Like starving children from a Charles Dickens novel, scrounging for the tiniest morsel of food, we're off to the Trail today.
Rodger's post to the local forum captures our desperation after months of water-torture here in New England. Once again a relatively new pilot, Jeff, convinced me to attempt a day of flying. Although the predicted lift was weak, the wind on the ridge measly, the sky overdeveloped, the ground saturated, and we faced a chance of rain, the forecast was the best in the past week and probably in the next week as well. Rodger, Jeff, and I loaded up at my place and we stopped in Gardner to pick up Mark A on the way to the Mohawk Trail in North Adams, Massachusetts.
After we showed Mark the dry place to land in the bail-out LZ, we drove up to launch. We met Brooks in the parking lot and Cliff, Gary, and Mike at launch. The wind was blowing in nicely but some of the clouds were already starting their daily launch into the heavens. The weather forecasters claimed a sliver of high pressure would pass overhead during the afternoon and it would limit shower and thunderstorm development. After a few clouds exploded and sent debris all over the sky, development settled down and we did have a dry afternoon.
Gary stepped up to launch first. (I was acting as observer / mentor for Jeff and Mark so I had to launch after they did). It was blowing in nicely most of the time, but Gary wasn't convinced it was soarable. (Launch is only about 750 feet, 228 m, above the valley). After watching for a long time he backed off as the sky turned blue overhead. A while later Brooks launched and maintained at launch level for a few passes before slowly sinking out. Watching a very good local pilot sink out wasn't exactly encouraging the remaining pilots to launch. Cliff eventually launched next and, like Brooks, bounced around in front of launch before floating into the LZ for a nice landing. We returned to eating blueberries and watching the sky.
I started actively encouraging Mark and Jeff to launch so I could give it a try. Besides, the day was slipping away. Mark stepped up next, launched into a strong cycle, and immediately got above launch. As he made several passes overhead I suggested that Jeff suit up and move to launch. By the time Jeff got to launch the cycle was dying and Mark joined the others in the LZ with a nice approach and landing. Once again we waited. It was now approaching 4:30 pm and the day was dying. Mark L showed up with his glider even as some pilots were talking about breaking down and hiking out. Jeff took off in the next thermal that came through and worked his way above launch. As I started suiting up, Rodger borrowed my camera and took pictures of Jeff passing back and forth in front. By the time I got to launch Jeff was sinking on each pass and was soon in the LZ.
Gary held my nose wires as he, Mike, and I watched for signs of life in the tree leaves below as Rodger answered questions posed by two hikers and Mark L setup his glider. I finally saw some rustling in the leaves below around 5:30 pm did my best height-conserving launch. (Rodger said I should have run harder and lowered my nose some). Like the others I went back and forth in front of launch like a duck in a shooting gallery before I got high enough to start circling. Once I started circling I settled into a 250 fpm (1.3 m/s) climb to cloud base at 4600 feet (1400 m).
I played around at cloud base working upwind to wisps forming over the valley below. I watched Mark L launch and fight to maintain at ridge height. Meanwhile Gary, Mike, and Rodger were breaking down. I wanted to keep working upwind and fly the western "backside" of Mount Greylock.
However when I saw someone doing aerobatics over the airport, I thought I should stay in my own valley. I only got a picture of the white smoke, but the pilot also used red smoke that looked cool against the setting sun. (You can see a tiny loop of white smoke in the upper left center).
I flew back over the pilots in the LZ, the pilots hiking out from launch, and Mark L who was heading north along the ridge. I decided to turn south to play along the ridge there and eventually land at the golf range across the valley since they have ice cream. I took a lame video while I was flying along the ridge with one hand; there is really not much to see except for trees and a few rocks!
I chased a few birds around as the day faded away and watch the cars on the roads below as I crossed the valley in buttery smooth air. I was a bit shocked when I looked down at my LZ at The Range and saw a reflection of the sky broken by patches of green. Yuck. Water, water, everywhere. I would guess only 30% of the surface was green. I did my usual buzzing approach and had a sweet no-wind landing on a dry island. However, my shoes were soaked by the time I splashed my way to the high ground along the road.
After the gang helped me load the glider on the truck we stopped for dinner at the Freight Yard Pub before heading home.
Flights: 1, Time: 1:27, Distance: -, Rain: 0