We parked next to Keith's truck, minus a glider, when we arrived at the end of the trail to launch. It was windy enough we debated whether to hike in with our gear but carried in everything in spite of the rattling tree tops.
We didn't rig after being pushed around by the strong gusts plowing through. We talked and tried to size up the weather as other pilots trickled into the setup area.
I decided to start rigging after a couple lulls convinced me I could safely launch. Although the forecast didn't predict a diminishing wind, the lulls became longer and more frequent as we leisurely got ready to fly.
Rigging the toys...
Mike and Linda
In spite of what we saw earlier, I was worried the wind eventually might not support ridge soaring. (Finding a thermal before landing is tough when launch is only 750 feet (229 m) above the bailout LZ below). I suited up and was the first to launch. The wind was light and I waited for a bit of a "straight-in" breeze before launching. I glided south to the "Wigwam House" before returning below launch. I was getting desperate when I smacked into a tiny thermal ripping up the mountain slope to the north. After a few 180s I cleared the ridge line, cranked into it, and quickly climbed above launch.
The climb was surprisingly strong for September and I was soon flying at cloud base.
I was surprised by the light wind at 9 mph (14 kph). Only when I neared cloud base did the wind increase to 18 mph (29 kph). The higher winds at the top of the boundary layer explained the fast moving clouds, but the stronger winds on launch must have been primarily thermal gusts.
Speaking of thermal gusts, Randy spent a long time on launch before getting airborne. Brooks followed soon after and both climbed out south of Route 2 along the ridge. The next two pilots, Jeff and Peter, were not so lucky. Both had short flights and landed in the undesirable bailout LZ below. Their performance was enough to keep everyone else on the ground.
Brooks and Randy climbing along the ridge, launch (closest clearing along the ridge), LZ lower right
I briefly flew with Brooks and Randy, but each of us wandered in different directions. I flew over the ridge and valley soaking up the chilly fall air and tinted leaves. I also played around the new unactivated wind mills on the hill tops north and east of launch.
Wind mills, hair-pin turn, and launch (leftmost clearing on ridge line in lower right corner of photo)
Transition to fall colors underway
Randy landed in the valley south of the school while Brooks and I ventured to the far side of the valley north of launch. I explored even more after Brooks glided to the mini-golf LZ.
Jeff and Peter, less than thrilled with their short flights, got on the radio and joked about leaving for home. I took the hint and agreed to meet them at "Amy's LZ" in the valley. I flew back to launch and radioed the waiting pilots that the air was mellow and buoyant along the ridge. I watched a pilot launch as I headed into the valley to land.
I felt like a novice pilot on his first mountain flight as Jeff and Peter radioed in wind direction changes as I lost altitude over the LZ. The wind, although not strong, was switching from southwest through east. It was tough to plan an approach with that much variability but I was lucky and landed into a fairly consistent north wind.
They patiently waited as I broke down and five gliders floated along the ridge in an evening wonder wind.
Peter amongst the emerging colors of autumn
Flights: 1, Duration: 3:03