I’ve been trying to get out on my paraglider a little more this year than I did last year. The bulky pack has been added to the drive-along ready-kit I keep in my vehicle should an opportunity to get out and about present itself. Two years ago this activity was my central preoccupation and usually a whole lot of fun. Then like most pilots I went off and found some really powerful air and scared myself silly. Now I’m doing my best to find some nice calm air; enjoyable air time spent climbing to the top of large hills, and then climbing (if things go well) well above those without the often aggravating worry of having to calculate terminal velocities or the forced remembrance of acrobatic exit maneuvers.
My long weekend commenced late Friday afternoon when I locked the door to my office in Redmond and drove like a bat out of hell toward Issaquah, WA. Between the rain showers there were pilots walking off the north launch for sled rides to the bottom. Actually there were a couple of pilots who launched, but didn’t beat the rain on their mutual way down. I hoisted my haul sack figuring that if I climbed the hill I might be able to get one in and if it didn’t turn out that way well then I’d have the pleasurable experience of packing my wing to the top and back down again in a very pleasant rain. The trail was nearly empty and I enjoyed the climb. At the north launch on Tiger the wind was coming in gently from the east (which is really bad for flying in) and the rain cycles were hitting every 4 to 6 minutes. I hung out a while on top enjoying the view, the clouds and the temperature. Then, as the sun slid below the western horizon, I lifted my bag and headed back down the hill on foot. No flying for me, but add four miles and about 1500 vertical to the tally.
Saturday morning I woke up early, loaded my truck and departed for Tiger again. I went from a nice sunny (if a bit breezy) morning in Eastern Washington to an overcast morning near Seattle in short order. But at least it wasn’t raining. I wanted to get a morning flight in before “chalk talk” with Marc Chirico and crew at Seattle Paragliding. My first climb up the hill went very well. I launched south into a very light wind and made it back down to the landing zone with time to spare. Enough time in fact to pack back up and head back up the hill for another one. Forty minutes later I was standing at the south launch wondering what conditions were like down at the LZ. I made a couple of calls and came to the conclusion the light and variable was the watch word, opened up my wing and launched. At the end of the tree line on launch I got wacked pretty good and found sink that made me think I might land at the nudist camp. I managed to clear Yarr Wall and made a bee line to the LZ. This landing was less fun than the first, but manageable.
I made one final climb on Saturday and flew from the north launch. Later in the afternoon the prevailing wind had switched to the north. The slog up the hill with the wing was a little slower and much hotter. The flight to the bottom lasted a little longer too since there was some thermal activity (but not much).
I ended the day with about 7 miles and 5000′ under my belt all with a 45 lbs pack on my back. Oddly enough I ended up going out to dinner with a much of PG buddies and mostly what we talked about was trail running. Go figure.
Incidentally, its lunch time at the office and I’m contemplating my options on the way home tonight. The wing is in the back, the forecast looks good, but I also saw the conditions along the Crest this morning and, well, it’s starting to open up a bit there. Snow is melting, the high country beckons.