Benchmark (3U7) is a backcountry airport about 40 miles south of the Schafer wilderness strip. It is unusual in that it is a paved strip. Word has it that it was paved to allow some of the larger firefighting planes to operate from there in the summer.
It's located in a narrow valley at 5,400 ft. above sea level, surrounded by mountains. The 6,000 ft. paved runway might make it look easy, but its location at the junction of two steep canyons can lead to nasty turbulence and wild shifting crosswinds. It's not unusual to see all three windsocks pointing in different directions. On a windy day, it's not for the faint-of-heart.
The Montana Pilots Association mainains an excellent campground on the field. Unfortunately, the wildlife likes it too. In Aug. '03 I was chased out of my campsite by a curious black bear. After spending close to an hour sitting in the plane with my hand on the ignition switch, the bear got bored and wandered off, so I was able to go back and get some (very light) sleep.
John Galban's Flying Site
Final approach to runway 12 at Benchmark. The hazy sky is caused by smoke from nearby forest fires.
Here's a shot that Mark took on a nicer day.
From the ground, you can see how steep the surrounding terrain really is.
The campground is a short walk from the parking area. It has fire pits, two outhouses and a hand pump water supply.