Getting to the most sought after STOL fly-in; the High Sierra

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

During the week of October 14th pilots from around the country pack up their gear and flock like birds to the High Sierra Fly-in.


Located on a dried up lakebed just north of RNO, the High Sierra is a backcountry pilots dream destination. With nothing in site for miles, soft sand to touchdown in and a group of people that love planes and outdoors it’s practically the most sought after backcountry fly-in in the country.


While I’ve been dreaming of flying to the event ever since EAA AirVenture came to an end in July it won’t be happening for me this year with the slots maxing out at 500 aircraft.


However, that’s only aircraft slots. Plenty of others weren’t able to fly-in either so they looked at other means of participating in such a great fly-in event. From packing up motorhomes, jeeps (although I prefer a 4Runner) or even flying in commercially.


After scrolling through the facebook event page looking at everyone showing up already I decided I was definitely going. While I couldn’t personally fly myself or tag along with a group it was going to happen. I packed up the outdoor gear, MREs, and set out to the airport. This time being the terminal instead of the FBO.


Coming from Madison, Wisconsin the commercial air route was best for me. It also doesn't help that I fly standby from being in a family of pilots so I had to plan tactically to get to RNO. Even though I’d be missing out on flying with a pack of huskies on 3 day adventure the commercial route would only take me a few hours leaving plenty of time to spare for some extra fun.


So here we are on a Tuesday afternoon in Madison with a full week off work. No projects to do, no work to do. Just BORED and craving some adventure in my life.


With bags packed, ready to rock-n-roll I decided to go to a movie with my mom and grandma. Bet you weren't expecting that...

(For those who care to know it was Jexi which was hilarious by the way.)


Anyways after the movie I headed off to the airport. Waltzing myself inside the tiny terminal of MSN I started looking at departing flights while keeping in mind I need to be at RNO by 8 p.m. the following day to get picked up.


I started looking at airports I could fly to for the night that I knew had a direct to RNO for tomorrow. The airports I had easy access to were LAS, LAX, SFO, PHX, DEN, and SLC. Way to many options for me to pick so I diverted back to my childhood days. Eni, meenie, miney, mo. SFO it was.


32 minutes prior to departure I walked up to the ticket agent and asked for a ticket to SFO. 10 minutes later I found myself through TSA Precheck (a well worth expense for those who travel a lot) and seated on united flight that will take me direct to SFO. It all timed out perfectly! Now it's time to buckle up and put away devices so I'll be back with more on the High Sierra Fly-in.


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