Southern California Retreat

With winter upon us, we have been talking about doing a quick trip to Southern California again; this time as a collective group.  No time like the present so we make arrangements and off we go.  We defined the meeting place to be a large bushy, desert field near Lake Elsinore, California.  Paul, JoFo, and I fly into Long Beach, pick up Gary and arrive at our destination just a few minutes before JJ and Matt arrive.  Let the games begin.  We all pile in and drive to the top of the mountain to a small launch site just off the main road.  The locals are…well, interesting to say the least.  Paul, Gary, Matt and I quickly find our way into the thermic air.  We fly two more times and spend over 7 hours in the air today.  Awesome ridge soaring mixed with light thermals soaring high above Lake Elsinore.  It felt so good to be in the air for longer than five to ten minutes.  So much so, my stomach muscles are sore from sitting in the harness.

Paragliding Southern California from DEAF Crew on Vimeo.

Wanting to take advantage of the time, we drive the several hours necessary up to Santa Barbara to experience some different scenery.  Crammed into a smoke, cockroach, infested Motel 6 (not my favorite environment), the night passes.  Come morning I can’t wait to get some fresh air.  By 10:00 a.m. we are high in the desert mountains, teamed with Fly Above All Paragliding, launching off Alternator Peak.  Paul, Gary, Matt and I head into the unfamiliar skies, cravats and all.  There are no landing zones nearby, just miles of trees, so getting out the cravats was vital, and successfully achieved.  With high pressure upon us, it was perhaps one of the more turbulent thermal flights in my career as a pilot.  Nevertheless, we are able to work the difficult lift and get high above the mountains surrounding the Santa Barbara Valley despite getting thrown around in the unsettled air.  JoFo and JJ finally launch into the sky and join us.  We land by early afternoon, and come evening we are all still looking for some airtime.  We rush over to a beach with a small 500 foot cliff above it.  Again, Paul, Gary, Matt and I have to make our feet leave the ground just one more time.  Silly we know, but hey, that is just how we roll.  Forward launching off a plateau in zero wind, off a cliff, out over the ocean and into the sunset is a great way to end another day of flying.  The flight literally lasts only 60 seconds, but the best 60 seconds of the day, and down on the beach….everyone is pure smiles!

Come morning we decide to launch Alternator Peak one more time.  The sky is cloudy today and no thermals at all.  A butter smooth flight extending several miles out into the valley.  In a ditch effort to fly somewhere new we drive a few hours to Saboba.  It is nearing evening and the winds are dead…almost catabatic.  Matt and I decide it is worth the risk.  Little did we know that getting a ride on the ATV would prove to be the most dangerous.  We cling on for dear life as our driver cruises us along the edge of shear drops.  Matt and I launch in slight catabatic conditions, but are able to get off safely.  Again, a super fun, short flight at sunset.  Another great and memorable day in the sky.

We spend the next day sitting on the grass of Torrey Pines just killing time until our flight brings us back home.  Thankful to Gary’s hospitality in letting us spend the night and feed us dinner.  As I sit here on the plane and stare out into the dark skies I reflect on what a great adventure this has been.  Great friends and great flying.  It was awesome getting to know Matt a little better and with his enthusiasm, and his willingness to always fly has definitely solidified his place in the DEAF Crew.  As I stare out the window a lyric reflects in my mind “I need freedom now.  And I need to know how…to live my life as its meant to be…..”  It feels like for the first time in years I am living my life as it is meant to be….and it feels wonderful!

New Year’s Day – 2012

I think it is basic human nature to start the new year off with a renewed sense of dedication.  It is a time of reflection on lives past, and hopes for the future.  A chance for re commitment to living the life you want, and to become the person you know you can become.  As I personally look backwards on my life, I realize I am pretty blessed and lucky.  I have a great family, career, faith, and wonderful friends to share  the most exhilarating dream of my life…the dream of flight.

Paragliding the New Year 2012 from DEAF Crew on Vimeo.

Living on the knife edge of the present, my friends and I take advantage of this wonderful New Year’s day to share it together in the sky.  We converge on West Mountain, Utah on a perfectly calm, sunny, and cold day. There is little snow, but cold enough to freeze the lake below.  We take several flights off both sides of the mountain, in super smooth air.  The last flight out to the west was met with some stronger winds and turbulence, but the views beautiful.

As the morning ends and afternoon approaches, Paul and I have just not yet had enough flying for one day, so we leave the group behind and head to Provo.  A perfectly sunny evening for a sled run off The Y and down into Provo.  The flight is smooth and a wonderful way to cap the day.

This short video was captured from a single day of flying with my fellow members of the DEAF Crew, and other pilots.  Armed with 3 new cameras and a new sponsorship from GoPro it was a great opportunity to try out the brand new HD Hero2.  I think the cameras have wonderful picture quality and it was fun to experiment with them today.

As I now look forward to the coming year, I am hopeful and excited to see where the sky will take me next.  Thankful for every single time my feet leave the ground.  Just leaving the ground is a miracle, and puts a smile on my face no matter how long or how short the flight is…I am just stoked I am flying. Often when I am in the air I have to pause and remind myself of how many people only get to dream about doing this, and here I am.  How lucky, and how thankful for such a great life.

Christmas Paragliding

As the Christmas holiday descends upon us like vultures, with all its commercialism, food, family time, presents, money, and everything else that just adds pressure to the soul, its time to look upwards.  Paul and I invite a few others to join us the day before Christmas on an evening flight off Grandeur.  Jonathan (JJ) and a new pilot Clark join Paul, Roman, and I.  There is a light dusting of snow up high, but quite pleasant and warm (relatively speaking) in the valley.

Christmas Paragliding – 2011 from DEAF Crew on Vimeo.

The following day, Christmas Eve, Paul and I hike up high in the mountains to a perfect plateau launch that was pointed out to us by one of the old masters.  There is more snow here, but the flight is as beautiful as they come.  Plenty of altitude and smooth air over the valley below.  Now this is makes Christmas complete!