The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn


The Knife & Fork



Breakfast Club Visits Apacheland, Whiteriver Motel




13 Dec 2003
by Warren McIlvoy

Unlike our November event where we had to deal with places that did not know how, or did not want to promote tourism, our December event planning was teased with unpredictable weather. The December event was scheduled for Whiteriver and by mid week, a series of winter storms was racking the high country along with the White Mountains. It appeared that the last of the storms would be out of the state by mid day on Friday but the prevailing concern was the runway conditions at Whiteriver. I checked a web site that has all of the current AWOS weather at both Show Low and St Johns, and the equipment had recorded less than 1/10 of an inch of precipitation in the past 24 hours. On Friday, Paul called the Whiteriver Airport and they said that it was crystal clear there. With all this information in hand, it was Whiteriver or bust.

Early on a brisk Saturday morning, I met Bill Burgess and his son Paul who was visiting from the Bay area and they were to be my "passengers and crew" for the trip to Whiteriver. When we arrived at the tie-down, the aircraft had a heavy coating of dew on the wings and windows. We undid the chains and I opened the cabin to remove the sun-screens. I used a hand towel to wipe down the windows and the remaining moisture promptly turned into a thin coating of ice; burrrrrrrrrrr. While Bill tended to the ice on the windows, I went about the rest of the pre-flight ritual. It took a lot of wiping but we eventually overcame the persistent ice issue.

We departed to the east and our GPS direct course took us just to the north of Four Peaks in the Mazatzal Mountains. By this time, we had made contact with several other
Breakfast Club aircraft one of which was Roger Pries who we first spotted below us and to the north of us. He later climbed up to 9500' which put him about 2000' above our 7500' cruise altitude. Much like our November outing to Chiriaco Summit, the air was again rock smooth but we did encounter one unusual sight over Roosevelt Lake. The entire Tonto Basin was covered by a thick layer of clouds from as far as you could see in both directions. The tops of the Breadpan Mountains that line the east side of the valley, were clearly visible above the cloud deck.

The balance of the terrain from this point all the way to Whiteriver, is dominated by an endless series of ridges and narrow valleys and, for the most part, covered by ponderosa pine trees. But today, with some small exceptions, the valleys and ridges were all covered by a low level layer of clouds or maybe fog. This scene provided plenty of "fodder" for the
Breakfast Club group to talk about for the rest of the trip.

The clouds or ground fog continued all the way to Whiteriver where it abruptly ended up against the ridge line that is adjacent to the Whiteriver Airport. I had advised the
Breakfast Club group to cross the ridge line at about 6500' and to avoid following the highway that is about 3/4 of a mile south of the airport. Aircraft taking-off on runway 19 would be heading to this "gap" in the ridge line and that could make for a very ugly situation. We selected left traffic for runway 19 and by the time that we shutdown, the majority of the Breakfast Club group had started to gather on the ramp while waiting the rest of our throng to arrive.

When I opened the cabin door, I wondered if we had made a serious mistake. The outside temperature as only 25 degrees. The jacket that seemed to have been  a tad to warm during the ride over, now kept this desert dweller, acceptably warm. While we waited, a couple of us took some pictures of the group and the aircraft that now covered the ramp. After the last of our gang arrived, we headed out through the gate at the north end of the ramp. From there, it was a 2-3 block hike to the White Mountain Apache Motel & Restaurant. In all, we had about 28 people in attendance and the restaurant seated us in a separate dinning area.

At this point, I would like to add some excerpts from a brochure that I picked-up from the motel.


"Whiteriver is the Tribal headquarters for the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. This Reservation is the home of over 8500 Apache Indians and is the largest privately owned recreation area of the West, encompassing 1,664,874 acres.

To make your stay more pleasant, the tribe has built the White Mountain Apache Motel and Restaurant, the most complete resort accommodation of the White Mountains.

This resort is in Whiteriver on Arizona Highway 73; the shortest route to the many lakes, streams and campgrounds on the Reservation and the Apache's famous Sunrise Ski Resort.

This recreation complex also includes a supermarket, a First Interstate Bank, a variety store and offers extras for campers such as ice, camping, fishing and hunting supplies, filling of butane bottles, and many other services.

Nearby attractions include the Cultural Center, Old Fort Apache, the Tribal Fairgrounds, (where rodeos, ceremonial dances, and the Tribal Fairs are held), Kinishaba Ruins, Geronimo's cave, the Alchesay fish hatchery and miles and miles of the most beautiful portion of Arizona, made even more spectacular with 26 excellent fishing lakes and more than 420 miles of sparkling trout streams that include over 1,000 camp sites.

All facilities, enterprises, game and fish and other resources and Resort accommodations on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation are owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. This is the home of the Apaches. Please respect their customs and treat their home as you would have a visitor treat yours".

The service was just a bit slow (but so is everything else on the Reservation) but on the other hand, they had no warning that they would be invaded by 28 hungry aviation enthusiasts. The food was fairly good and the portions were generous. After a leisurely breakfast, we made the hike back to the airport. The sun's warmth was very welcome and by the time that we were ready to fire-up for the return trip, the temperature and risen all the way up to 35 degrees.

After departing runway 19, we headed towards the "gap" that I described earlier and upon reaching the west side of the ridge, we noticed that all of the early morning clouds had vanished. We could clearly see some of the burn area that was ravaged by the wild fires earlier in the year. As this was Paul's first ride in a personal aircraft, I let him fly the airplane all the way to Roosevelt Lake where I made a slight adjustment in our course to take us over the dam and suspension bridge. We then followed the series of lakes formed by three additional dams on the Salt River. There was just a smattering of clouds over Roosevelt Lake but the air was still just as smooth as a baby's butt.

The Whiteriver Gang

  • Warren McIlvoy, Bill and Paul Burgess in 4544X, BC-1
  • Glen & Judy Yoder in 31TC, BC-007
  • Trent Heidtke and Tim Yoder in 4638W, BC-112
  • Harold DarcAngelo in 320HD, BC-32
  • Paul Fortune and Richard Spiegel in his Arrow, BC-201 & BC-3
  • Eric Crump in 8747U
  • Roger & Joanna Pries in 13806
  • Cliff Hudson and Debra Eilts in 9490U
  • Roger Whitter and Travis Whittier in 706DC
  • Joe & Diane Stockwell in 843CD, BC-22
  • Ed & Anndra McMahan in 2433D, BC-33


What's Next?

The Whiteriver event marked the completion of 10 years of the Breakfast Club’s fly-ins and the January 2004event to Parker and the Blue Water Casino will commence the beginning of our 11th year.  In February, we will be making an encore visit to Temple Bar on Lake Mead. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.


Click on the Whiteriver link to view photos of this fly-in event.