Spur of the moment

The weekend didn’t hold any good flying conditions, and Monday morning I had to get a new tire for my car. A couple of people mentioned the possibility of flying at Cannon, but it looked too cross. The lift forecast was good, but it was another one of these L&V days where none of the other sites showed any useful wind, and figured I’d use the day to get some things done.

But then around 11 AM, the sky was full of perfect looking clouds, and a couple of people posted on the forum that it looked great but they were stuck at work, and hoped that somebody was taking advantage of it. Too late for me to go… right? Or… maybe not! I hurriedly put the rack on my car, grabbed my gear, and hit the road for Ascutney.

No time to waste when I arrived, and as I suspected, nobody else was signed in at the ranger station. I drove to the summit parking lot, shuttled my harness and glider out to launch, and started setting up. On a nice weekday in the summer, you can generally find a few hikers on Ascutney, and I was fortunate to have one stop by who was interested in watching me fly, and stuck around to help me do a hang check and move up onto launch.

My landing was interesting, because there was some smooth lift oozing off the LZ that I did a half-dozen circles in, not enough for a low save, but it delayed my approach. When I got the glider down into ground effect, it kept going for a loooong way. The field is a decent size, but I hadn’t set up in the quite the longest dimension. There also wasn’t really any wind to speak of, but I set up into the prevailing direction, and the ground slopes very slightly downhill that way. As a result, I had my eyes on the trees on the far side of the field, and I wasn’t sure I’d stop before I reached them. I’ve talked to my friend Tom about what he calls “tree landings”, which he has had to do a few times. These aren’t what you normally think of when you hear that term, what he means is bouncing off the springy growth that is found at the margins or most fields in this area. There are usually saplings, and thin branches extending from trees growing deeper in the woods, and in an emergency, you just fly straight toward them at ground level and flare just before you hit. All these flimsy branches and bushes hit the sail and bring you gently to a halt. Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with that, as the flare window occurred while I was still in the field, but with not a lot of room left! Good flare, and a couple of steps in no wind, not too bad.

The hitch with rushing off like this to fly alone is that there is neither a driver, nor anyone to cooperate with to stage a car near the LZ. Once I was packed up, it was just under 10 miles by road to get back to my car. The standard thing to do in this situation is to hitchhike around the mountain, then get a ride up the mountain from somebody. But long ago my mother admonished me to never hitchhike, and so far I’ve heeded her warning. On the other hand, my car was less than two miles away as the crow flies, though it was 2000 feet higher, across a wooded, trackless mountainside. But it was right up there, no problem! The woods turned out to be surprisingly pleasant, and 70 minutes later, I was back at the summit parking lot.

Oh wait, this blog is supposed to be about hang gliding, isn’t it? Well, my uneventful flight lasted 10 minutes. Of the last seven times that I’ve gone to a flying site with a wing, in the past eight weeks or so, I’ve had three days when I didn’t fly, three sledders, and one flight where I managed to scratch out a half-hour. Some might consider that I did a lot of work for just a sled ride, and that the day was a disaster. Others might think that it was a great day to be outdoors, and to go for a hike, and on top of that, I got to go hang gliding! You can decide for yourself which group you’re in.

flights: 1, airtime: 0:10

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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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