At 3,793 foot field elevation, Ingalls Field (KHSP) in Hot Springs, Virginia is one of the highest elevation airports east of the Mississippi River. RAF Virginia Liaison Alan White reports that since 1931, locals have traveled to the top of the mountain for the cooler temperatures, beautiful vistas and nighttime star gazing. As with other bygone attractions, the activities faded with time. Pilots still camped at Ingalls occasionally but the airport was looking to enhance this aspect.
There are two camping areas with picnic tables and fire rings, 24 hour access to restroom and showers, a courtesy car, and avgas. Popular hikes are the Nature Conservancy Warm Springs Mountain Preserve Trails and the Homestead Skyline Drive. It is a Dark Sky area, yet only a few miles from a five-star resort. But with few employees and such a large area to maintain, the airport was not able revive the trail to a scenic outlook and loop around the small knoll. White approached them about ways the RAF could help.
White and RAF Virginia Ambassador Jeremy Vaughan organized a group to clear the trails on Saturday, July 31. “The airport shares the mountain top with the Nature Conservancy and a few days prior to the work event, The Nature Conservancy actually went in with a bush hog and took out a lot of the big stuff,” White reported. His group trimmed encroaching limbs and cleared the overlook. “Since they had done some prep work, we were able to extend our scope and work on trails well past where we had anticipated stopping,” he added. RAF volunteers were able to clear half of the loop as well.
AOPA Live producer Paul Harrop stayed with the work crew all day, filming and interviewing the volunteers. “Paul got into the spirit so much that he himself could be seen clearing brush from the trails before the day was over!” White added. After a hard day, several volunteers enjoyed the camping facilities and a few others arrived that were unable to make it earlier in the day.
The airport is extremely appreciative of the publicity they have gotten through the RAF Airfield Guide. Camping usage has increased from an occasional camper to people there almost every weekend, and many more land to hike the trails. “The staff at Ingalls made a special point to come out and thank the RAF, not only for the work we had just completed, but for reinvigorating their airport,” White said, adding, “They contribute this all to the work and publicity that the RAF has done on their behalf.”
Submitted on August 9, 2021.
Photos courtesy of Jeremy Vaughan.