Unexpected Reminder

Regina and I flew a Cessna 172 from Nampa to Cottonwood, Idaho, for a short Valentine’s retreat. The weather forecasts proved accurate—clear skies for our departure and arrival airports. Midway, the ceiling lowered as we crossed the mountains west of McCall—as expected. But, we snuggled into the canyon and followed Route 95 through Riggins, and White Bird. The clouds on our right obscured two 8,000 plus foot buttes—as expected. The Seven Devils peaks on our left were clear—as expected. Then the canyon opened into central Idaho’s prairie at Grangeville.

Our modern GPS and older VOR navigation systems agreed on our position as did the view out the window. Seeing our destination 10 miles farther north, I radioed Flight Service and closed our flight plan.

I entered the expected traffic pattern for the public-use Cottonwood airport and made the expected radio announcements. Cottonwood has good approaches and a paved runway. Everything was, as expected in the US airspace system, where it was supposed to be.

I taxied off the runway onto a small ramp looking for transient parking, found none so stopped in the one open area. We exited the airplane and Regina called our ride. I walked, hunting for visitor parking. Finally found two tie-down spots with orange anchors. Both were off the pavement in a graveled area that seemed okay as I walked it.


We pushed the airplane towards the parking spot and the nose wheel made a shallow furrow in the gravel—as expected. The main wheels followed, but after traveling three feet broke through a thin crust and sank into softer pea gravel below. The airplane stopped.

We spent 40 minutes pushing, shoving, digging, heaving, and prying back those same three feet. Then, kneeling in the damp grit, I remembered. My unexpected mini-adventure mimicked MAF field pilots’ normal life. I didn’t expect to get stuck, but they face myriad challenges every day. Reminded me to be both thankful for my blessings here, but also to pray more for our crews in the field.

So I wonder, how have your expectations surprised you with unexpected challenges?


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