Years ago, I mentioned my young friend Stephen in a blog post. Hard to believe so much time has gone by, he’s now a freshman at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. Since I’ll probably have multiple occasions to drive down and visit him over the course of the next few years, I figured I should scope out the flying possibilities. One such visit happened when he got a major role in a theatrical production, and I drove down with Nancy and Rachel (his mother and sister) to see the show. On the drive down, after an overnight stint behind the wheel of the car, we headed up to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, to get breakfast at Skylands Resort. On the way, we went past a couple of spots that are (or at least were) launch sites, according to an old guidebook that I brought along: Hogback and Dickey Ridge. We didn’t have time to stop and check them out, but I noted where they were.
We saw Stephen’s show both Friday and Saturday nights, and during the day on Saturday, Nancy was nice enough to offer to go up and look at a hang glider launch. She knew that the one I had in mind was Woodstock, which is about an hour from the college (including the steep switchbacked road up the ridge). It was good to get a chance to check it out before showing up someday to fly. I’d seen pictures, but it’s not the same as actually standing there, and checking out the hike from the parking, and seeing the setup area. The site is known as a slot launch, but it looks like the local pilots have been doing substantial work to widen it out, as there were quite a few freshly cut large trees on either side.
I didn’t expect to see any pilots there, and in fact there were none, as the forecast was for the wind to be pretty cross. Standing on launch, it seemed to be coming straight in, but I know from experience that slots can be deceptive in that regard. But no matter, the other part of the forecast was correct, that it was very strong. I explored the area a little bit, and found the actual launch “ramp”, an area sort of paved with flagstones to provide a decent running surface.
The site is at the north end of a long ridge that runs down the middle of the Shenadoah Valley, and JMU is at the southern end. It would be very cool to catch a perfect day sometime and cruise all the way down there.