Crazy hang glider pilots

US147 on launch

Another weekend where Saturday was my one opportunity to fly, although it looked like Sunday might be the better day.  Kip was eager to come down from Maine to do some flying, but he couldn’t find anybody interested in joining him.  We discussed the options on Saturday morning.  The wind forecast was west, but it looked like it could be pretty strong, and it was definitely going to be hot, maybe in the 90s.  The Connecticut crowd didn’t seem to be heading for Talcott, and I wasn’t hearing any enthusiasm for the other west-facing sites, either.  Brace was a possibility, but there were a few things that made it seem like a bad choice:

  • It’s a pretty long drive to get there.
  • It has the longest hike in of any site in the area, over a mile and a half, which is not a great idea on a brutally hot day.
  • Because the hike in is so long, it’s a dumb place to go on a day when you’re unsure of the forecast, because hiking back out if it’s not flyable would be onerous.

Brace

So, yeah, that’s where we headed.  We had delayed making a decision, so we didn’t get an early start — I arrived at 1 PM and we still had the hike ahead of us.  I got signed in, we picked up a couple of PG pilots who needed a ride around the back, and we hit the road, with Kip’s girlfriend Jada as a driver.  The drive takes a while, and fortunately I had brought my cart, so we parked and loaded the two gliders on that and headed out the trail.  The cart makes the first part of the hike easy, then we shouldered the equipment for the steep section at the end, and finally got to launch with all of our stuff at about 3:50 PM.  A couple of PGs were in the air, but the rest were on the ground fidgeting about the strong wind blowing in that was making it difficult to launch.  Difficult for them, maybe, but it felt great to us, and we immediately started setting up.
KipandJada

While checking out the conditions, I got to meet a celebrity: Kari Castle was paying a visit to the northeast.  She and Kip knew each other already.  Like the other PG pilots who were up there, she was somewhat surprised that we would go to the effort of dragging all of our heavy stuff up there.  Even other pilots think we’re crazy.
Kari Castle

Kip and I were both ready to launch at about the same time, and he had a slight preference for launching second, so I happily stepped up first.  The healthy breeze had abated quite a bit in the time it had taken us to get our wings assembled, and I had to wait for a stronger cycle to launch.  The footing seemed better than it was on my previous visits to Brace, maybe somebody has been working on the turf management up there, and there has been some recent trimming of the vegetation out front, which also helped.  By this time most of the PGs had launched, but nobody was particularly high.  There was weak ridge lift, enough to stay up, but no thermals.  Kip launched shortly after I did, and we started making laps back and forth over about a mile of the ridge in barely rising air.  I managed to get about 400 feet over the top, but nothing more.  The sky had mostly filled in with thick cirrus, and there was something potentially brewing to the south that looked a little worse.  Eventually some patches of blue appeared, and I hoped the direct sunlight would cook up some thermals, but although a few mild bumps appeared, there was nothing that could really be worked as a climb.

After about an hour, people started heading for the LZ, including me.  I had had hopes of spending more time in the air than I did hiking in, but didn’t quite make it.  Still, it was my longest flight yet at Brace, a site that seems to have excellent potential, but that I haven’t managed to really exploit yet.  There will be more tries to come.

The nice thing about this time of year is that you don’t need to worry about it getting dark.  Even with our late start, we were able to take our time breaking down and chat with the other pilots.  Jada was the big hero — Kip was worried when she didn’t show up with the truck right away, but she wasn’t lost, she had made a detour to bring us ice cream.  Outstanding!
Wings at sunset

flights: 1, airtime: 1:11

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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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