Monday, November 16, 2015

Point of the Mountain, or "Damn Paragliders!"

I would have loved to have hung out in Moab for a while longer - I didn't get to explore Canyonlands National Park, and there are so many other outdoor activities, but I wanted to make sure I had a full week at Point of the Mountain (POM) before I moved on to Dinosaur, CO.  

As I drove up towards Salt Lake City on Friday August 21st, two things hit me all at once: 1) I had once again managed to hit rush hour traffic precisely at 5 pm (a special talent of mine ever since I started towing the trailer) and 2) I was extremely tired, more so than I felt I should be.  #1 was easily fixed by pulling over and waiting until rush hour had passed.  #2 was harder to pin down, but when I thought I about it I realized I had been going pretty much non-stop since last weekend, which had ended up being pretty traumatic.  I also realized that I hadn't yet told the story to anyone close to me.  I wasn't keeping it a secret on purpose, I had just been busy and hadn't touched base with anyone that week.  That's not out of the ordinary for me, but given my experience on the Navajo reservation I was in need of a sympathetic ear.  I called my cousin Donna and told her the story, after which I went into Walmart to pick up a few things.  As I walked around Walmart, I felt really tired and sleepy - even more so than I had already. I realized that I had been carrying around a lot of tension all week, and it was finally being released.  I still had a long way to go to fully let go of what happened, but I had started the process and I felt good about that. 

Since my water pump still wasn't working, I had booked a reservation at the RV park in Draper, which put me about 10 minutes from the North Side of Point of the Mountain and 20 from the South Side.  This place's strong point is its proximity to the flight parks, but it's about 100 feet from the interstate so there's a lot of street noise...wouldn't recommend it if you can manage staying at the South Side with no hookups.  Nonetheless, with full hookups I'm able to run a fan overnight - that combined with the ear plugs allowed me to get a decent night's rest.  I hooked up the trailer and then went up to check out the North Side, where my old friend Alex met up with me around sunset.  We had a nice catch up and he got to be the 2nd person who heard the full story of my Navajo experience.  It was great to have someone to commiserate with in person. 

The next couple of days I didn't get much flying in.  I did meet up with Pat and we got to hang out a bunch, which was awesome.  He and Dave Beardsley each spent some time with me working on ground handling in the high (but mostly smooth) winds at the South Side of POM.  I would show up at the South Side in the morning and the North Side in the afternoon, as instructed.  However, since I'm not such a confident foot launch pilot I was looking for just the right conditions for my first foot launches there, and those perfect conditions are hard to come by.  Since I wasn't confident in my ground handling, I wanted to wait until the winds died down a bit.  But as soon as the winds did die down, the paragliders would I had the right wind conditions, but a whole bunch of traffic.  This traffic flies more slowly than I do, and leaves a wake to fly through.  I'm already somewhat nervous any time I'm flying near a mountain - I'm just so used to flying in the flats that it throws me off to know that I'm close to the ground.  POM is a place where you generally spend most of your time pretty low to the ground, even during a soaring the combination of proximity to the ground and proximity to other gliders while in flight, further combined with the stress of making sure I launched into a clear "lane", made for a perfect storm of nerves and psyching myself out on launch.  I would then wait until the paragliders cleared out, but by then it was either too thermic (North Side AM) or cross/no wind/catabatic (South Side PM).  Neither of those options were on my list of preferred launch conditions.  

I did manage to get a couple of flights off the South Side before I left.  I had a buddy on my nose just in case I needed help with ground handling, but also to help me check for air traffic.  I would then launch and do my best to stay in the lift band without getting too close to other gliders or to the ground...I'd last a few minutes, or several passes, before my overly cautious mindset got me pushed out of the lift band and I'd land in the LZ at the bottom.  I was so happy with those 10- and 12-minute flights!  

Sometime around the middle of that week, Lauren and Glenn showed up in their borrowed RV en route to Dinosaur, and four of us (me, Pat, Lauren & Glenn) went up to Inspiration Point.  When we arrived, we found six or seven paragliders packing up as the wind was very decidedly cross.  It was nice to get to at least see a new site, though, and quite a beautiful view.  

As a consolation prize, we were treated to a nice rainbow :)

On Friday I packed up and headed out to Dinosaur, CO, where I was registered to compete in the 2015 Dinosaur Hang Gliding Competition....but not before I was treated to this lovely view as I did some chores around my RV site.  I asked for captions, and the winning entry is below.
Despite centuries of service, Santa's retirement package left much to be desired.-Cory Barnwell

1 comment:

  1. Flying a HG along that thin line of lift on the north side with a bunch of PGs was a bit unnerving for me. After the second time I "threaded the needle" with oncoming PGs I decided enough was enough and landed out. I think it helps if you can get in the air before it starts getting real crowded.