(continued from the last post)
I roll in on Friday afternoon and see that there are already a bunch of pilots there.
I meet Chris Santacroce, he is conducting the clinic. Glenn Tupper http://www.paratupper.com/ who is not only in the military, but an incredible paramotor pilot, Darcy, a Canadian and amazing photographer, a friend’s brother Mark (amazing pilot who is along with Kari Castle, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and then flying down!!!) come here to hone their skills. I haven’t even told the whole story about these folks, they are extraordinary. They are walking legends. I am a fortunate person to have met with such giant souls.
Saturday is fair, there is no wind for most of the morning but it turns the right direction and is a good enough strength to pull up a body. Chris gives a pilot brief and hands out a few tow harnesses. They clip in to our existing equipment. It is important to connect them properly, because they don’t allow the wing to “lock out”.. a condition that normally results in a high speed head plant into the ground or water.. usually, ground. Our window is small. Only about half of us get a tow. I watch everyone carefully for lessons learned that hopefully I don’t have to do the hard way.
Sunday, the weather is unfortunately, not fantastic. The wind is weak and blowing the wrong direction. I have my motorcycle though and take it out for a ride around the lake. It is really a gorgeous ride. Part of it you are in Utah and the other part, Idaho, The road around is a slow, two-lane roll.
I wind my way through half a dozen little towns to the northern part of the lake and find a Hot Springs resort. I wonder where I can check in or where the tubs might be. I stand up on my pegs and look around for someone to ask.. I spy a tall, stooped gray haired fellow making some last minute preparations to his camper. It’s a small cab-over loaded on a little old brown truck.
I make a tight turn and meet him at his camp spot.
I smile and ask him how it’s going.
“Goot.” He says.
Oh! He’s German.. or something.
I ask him how the hot springs are but he doesn’t know what the heck I’m talking about. Maybe he doesn’t speak too good English?
I tell him, “You know, there are some hot springs here, right?”
“I am… not sure.” he stares at me.
It seems a little weird, so I decide to keep rolling. The wind might get good pretty soon, I should start heading back anyway.
I am passing the East side of the lake where there is another launching area that I heard might work if the wind wasn’t blowing the right way at our little beach.
There is no traffic. It is a beautiful day but it has been a little cool because of some high clouds but they are blowing out and the sun is making a big effort to break through.. there are small patches of blue everywhere. As I’m contemplating the new warmth on my back and the patches of sun rolling on to the farmers fields, out of the corner of my eye I see a brown blur about the size of my fist wreck into the spokes of my front wheel. I bring the bike to a quick stop and circle it around back to where the little brown thing is. It’s a bird.
A little brown bird. But it is not dead. Its little yellow beak is opening and closing soundlessly and only about half its body is working. I am horrified as I stare at its agony. I can’t stand to watch this pain and determine to put it out of its misery. I circle the bike around and aim for its head. I roll over it with my front tire. Surely 600 lbs is enough to squish it to death.
I hear an ominous crunch and circle around to check my gruesome handiwork.
Egads! It’s still alive! I swing the big bike clumsily around, desperate now to obliterate my mistake and again aim for the tiny brown ball of misery. I hear another nasty crunch and crane my neck around to see if I’ve finished the deed. I see no movement. I park the bike in the small strip of gravel on the side of the road. As I walk over to the fluffy bird pancake, two other little brown birds land in front of me and stare at their fallen comrade. Oh MY GOD. I am a bird killer! I stop and watch the two hop around the bird-cake I’ve made. They cock their heads from side to side. I feel wretched and walk the final few steps to inspect it closely. It is dead. Very.
Job done, I plop my heavy heart back onto my bike and motor back around the bright green, now sunny lakeside. I hope this is not some kind of foreshadowing.
When I arrive, the crew is getting ready to go to the other side. I get my gear together and hop in Darcy’s car. We meet Chris in his boat but aren’t happy with any of the beaches for various reasons.
I am really anxious to get a flight. We drive up and down the little rocky, bushy beach and finally settle on one place. It is generally free of debris and rocks.
This is my first tow ever and I am thrilled with my commitment to this event.
It is a team effort. I hook up the tow harness… I know how to do it because the day before I had helped hook 4 people until the wind got too strong.
I’m hooked in and prepared for my launch.
We check in with the boat on the radio. I hear the engine roar to life and the boat surges forward. I feel a gentle pull on my chest. I raise my hands. The wing comes up full and straight. I begin walking and then quickly start running to keep up with the pull I feel on my chest strap.
I feel confident and focused as my feet leave the beach. I’m getting towed!! I’m going up but it takes much more input than I was expecting to use to turn with the shrinking boat below. I am HIGH. He tows us to an average of 3000’ ! That’s better than a half mile up.
The boat is tiny now. I see it make a tight turn… my signal to cut away.
It is a spectacular scene. The water is a peculiar blue. The large lake is surrounded by mountains, but I can see beyond even those.
My reverie is interrupted by Chris. He’s hauled in the line and giving me instructions. The radio tells me to pull on right side A’s. The wing slowly spins to the right.
HOLD IT! LET IT WIND UP. the wing dives to the right and I feel the pressure begin to change in my seat………… OK, RELEASE. HANDS UP. LEAN LEFT.
The wing recovers quickly.
I do it again.
The entire leading edge of my wing collapses. I feel myself falling.
OK. LOOK FOR YOUR B’s. FIND THEM AND PULL.
I do an in-air pull-up. The wing tacos in the middle and I begin descending quickly.
I let the B’s up. My beautiful, reliable wing pops open obediently and flies forward smoothly. I am breathing heavily and this smile is starting to hurt my jaw.
This is a descending technique. You can come down pretty fast if it becomes very windy and you are having trouble making headway. It is effective. I loose several hundred feet and release speed, then Big Ears. I do it again on my own.
I’m a little light on my wing and haven’t lost all my altitude… the wind is picking up and I take advantage of the giant ridge to get more altitude and fly a little more. I go down to a huge grassy field and land in a stiff breeze. I think my face will crack. This smile is really starting to hurt. I can’t help it though, and the great huge warm feeling in my chest offsets the aching in my cheeks.
I rosette my wing and head to the road.
My new friend Darcy launched a little while ago. He is a better pilot than me and is having a great flight. I can see him swooping giant wingovers WITH BIG EARS!
The wind gets too strong and we have to bail for the afternoon.
We meet at the campground later. Chris brings beer, lights a fire in the pit and does a debrief of our flights. The owner of the campground has a cannon and fires off a couple loud shots over the lake.
It’s a perfect way to wrap up this day… we say goodbye to our new friends, everyone is leaving tomorrow early.
I am making coffee and packing up the camper… I see someones wing on the beach..
I wander over casually. Darcy is laid out and looking like he’s towing! My eyes get big.
Darcy: “Get your wing!”
If I was a vampire, it would explain how I returned to the beach so quickly with my wing. The owner has a tow boat. He wanted his kids to fly, but they are being lazy on Sunday morning.
I help him hook up and get pulled up. He’s fun to watch again, swooping and collapsing. I love the color of his wing against the sky.
He lands and I begin hooking up.
I’m planning my practice session. I wanted to do some asymmetric spirals but didn’t have time yesterday… I’ll try some of those and some more collapses.
I’m pulled way up high again, cut away and immediately look right, lean right and pull my right brake waaaaaay down. The wing enters a spiral. I can feel my butt squish down into the seat. I release pressure and stabilize.
Those are FUN.
I spend ten minutes swooping and swirling then come in to land.
I want to fly again. No more tows are available but there is a ridge site me and Darcy want to check out later in Randolph. It blows out a lot and our chances of flying are meager, but we try anyway.
It is the Crawford range. It’s a 45 minute ride, but it is an amazing tour of this American countryside. It is a lush emerald green and smells like hay and dampness. The Crawford range explodes straight up from this flat productive farmland. We’re not entirely sure which road takes us up, so we just make a best guess… we luck out and make a dusty trail around the back of the mountain up to launch, but it is booming. Gusts 20 mph+.
There are four hangies in the air. Even they are moving slowly on this strong air. I am jealous of their flight, but elated to be on this spectacular ridge.
Darcy and I are snapping a zillion pictures. We both are swimming in this moment.
We wander down to the edge of the spine we are on and find the hang gliders van. it looks like they are camping out tonight. There is a big pile of wood and a fire pit. I can’t imagine a better place to light a campfire.. they will be having a time.
It’s getting late and we both should return to camp, I need to get down the road to my next job… Darcy? That guy. I think he’s in next weeks clinic too! Stud.
Thanks to Darcy Gillis for the First, and third through eighth pics… and your support.