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#17926 - 08/30/11 12:07 AM Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7146
Loc: Fresno, CA
A friend emailed me this link, so I checked it out. Tunnel Meadow is about 14 miles due south of Mt Whitney, and about 5 miles southwest of Trail Peak, an easy hike from Horseshoe Meadows.

Here's the map -- switch to Satellite mode, and you can see the strip!
Gmap4 embedded version (Same map, separate window)



Here's the web page with a write-up (from Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: California, Tulare County ):
    Tunnel Meadows Airport, Tunnel Meadows, CA

Posting the text and pictures below...

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#17927 - 08/30/11 12:46 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7146
Loc: Fresno, CA

Tunnel Meadows Airport, Tunnel Meadows, CA

36.38 North / 118.26 West (Southeast of Fresno, CA)

A 1931 photo of Pat Decano at in front of 2 Army Air Corps biplanes
which brought Col. "Hap" Arnold from March Field to Tunnel Meadows.

This extremely high-elevation backcountry strip was located just south of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the 48 United States.

According to Pat Decano, "The airfield was created by my uncle, Leonard Shellenbarger, at the request of a Dr. Shook in 1931. Dr. Shook was a friend of Bert Johnson, a cattleman, and he wanted to fly in so he could fish there. He drug the field with a Fresno scraper pulled by a mule and was paid $40 by Dr. Shook for the job. The Fresno scraper was packed in on a mule.

In 1931, then Col. 'Hap' Arnold and a buddy flew in from March Air Force Base to fish. When they were ready to leave in the afternoon, my grandfather said that they could not make it out. Arnold's plane crashed and my son has the cigar-sized box that was made from scraps of the plane. It is olive drab painted aluminum.

My grandfather, Everett Shellenbarger, was the ranger there at the time."

However, the Tunnel Meadows airfield was not yet depicted at all on the August 1943 Mt. Whitney Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy) nor was it listed among active airfields in the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock)

The earliest aeronautical chart depiction of the Tunnel Meadows Airport which has been located was on the August 1945 Mt. Whitney World Aeronautical Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy). It depicted Tunnel Meadows as an auxiliary airfield, at an elevation of 9,100'.

The 1955 USGS topo map (courtesy of Ted Sarbin) depicted the "Tunnel Air Camp" as having a single runway.

The last aeronautical chart depiction which has been located of the Tunnel Meadows Airport was on the May 1957 Mt. Whitney Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy). It depicted "Tunnel (USFS)" as having only an 1,800' unpaved runway. Tunnel Meadows Airport was evidently no longer charted at some point between 1957-59, as it was no longer depicted at all on the March 1959 Mt. Whitney Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy)


A series of photos by Ted Sarbin of a Cessna 180 landing at Tunnel Meadows in 1972.


Ted Sarbin recalled, "It was around 1,800' long. I flew in there twice, both times as a passenger of Bob White's flying service. I had flown to Lone Pine but I didn't have the skill or a suitable plane for Tunnel Meadows. There were a number of accidents there.

There was a single-wire (the other half of the circuit was ground) party line Forest Service magneto-crank phone. Cranking long-short-short would get Bob White to answer in Lone Pine and come and pick us up. If one were landing to the west, a go around was possible, the other direction was marginal."

Ted continued, "When it was operating, Bob White had guides, pack horses for rent, and tents, tables and refrigerators (no electricity, they were used as ice boxes). Also, there was a tractor for moving planes and taking the passengers' gear to their campsite."

Ted continued, "An interesting anecdote I heard from an FAA Operations Inspector: The FAA made a movie, later transferred to VHS, on mountain flying. In it, a pilot in a Bonanza tries to land at Tunnel Meadows but changes his mind when he sees the field so he lands at Lone Pine. There he encounters a cheerful, friendly older flight instructor who gives him some mountain flying dual instruction and then he lands at Tunnel Meadows. I've seen the film and it is well done; both interesting and instructive.

The problem was that pilots would see the film and then show up at Lone Pine expecting to find that instructor. Of course, the instructor was an actor and the real airport manager, Bob White, was in the business of flying people in and out of Tunnel Meadows and not especially interested in helping pilots to fly in and out themselves."

A series of photos by Ted Sarbin of a Cessna 206 landing at Tunnel Meadows in 1985.

According to Ted Sarbin, "The airport was closed when the Wilderness areas was established."

A circa 2001-2005 aerial photo showed the outline of Tunnel Meadows' runway to still remain recognizable.

Simon Hickey reported in 2009, "I'm a flight instructor with the UK Royal Air Force and I can confirm that Tunnel Meadows, at the height of summer can be quite challenging for the less-experienced guys. Especially in a C-130. Done it several times [made a low approach]. We regularly exercise at China Lake and Inyokern training up crews prior to their going to Afghanistan.

There are a few high altitude airstrips in Afghanistan so somewhere like Tunnel Meadows gives crews exposure to the reduced performance. Going in on night vision goggles was 'interesting'"


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#17930 - 08/30/11 04:13 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1025
Loc: Madison, WI
and when you thought you knew everything about the Sierras, there comes a whole new story.

Great stuff - just imagine camping there and at night a C130 drops in eek
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

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#17940 - 08/30/11 08:39 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Burchey
Unregistered


Too cool, I love stuff like this.

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#18003 - 09/01/11 04:32 PM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Joseph Offline


Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 46
Loc: Redmond, WA
I'm working on an update to Gmap4 that will include the ability to switch the current map to Google Earth. You will be able to 'fly' over this old strip in 3D. cool

If you are looking at a GPS track with Gmap4 then that track will appear in Google Earth.

The update will be posted sometime this September. Stay tuned...

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#18006 - 09/01/11 06:57 PM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Joseph]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7146
Loc: Fresno, CA
Keep up the good work, Joseph. Your mapping tools are the best!

It will be fun to switch to G.E. Just wish it was easier to figure out how to "fly". I always seem to flounder and flail, and then give up with it.

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#18008 - 09/02/11 03:48 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Joseph Offline


Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 46
Loc: Redmond, WA
Yeah, me too. Then while adding the GE feature I kinda stumbled over how-to-fly.

The next Gmap4 update will include fight instructions along with a super-cooled track for a test hop.

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#18013 - 09/02/11 09:15 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Mike Condron Offline


Registered: 11/05/09
Posts: 215
Loc: Now Manteca, CA
Originally Posted By: Steve C
A friend emailed me this link, so I checked it out. Tunnel Meadow is about 14 miles due south of Mt Whitney, and about 5 miles southwest of Trail Peak, an easy hike from Horseshoe Meadows.


Another very obscure airplane patch:

http://yosemitephotos.net/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2_itemId=22551&g2_serialNumber=2


_________________________
Mike

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#18014 - 09/02/11 11:03 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Mike Condron]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7146
Loc: Fresno, CA
Interesting, Mike. It was probably associated with the building of the Hetch Hetchy or Lake Eleanore dams. Here's the GMap4 link to the same view. Hetch Hetchy / Lake Eleanore Airstrip






And in searching on Google, I found this:

From Yosemite and the United States Navy
Quote:
For the next twenty-seven years, the Navy was absent from the park. However, in 1972, the Navy began to aid civilian search and rescue operations in cooperation with the National Search and Rescue Plan, and they have continued this practice to the present. The current presence of military aircraft within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park is not too surprising since they have been there since early in the twentieth century. The first military aircraft to visit the park was an Army Curtis JN4 which was piloted by Lieutenant J. S. Krull. Lieutenant Krull landed his craft in Leidig Meadow in the Yosemite Valley on 27 May 1919. Another aviation milestone was reached when Army Lieutenants Moore and Taylor completed their journey from San Francisco to Yosemite by landing their Curtis HN4s at Wawona on 8 December 1925. They touched down on a 3,000 foot airstrip which had been flagged out in Wawona Meadow. This experiment proved that the region could be serviced by air, and an airline out of Mariposa established regular service to Wawona.


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#18017 - 09/03/11 09:14 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 304
Loc: Reno, Nevada
I worked for a guy named "Ted Sarbin" at Bally Systems in Reno in the early 1980s. I think I recall him having an interest in aviation. Does anybody know (or have an opinion) whether this is the same Ted Sarbin?

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#18089 - 09/06/11 07:10 PM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: bobpickering]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
Well, Burchey, you will love this:

I went on a trail maintenance project this last weekend, with a unit of Backcountry Horsemen, into Casa Viejo Meadow on the Golden Trout Wilderness. We met up with a couple, Marge and Vern Biehl, who had arranged to arrive when we did with their 6 horses. They start at Blackrock trailhead in July, and work their way along the trail to Horseshoe Meadow, then turn around and work their way back, taking about 3 months along another trail system.

On point: they apparently live for several weeks at TUNNEL MEADOW. They have done this for 15 years.

They have lived off the grid and without a car for TWENTY NINE YEARS.

Here is an amazing article and photos on them on NPR:

Marge and Vern's 9000 Foot CA Dream

Quite, quite interesting people to spend time with, and break bread with.

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#18093 - 09/06/11 08:36 PM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Ken]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7146
Loc: Fresno, CA
Very cool.   Go Marge and Vern!   In my next life...

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#18096 - 09/06/11 10:56 PM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
Oh, and just to bring this whole thread back to the association topic, when I arrived at the trailhead thursday afternoon, there is a logbook, and I checked it out. The only hiker still signed out was Paul Hellweg, with a notation that his destination was Templeton Meadow (just southeast of Tunnel Meadow!)

Paul is a Professor at Cal State Northridge. We know people in common, although we've never met. Of course, his more important contribution is this:

Paul's Contribution

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#18099 - 09/07/11 05:59 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Steve C]
hikin_jim Offline


Registered: 11/07/10
Posts: 148
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Very cool topic! I remember going through there on a trans-Sierra hike in the 1970's (1978?). My memory is a little hazy, but I believe a plane came in for a landing shortly after we had passed by the airstrip on our way east.

HJ
_________________________
Backpacking stove reviews and information: Adventures In Stoving

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#18100 - 09/07/11 06:12 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Ken]
Burchey
Unregistered


Originally Posted By: Ken
Well, Burchey, you will love this...
Quite, quite interesting people to spend time with, and break bread with.


Ken, you are spot on. What a life that must be. I'm sitting in an office right now dreading the rest of the day. We actually passed a large train of horses/mules heading up the Bishop Pass trail this weekend, carrying materials to help build some new ranger cabin out in the middle of nowhere, 3 or 4 riders spaced out among the animals. I was green with envy.

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#18111 - 09/07/11 07:54 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: ]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Burchey
Originally Posted By: Ken
Well, Burchey, you will love this...
Quite, quite interesting people to spend time with, and break bread with.


Ken, you are spot on. What a life that must be. I'm sitting in an office right now dreading the rest of the day. We actually passed a large train of horses/mules heading up the Bishop Pass trail this weekend, carrying materials to help build some new ranger cabin out in the middle of nowhere, 3 or 4 riders spaced out among the animals. I was green with envy.


How interesting. That must be for the LeConte Station. I thought they were flying that stuff in. I saw them flying in the materials for one of the cabins from Cedar Grove earlier this summer, and remembered George mentioning that they were going to replace 3 cabins this summer. As I recall the scoping, the helos saved hundreds of pack trips per cabin. This one you saw must have been a "clean" up train of incidentals to finish up the cabin or something. Details, details.

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#18115 - 09/07/11 09:21 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Ken]
Burchey
Unregistered


Originally Posted By: Ken
How interesting. That must be for the LeConte Station. I thought they were flying that stuff in. I saw them flying in the materials for one of the cabins from Cedar Grove earlier this summer, and remembered George mentioning that they were going to replace 3 cabins this summer. As I recall the scoping, the helos saved hundreds of pack trips per cabin. This one you saw must have been a "clean" up train of incidentals to finish up the cabin or something. Details, details.


You're right Ken, they did say LeConte. We passed them just north of Long Lake, I think. How much farther would they have to go? I'm just guessing here, but I'd imagine they try to make use of as much stone and such that is local to the spot they are building - at least for the foundation, etc. I'd love to be involved with something like that, did some stone work down in Mexico when I lived there for a bit.

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#18128 - 09/07/11 03:01 PM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: ]
Rod Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 660
Loc: Santa Clarita, Ca. USA
Now I am all jazzed up to re-up my pilot license and make it current. What a great little flying trip that would be. Get a nice little citabria or another STAL(short takeoff and landing) plane.Who needs to hike when you can fly?


Edited by Rod (09/07/11 03:02 PM)

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#18881 - 10/02/11 10:14 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Rod]
Joseph Offline


Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 46
Loc: Redmond, WA
You can now fly in and land at this strip (or anywhere else) with Gmap4.

While the flying controls are super easy to master, you will likely come up the learning curve faster if you take a moment to read the section "Tips for flying" in the latest Gmap4 Help file: http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4_help.pdf

Go to the embedded map that Steve posted at the start of this thread or use this link if you want to see the same map full screen:
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?ll=36.380734,-118.265972&t=t4&z=15

1. Click MyTopo ==> Earth (upper right).
2. Assuming the "Google Earth browser plug-in" is installed on your computer, read the message and click "Continue". (This plug-in is not the same thing as the full Google Earth program.)
3. Use the outer part of the control in the very upper left corner to spin the map so the old landing strip lines up north-south.
4. Use the inner part of the control in the very upper left corner to tilt the map some more.
5. Put your cursor at the south end of the strip and right-click-hold.
6. Drag your cursor a tiny bit straight down and then hold it there. You are now flying toward the point you clicked. When you get very close to the point you clicked, then you will land.

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#18983 - 10/06/11 08:55 AM Re: Tunnel Meadow: Airstrip 15 miles south of Mt Whitney [Re: Joseph]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
I just spent the last week in Monache Meadows, where the airstrip still exists. I was staying at a Forest Service cabin very close to it. Although I did not walk over to it, it appeared to be in good condition.

Here is an interesting pilot's thread that talks about the airstrips in the area:

http://www.backcountrypilot.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=97

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