Conquering a jinx

Sometimes I hear people talk about a particular pilot having a jinx with respect to some particular site — whenever they show up, conditions turn out to be crummy, or at least that pilot can’t get a decent flight. That the way it’s felt for me for the Mohawk Trail. The first time I flew there, three years ago, was my first flight on a DS glider, and my first time using a radio, but I climbed right out and got to nearly 7000 feet. Since then, though, it’s been more or less a bust. All but one of my flights has ended in the nasty bailout LZ that some people call “The Death Zone”, and the one time that I got enough altitude to head south down the ridge, the lift shut down as soon as I did, so I ended up in a hayfield. Other than that first time, in six more tries I had never managed to make it to the normal “RC Field” LZ (which is a golf driving range these days).

Wednesday was shaping up to be a NW day, which points to Ascutney, Mohawk Trail, Skinner, or Ellenville. Keith said that he was going to the Trail and that Amy would be showing up, so when I heard that Pete J was going, I gave him a call and arranged to carpool. Matt C and John S arrived just after us, and Brooks came later on. Nobody had gotten a particularly early start, and there was a healthy breeze blowing in as we were setting up, so no hang waiting was required. John and I were ready at about the same time, and I gladly let him go first — might as well have one of the most experienced pilots around go out and test the waters!

John had no trouble soaring, so I followed him and settled in on the ridge. The trick with this site is to get a little altitude in your pocket and head south to the main part of the ridge where better lift is to be found (and where you’re closer to the LZ). I found it easy enough to stay up, but I was not doing too well for getting the 500 feet of clearance that I wanted before crossing the road. After 45 minutes of yoyoing around between launch and about 300 feet over, I found a good thermal that took me to 500 over… 600… 700… 800… (stay with it as long as it’s working!) 900… 1000… when I lost track of it I scooted out of there, dropping some, but getting some more reliable rising air around the bare rock summit areas. Once I finagled my way up to 1000 feet above launch, I was able to relax.

It wasn’t a day that would have been everybody’s cup of tea. We all cruised up and down the ridge, nobody put in any big XC miles, and we all landed in either the RC field or a hayfield behind the school. Cloudbase was about 4500′, and I don’t think anybody quite got there; the best I did was about 4200′, thanks to a nice thermal that was revealed to me by Pete — thanks, Pete!

Certainly no sledder, I was able to fly as long as I cared to, finally heading down when I figured it was the polite thing to do, since Pete had been on the ground for a while, and I was riding with him. I managed 3 hours 28 minutes, my third-longest flight ever (and just five minutes shy of my second-longest). Amy and Pete had time for some refreshments while the rest of us packed up.

Matt was flying Keith’s sharp-looking U2 (the dark upper surface photographs much better than all-white gliders, which tend to get overexposed.

I’m soliciting captions for this — what were Brooks and John explaining to each other?

Keith was the last one down (on his second flight, after landing in the bailout on the first try). Looks like he landed just out of range of a 4-iron, and he managed to get his hat on before coming over to the breakdown area!

flights: 1, airtime: 3:28, XC distance: 4.5 km


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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