The greater part of valor

Friday had been looking like a day when flying was a possibility. Email bounced around, and in the end almost everybody seemed to have talked each other out of trying. ARt wound up heading for Greylock, where he got in a short flight, and Randy decided to make the drive out to Wellfleet, where he joined a bunch of pilots who were spending a week on the Cape, and it looks like if I had gone along, I could have gotten as much airtime as I could handle. Ah well, sometimes (often?) the weather guess doesn’t match reality, and you don’t know unless you go.

Sunday looked like another chance, maybe, but each of the NW-facing sites in the area seemed to have a problem (forecast too strong, or too gusty, or there were access issues, or the direction wasn’t quite right, etc.). Again, most everybody decided to skip it, but Randy was interested in giving Skinner a try, as was I. The problem with Skinner was that the recorded information on the state park answering machine indicated that we were into the time of year when the road to the summit is open only on weekdays. We decided to risk it, I met Randy and Rebecca en route, we consolidated into his car, and we headed for the Pioneer Valley.

When we arrived, the gate was indeed locked, and leaf-peepers were parked at the base and hiking to the top. I called the park phone number again and got a live ranger. I explained our situation, and he said that he’d come down in ten minutes and let us through the gate. During that time, we encountered a few PG pilots who were also interested in going up. When the ranger arrived, he said that he had consulted with the higher-ups and found out that he couldn’t in fact let us in. A major part of the issue seemed to be that there were already a bunch of people up top who were angry that they had had to hike up to look at the foliage instead of being able to drive, and if he made an exception for us, he’d have a riot on his hands. We said that we understood, and thanked him for his time and effort. We also talked about the possibility of the PG pilots hiking up, and very briefly considered sharing the load to carry a HG all the way up the road, but that was judged to be too much work.

Ross and Stacy were on the road, and after consulting with them by phone, we all decided to check out a little known site a bit north of there, which I’ll call Bambi Meadow. Things looked reasonable when we got there, so we scoped out a couple of LZ possibilities, and headed up the mountain. Once up top, we had a little work to do in terms of beating down some scrub oak that was in the way of the ratty launch, and during that time, we were able to assess the wind. Which was blowing like stink.

Once in a while it would abate a bit, but then it would pick up again, and I decided pretty easily that with my single surface glider, the strength and gust factor looked like more than I really wanted to deal with. The other three set up (two Sport 2s and a U2), and we chatted with a number of passing wuffos, some of whom were very interested in what we were up to. There were numerous soaring birds playing on the ridge, so we knew there was lift.

It was judged that the wind had come down to a reasonable level, so Randy suited up and launched first. We had a couple of the wuffos (Tom and Judy) watch what we were doing so that they could help with the last glider. Randy got up above launch pretty easily, but it looked like he was being kicked around a fair bit, and was not pointing anywhere near parallel to the ridge. Stacy went next, and she had the same success as Randy, not straying too far from launch, and keeping cautiously out in front. Finally Ross brought his glider around, and with the help of Tom and Judy, we got him out to launch and he joined the other two in the air.

Rebecca and I stayed up top for a few minutes chatting with the wuffos, then drove the two vehicles down to the expected LZ. We had a bit of time to park and walk out to the field before the gliders came down, and I was able to catch all three fine landings on video. Randy was the first up and the last one down, for about 70 minutes in the air, I believe.

The shadows were getting very long as they broke the gliders down. Ross felt that my Falcon would have been okay up there in terms of penetration, while Randy thought that, at least during the early part of his flight, it would not have been much fun, and that I made the right decision. I was quite content with the way things turned out — a nice day to be outdoors, to meet a couple of pilots I hadn’t met before, to watch people fly, and there were no bad decisions leading to flying trouble on my part. There will be many more opportunities to get airtime in the future.


About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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