A northwest forecast in these parts will work for several sites, but I knew which one I wanted to go to as soon as I got an opportunity: Ascutney. It had been over a year, and I was ready. Jeff C. was up for it as well, and I figured with a good forecast on a weekend day, we’d probably have a healthy crowd on hand. He was happy to drive up early, and we arrived at the same time as Pete J., with whom we carpooled up the mountain and got the prime spots in the setup area. Doug B. and John M. arrived a bit later, with retired pilots John A. and Hans accompanying them for a bit of nostalgia (and to drive their car down).
[new blood Jeff C and Randy B, and old guard John A]
The air was dead, so we took our time setting up, and had plenty of opportunity to chat with the wuffos, who were also there in substantial numbers. A group of four women were particularly interested and waited around for quite a while, wondering if they should put hang gliding on their bucket lists (we gave them info to contact Morningside if they were inspired).
We were also joined by more pilots: Greg H., PK, John B., Randy B., and John A., with Megan K. and Stuart hiking out to launch, but waiting until things cleared out a bit before going back to the car for their wings.
It was John M. who finally gave in to the desire of the pretty girls to see somebody launch. He waited for quite a while on the platform for the wind to straighten out, but when he finally went for it, there just wasn’t enough going on for him to stay up, despite some pretty skillful flying. The rest of us kicked stones for a while, until John A. figured it looked good enough for him. He knows the mountain well, and his assessment was correct, as he quickly came back above launch. He was followed by Doug and me, and the rest of the pilots poured off of launch as quickly as they could get into position.
It was tough to get above 4000′, and only Greg and PK managed — they got up close to 5000′ and scooted over to Morningside. The rest of us had some easy soaring, although the air turned out to be a lot more active than we had guessed from the ground perspective. There was an excellent moment when I headed over to where some other pilots were circling, and I saw a bird climbing fast. As I entered the circle, Randy said that he was thermaling with a bald eagle, and asked if I saw it. I was now close enough to see the white feathers, but the eagle didn’t stick around for long — he was up and out in no time flat. I stayed up until only a few other pilots were left in the air, spending maybe the last half hour of a 2+ hour flight scratching just below launch, until I gave up and headed out to the LZ.
Since I landed not too far away from the infamous spot… I decided to take a quick stroll in the woods after I finished packing up my gear. My memory and navigation skills are pretty good, and it was pretty easy to find it, and obvious from the two stumps (where Jake had cut down two trees last year) that I was in the right spot. I paced it off, and it turns out I was only about 20 meters from the field. Here’s what’s left of the dead tree that I hung in for a couple of hours.
I’m finally about back to where I left off.
flights: 1, airtime: 2:14