I was surprised when John S posted that he was looking at flying on Wednesday, because I thought the forecast was for heavy rain all week. Nope, sure enough, there was supposed to be a break right in the middle, so I met everybody up there. Bob R had said he was going to head up the hill with the truck early, although when I rolled in just before 11 AM, the faces that I saw were not lit with optimism. The trees were moving around quite a bit at the bottom, and although a peek at the launch windsock with binoculars didn’t look too bad, there was a sense that we might get blown out.
[Al A and ARt G]
[John S, Dan S, and Bob R]
Sure enough, when we got up there, it was blowing 15-18, with gusts up to 23. Too many Beauforts. ARt and I had brought loppers, so we set about knocking down some of the sumac and scrub oak that was starting to stick up on the sides of the ramp and threatening to snag side wires. Then some of us ate lunch, and we talked about all manner of things, and every once in a while Dan S would go stand on the ramp with his wind meter and come back to report that nothing had changed. A couple of people started talking about giving up, and Bob finally did, since he lives locally and could still get to his evening shift job and not burn any vacation time. That meant that it was decision time for those of us who had gliders on his truck, too; if we unloaded and didn’t get to fly, we’d be faced with the logistical challenge of either figuring out how to get our gliders down, or finding a place to leave them up top. We all decided to take the chance, and waved goodbye to Bob, but still didn’t set up for a while.
Eventually the wind showed a little indication that it might back off, so we started stuffing battens. PK showed up on a motorcycle (we had brought his gear up for him) and he started getting ready as well. Al A and John were skeptical, and it looked like they would just drive down (Al had come up in his own car). At around 4 PM I was ready, and when I checked out the wind, I judged it manageable. Dan and ARt stood by my wires, and I had to wait for a lull, but when I went for it, I got an elevator off the ramp and the whole way up the spine, so that I was able to return in a couple of minutes a few hundred feet over launch. Dan was right behind me, followed by ARt, and PK soon after that. Tim, a PG pilot who had hiked up and waited with us, had to be patient to get a cycle that would allow him to get airborne, and to my surprise, he was followed by John, who apparently set up his glider in a very timely manner once he saw how well we were doing.
The big surprise wasn’t the nice flying conditions, though. Standing on the ramp and looking over the valley, I got a sense that there were probably some trees starting to turn to nice autumn colors, but I wasn’t prepared at all for how it actually looked. Maybe it was the perspective, looking straight down on the trees, or maybe it was just trees tucked into little valleys that I couldn’t see until I got up there, but this was the most spectacular display of New England fall foliage I can remember ever seeing.
Because we had to wait until so late to launch, we were only able to fly for a couple of hours, but it was pretty joyful airtime. Lift was easy to come by (quite strong in the early part), and we got to about 1200 feet over launch, then it tapered to wonder wind, and finally calm air for the landing. Then something to eat at the Birdseye Diner with friends, and the long drive home. The trip took up the whole day, but it was definitely worthwhile. This also puts me over a milestone — despite the slow start during the first half, I now have more airtime in 2010 than any previous year.
flights: 1, airtime: 2:02