Blooms of Spring

As I walk around my backyard I notice a lone blooming flower pushing it’s way above the dirt.  It is still early March, but a simple signal that spring is just around the corner.  I have been feeling the subtle reaches of spring the last few weeks while seeking continued solace in the sky.

Flying above the Wasatch in the weak thermals of February.
Flying above the Wasatch in the weak thermals of February.

The last week of February felt the first subtle blooming of our mountain thermals*.  For three days in a row they were weak, and not completely organized, but exercising patience they were enough to boost me high enough to look down on our beautiful Wasatch mountains.  With each day these thermals continue to bloom, stronger and stronger pushing me higher and higher thus allowing for some small cross country endeavors.  Mostly out-and-back type flights.  Last week I was hoping to make the jump from Bountiful over the mountains into Salt Lake City, but with a low cloud base the thermals had just not bloomed high, nor organized enough and I eventually had to turn back and land on the bench near the LDS Temple.

A storm rolled through this week dumping snow along the Wasatch once again blanketing the mountains in white.  With skies clearing yesterday and a potentially good forecast I decided to hike above my house at The B….my home site.  With weak thermals releasing as I walked up the familiar hill, I decided that today was as good as any to get my “sink out” for the year over with.  With no visual triggers (leaves on the trees) I was relying completely on instinct.  It felt right, so I pulled up the wing, and stepped in to the sky.  To my great relief, lift was to be found and working the small thermals I soon found myself 5,000+ feet above the valley floor looking down on a mountain range of pure white.  No cameras, no videos, just me and the lonely sky….Oh how I have missed this view.  I guess I will leave the “sink out” for another day I tell myself as I turn south.  Across the range, over Little Cottonwood Canyon, Bells Canyon, Big Willow, Lone Peak, then out across Draper.  We call this flight the “Milk Run” and it feels great to get the first one of the year done.

I am sure the snow will fall again, but with each passing day the thermals, and the flowers in my backyard will continue to bloom skyward, signaling spring is almost here.

 

*Springtime thermals in the mountains often provide the most violent and turbulent air of the year.  Just a friendly reminder to use caution during springtime flying, use good judgement and fly inside your limits.

Winter Diversion

Each season brings its own unique embrace to the mountains of Utah.  With winter we expect to see heavy snows along with windless days of high pressure.  We have definitely been graced by high pressure, but the heavy snows and windless days have been absent.  In an effort to escape the high pressure induced inversions that seem to plague the Salt Lake Valley these days, we have had to seek refuge above the inversion line, but below the high wind line.  Needless to say, it has made for a unique winter of paragliding, notice I didn’t say stellar.  Regardless of the less than ideal weather, the mountains still bid my soul to rise above the dirty air and venture into cleaner mountain skies. WINTER DIVERSION from DEAF Crew on Vimeo. These unique conditions have allowed us to pioneer some new flying sites, as well as return to those sites we call home.  Thus giving us an opportunity to spend a little more time filming.  Thankful to my friends who are still so willing to get out every possible day and fly thru the winter….although that list of people is very, very short.  Although the weather is less than ideal, this winter continues to be a refreshing diversion.

Stick To The Plan

I have been lucky enough to travel a fair bit in pursuit of this magical dream called free-flight. Whether near, or far I have learned it is always best to stick to the original plan, no matter what. At least that is what I am telling myself right now as I sit here on the floor of the Salt Lake City International Airport.  It has only been 36 hours since I left this place….and now I am back?  What on earth happened?

DSC_3848Since this sport is so intimately intertwined with weather, it often rules our decisions, and if we’re not careful can run a trip straight into the mud. While traveling we seem to pour over weather forecasts, and do our best to predict, via the crystal ball of technology, where will produce the best flying conditions. If you are not careful these forecasts can keep you running to and fro in search of good conditions only to leave you frustrated and worn.  I think that is what happened.

As I sit here on the floor watching the bags go around and around the baggage carousel, watching the confusion and chaos of the crowd, I cannot help but reflect.  I have so many experiences where sticking with the original plan, regardless of the forecast has turned out magically.  Like waking up at 3 a.m. to venture to the top of a volcano despite high wind forecasts, only to be rewarded with an amazing flight all the way to the ocean, because that was the plan.  Or standing in the rain, but still riding the gondola to the top of the mountain only to find clear skies and perfect flying conditions high over the clouds, because that was the plan.  Again, despite forecasts, driving into torrential rains at Chamonix, but waking to find clear skies and amazing flights up towards Mont Blanc, because that was the plan.  The list goes on and on….have I learned nothing?

This trip had a plan.  To spend several days flying the mountains from San Diego, up through Santa Barbara, and into Big Sur.  The moment we landed we seemed to have a big “?” hanging over all our heads.  Even the locals were not sure what to do.  Clark and I made an executive decision and ventured out to the desert mountains where we were rewarded with some exciting flights. The wheels started to come off as Paul and Gary were downright sick, which was no fun for them. At dinner we poured over the glow of technology only to see bright red wind cells, and a NOAA High Wind Warning for all of southern California staring back at us.  Once Paul and Gary threw in the towel from sickness, the wheels were officially off.  With a bad weather forecast looming for days, time away from work, family, and other responsibilities the decision was clear.  From there it didn’t take long to book a flight and head home this morning.  I cannot believe we bailed, we NEVER bail.

The carousel goes around and my phone buzzes.  I look down to see a short text from Paul, “Did you guys really go home?  Today was one of the best flying days Southern California has seen in months.”  I guess we should have just stuck to the plan!