Picking up the trash

Rodger posted first, saying, “Is it my imagination, or does Tuesday look pretty good?”. Tom replied “Nope!”, and it wasn’t clear whether he meant, “Nope, not your imagination”, or “Nope, doesn’t look good”, but it turned out to be the former. Several more people weighed in, and we decided to go to Ascutney, but things got shuffled around in the morning; Rodger couldn’t go, and Pete J thought that the Trail looked like a better bet (too cross from the left at Ascutney). I picked up Randy, Pete picked up Tom, we met at a shopping center and all piled into Pete’s car for the drive to the NW corner of Massachusetts.

Amy and Keith were already there when we arrived, schlepping gear out to launch. Although there had been a bunch of hand-wringing about whether we were making the right choice or should go to Ascutney instead, the sky and wind were looking pretty good where we were. Brooks and PK arrived when we were almost done setting up, and then there was a complicated game of, “You go ahead first”.

Tom and Randy discussing XC plans

Pete J

Amy with her colorful Pulse

I probably would have been willing to step up, but the way it worked out, my glider was in the back of the setup area, so I hopped in with Brooks to be wire crew for the first batch. It was crossing from the left a lot of the time, but there were some straight-in cycles. If memory serves, Randy went first, followed by Tom. Those two got a few hundred feet over, so Amy and Pete looked at each other, and Pete went next, and when he had climbed up a bit, she followed. Nobody was getting really high, but I moved into position after her.

I didn’t wait overly long, and Amy later told me that when she saw me launch, she said to herself, “Oh no, not now!”, because she and Pete had just started having trouble staying up. I found the same lack of happy air, and after a couple of passes I was below launch, and nervously eyeing the haying equipment that was at work in the bailout LZ. Fortunately, I didn’t have to scratch for too long before I got enough altitude to make my move southward along the ridge, and unlike previous times, I was very slowly climbing the whole way. Most of the gang was down there with me, but there were two gliders that were much higher, circling together well behind the ridge. I spotted Randy and PK near me, so that meant that the two up high were probably Tom and Pete.

Soaring over North Adams

PK on the ridge

Despite Tom’s illustrious XC career, and despite the huge number of times that he’s flown this site, he had never gone over the back from the Trail. In fact, he’s told me that he had been further east when pushing upwind from Greylock, on the other side of the valley, than he had ever gone from the Trail. This had come up when I had asked if he had ever flown to his house — the Trail is the site from which it would be most likely.

Randy got high enough and headed off to chase Tom and Pete. PK might have joined them, but it would have been a hassle to get back to his car from along that route, so he boated around North Adams with the rest of us. I managed to get a couple of quite nice climbs, which took me as close to cloudbase as Part 103 allows, at just under a mile of altitude. This is the highest I’ve managed to get in a little over two years (although I got almost that high at Ascutney last October). Amy was the first to land, I think in large part because she had problems with her harness zipper and her legs were getting tired, and Keith joined her soon afterwards.

I was well above PK, but somehow he found a climb while I got nothing but sink, and when I realized that I was above the ridgetop swamp, only 440 feet higher than launch, I decided to boogie out of there and place my bets on thermals over town. Those weren’t forthcoming, so I set up to land in the hayfield where Amy and Keith were. The normal LZ in this area is the driving range, in part because it has windsocks for the golfers. Fortunately, Keith was in the hayfield, and had set up a pole with a streamer on it. He started making some strange gestures, waving from SE to NW. Was he telling me that I should land that way, or… that the wind was blowing that way? The wind had been W all day, so it couldn’t be blowing from the SE… but that’s what the streamer was indicating! OK, well, get it done before it changes. I glided a long way… uh oh… that’s what happens when you land downwind… but my flare was good, and Keith cheered my landing. No problem other than having to carry the glider a way back through thick grass. We were breaking down in the adjacent field, and I had to carry my glider through a narrow break in the trees (on a cart path) to get there. Partway through, the glider stopped, and I couldn’t budge it. Hmm… was I hung up on some overhanging tree branch? Wingtip caught on a bush? No… aha, I was standing on the VG rope. Well, that explained why I glided so long on final, I landed with full VG, which I now know is a non-event, provided there’s enough field.

PK was up for a bit longer, as he said that just after I landed, the whole valley lifted off and he got high one more time. We went out to the LZ to watch him come in, and just as he started setting up his approach, Brooks appeared out of nowhere. He landed ahead of PK, and based on the comments he shouted down at us, he was also perplexed by the wind direction. He ended up coming in NW, and PK landed WSW a few moments later. The valley certainly lived up to its reputation for switchy winds!


PK and Brooks

As I was breaking down, the phone calls came in from the XC crew. Things worked out perfectly, with me landing out front and the other three close to Rte. 2, which is the road home, so that I could do what Tom calls a “trash collection run”. Randy was waiting in a scenic rest area by the river in Shelburne Falls, about 16 miles from launch, and had a chance to go swimming while he waited for me. Pete landed in a hayfield in Shelburne, 20+ miles out. And as for Tom, well, he showed us how it’s done. He didn’t quite make it home, but he did reach the Fitchburg airport, a 67 mile flight. (He was in fact less than three miles from the shopping center where my car was parked, and if I had left the keys there, he could have driven home instead of waiting for us!) Nice job!

I got some video of Brooks and PK landing. (Sorry about the weird color distortion, this cheap camera does that sometimes.)

And better, Keith made a sweet video of the day’s flying that includes my landing.

flights: 1, airtime: 1:43, XC distance: 5.5 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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