Sometime during the summer of 1962 a small Piper Cub aircraft on a photo shoot of the Edison Lake area, crashed somewhere in the surrounding mountains. Both pilot and passenger survived but the aircraft was a total loss. Over time this historic aircraft’s location was forgotten and another mountain mystery was born.
It was a hot September afternoon at Mono Hot Springs when a deer hunter by the name of Marty walked into our cabin and introduced us to his discovery. The previous day while hunting the mountains above Bear Creek, he stumbled across this airplane crash site. His story led to my personal two year trek searching for the site.
My first two solo attempts were in vain, sleeping under the stars with one eye open is quite an experience. Try waking up in the morning with bear tracks around your sleeping bag. Needless to say I was quite disappointed my search lead me to nothing.
It was early October when I decided to attempt a second search before the snow falls. This time a lady by the name of Dani wanted to share this adventure. Maybe another pair of eyes will help solve this mystery?
We departed into the mountains with blue skies and no threat of snow. We would follow a trail until arriving at the first saddle, then hike due east across these rugged mountains. Marty had sketched out a rough map and hopefully between the map and my previous treks we’ll locate the aircraft. After an hour forging our way through Manzanita bush, a higher elevation should be an easier route. Difficult to believe that boulder hopping was an easier choice.
Before starting these searches I reviewed the specs of a 1947 to 1953 Piper Cub single engine aircraft. This light aircraft sits two in tandem with only a 90 HP engine which could limit its performance on an extremely hot day.
Two passengers with fuel and camera gear must have caused it to struggle flying over the steep mountains. The passes are lower in elevation, so my decision was to search those areas. The first saddle was much to narrow with large trees to block any passage for a small aircraft.
Arriving at the second saddle we split up - Dani searching the lower area as I climbed higher and we agreed to meet at the saddle’s east ridge. Another disappointing trek and with day-light slipping away, we may have enough time to search the third saddle and arrive back at the trailhead before dark. This climb was steeper than the previous two saddles, but gazing out over this much wider area and trees were not as tall. Maybe this area has a possibility of hiding the crash site?
With my field glasses I started searching those areas not concealed by underbrush and tall pine trees. While searching I felt a tap on my shoulder. Dani directed my attention to an area on the extreme right within a cluster of pine trees. Now considering I’m using field glass and Dani had only her naked eyes, she spotted the wreck site. I nicknamed her pilot eyes.
Hiking down into the saddle was exciting. Was this the aircraft that eluded me for more than two years? Hidden by the trees was that Piper Cub aircraft forgotten for decades. To describe the emotion I was feeling - it’s like panning for gold and discover in the black sand that precious yellow color.
The wings were separated from the yellow and turquoise trim fuselage. The cowling and door were located 200 feet in the canyon below. The fabric that covered its structure probably burnt or deteriorated over time. If the pilot had another 15 feet of elevation with another 30 yards forward he may have cleared the saddle. If he cleared the saddle all that remained of this flight were a few mountains to skirt around before continuing to Fresno.
We arrived back to the trailhead before dark with memories of another mountain mystery solved.