had to do a VFR flight through Monarch Pass.  My wx was a bit better than yours for the trip, though. ;-)

 

Scott

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OK, I've been taking a few comparison shots in Utah between Megascenery, UltimateVFR, and BlueSky.   It's late and I'm tired, but I figured I'd post one set.   These are all over Blanding, taken around mid afternoon with clear sky.

 

Megascenery:

 

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BlueSky:

 

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Ultimate:

 

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To my eye, Megascenery comes off distinctly worst, with BlueSky and Ultimate being close.  Mega looks blurry, weirdly color shifted, over-saturated, and under-exposed.  You can maybe just barely see the slight resolution advantage that BlueSky has, but it's minor enough that every other time I look I end up thinking that Ultimate is actually superior there.  Aside from that it the two seem highly comparable.   You could probably decide based on whether you were more interested in the slightly better clarity of BlueSky, if you even saw it, or the autogen of Ultimate.

 

Frankly, I find Megascenery very disappointing here, and that pattern holds up for the rest of the pictures I've taken so far (which I'll clean up and post a little later this week or this weekend).   I took images around the state (here, Salt Lake, Mount Pleasant, Canyonlands) and in all of them Mega ends up looking like a low-rent reproduction to me.  I don't have any other of their scenery to compare to, so maybe Utah is just a bad state for them, but I'm kinda glad I only paid $17 for that package for this comparison. :}

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To my eye, Megascenery comes off distinctly worst, with BlueSky and Ultimate being close. Mega looks blurry, weirdly color shifted, over-saturated, and under-exposed

I fully concur with your observations. When I first looked at Mega, my first thoughts were, thank heavens I've never bought any of their sceneries. I looked that that distant mountain range and I could immediately see the difference.

 

Nice set of test images. Thanks.

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Thanks much for the shots and your thoughts.  I use BlueSky for Utah, so can't comment there as far as MSE v2 goes, but in other areas my biggest complaint about them is inconsistency.  I do have MSE v2 Colorado, as MSE was the only one doing CO and it's a classic mixed bag.  Some areas are very good, some are good and some are awful, particularly in the eastern part of the state. 

 

BlueSky, on the other hand, generally does about as good as can be done with the imagery available and includes upgraded mesh and airport correction.  And for the price (donation ware) it can't be beat.  But if Ultimate hangs in there with BlueSky, the addition of vegetation may make it a worthwhile tradeoff.  Think I'll give CO a try and see how things look there.

 

BTW, I also have MS' hi-res city version for Denver and that really is a different story.  It covers the front range cities from parts of Fort Collins all the way south to Pueblo and includes much of the foothills to near the front range peaks to the west and well east of the I25 corridor.  Still some color inconsistency in a few places, but the res is killer and holds up well at lower altitudes.

 

Again, thanks for taking the time and effort to show us these.  Much appreciated!

 

Scott

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Have most of the BlueSky scenery and a few pieces of MegaScenery. I had never heard of Ultimate VFR until the other day. Looking at the screen shots (thanks kaosfere for taking the time!) it's pretty obvious that they're all using the same source data. I am intrigued by the 'value add' that Ultimate VFR is doing with the addition of autogen and night lighting. For those who own some Ultimate VFR, are those features a worthy addition or is it more of a selling gimmick? Is there a noticable performance impact with the addition of autogen/lighting?

 

So, a question those familiar - I already have several overlapping states from BlueSky installed on my system that I am perfectly happy with. Would it be possible to purchase those same states from Ultimate VFR (cheap at the current sale price) and overlay the autogen and lighting BGLs onto my BlueSky scenery? Kind of an academic question but I do like the saturation level of the BlueSky a bit more in the screenies - so this might allow me to get the best of both.

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But if Ultimate hangs in there with BlueSky, the addition of vegetation may make it a worthwhile tradeoff.  Think I'll give CO a try and see how things look there.

 

Yeah, looking at BlueSky vs what I've seen with Ultimate, I very much appreciate the autogen layer Ultimate provides.  It's probably also worth noting that Ultimate doesn't just do the vegetation -- there's building autogen as well, which is very apparent in the shots I took over Salt Lake City which I'll post later.   I didn't see much or any over Blanding, but as the developer states elsewhere on these fora his building data is acknowledged to be incomplete based upon his sources and software available; he has a plan for improving both his vegetation and building layers.  I have to say I'm impressed with both his openness about the shortcomings, and his comments regarding wanting to provide evolutionary improvements to his product; it could become even better as time goes by if his ambition pans out.  I'm optimistic, and very glad I jumped on these. 

 

(I'm actually thinking about buying Guam even though I don't fly there much, just to have it and support him.)

 

 

Have most of the BlueSky scenery and a few pieces of MegaScenery. I had never heard of Ultimate VFR until the other day. Looking at the screen shots (thanks kaosfere for taking the time!) it's pretty obvious that they're all using the same source data. I am intrigued by the 'value add' that Ultimate VFR is doing with the addition of autogen and night lighting. For those who own some Ultimate VFR, are those features a worthy addition or is it more of a selling gimmick? Is there a noticable performance impact with the addition of autogen/lighting?

 

So, a question those familiar - I already have several overlapping states from BlueSky installed on my system that I am perfectly happy with. Would it be possible to purchase those same states from Ultimate VFR (cheap at the current sale price) and overlay the autogen and lighting BGLs onto my BlueSky scenery? Kind of an academic question but I do like the saturation level of the BlueSky a bit more in the screenies - so this might allow me to get the best of both.

 

Actually, although it's not as apparent when you're looking at these stand-alone, if you load all the images into an image viewer and switch back and forth rapidly between them, it's obvious that MSE, at least, uses different source data.  This is more obvious over Salt Lake City; there are roads present in the other two that aren't in MSE, and it looks as though there are spots where both new buildings have been built and others have been torn down.  I thought about looking at Google's historical images to see which was more recent, but my gut impression from what changed is that MSE is probably older imagery.   I couldn't tell from what I had if BlueSky and Ultimate had different sources, but this was partly because Ultimate's autogen buildings obscured some of the underlying.   One of the things I might do this weekend is run the same comparison but with the Ultimate autogen layer off to see how the underlying images compare in that way.

 

I can also try getting the Ultimate autogen layers working with the BS scenery, that is a very interesting thought.

 

Edit:  One more thing to add to the potential tradeoffs between the three is that, as Scott mentioned, BlueSky also comes with an improved mesh.   I'm already running FSGlobal Ultimate so it doesn't make a real difference to me, but that's another plus for BlueSky if people aren't already using a high-res mesh.

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