I scored a shockingly good sleep session last night despite the banana pants nature of the larger reality and then spent today with a monotonically increasing anxiety over the razor thin margins governing the outcome. Ben was unavailable for a morning session but happily the stars aligned for some northside flying. I arrived at the hill shortly before 1600 and geared up quickly to exploit what wind existed.
With the wing neatly arrayed at the edge of the parking lot I executed a clean reverse inflation, spun forward, began sprinting toward the hill, successfully managed a couple of wing dips by running under them while applying opposite-hand brake pressure, then had to hang out and forward-kite for a bit while some traffic pattern congestion cleared…
… but then finally I was off on my first flight on the northside!
The launch is just a little bit unsettling compared to the southside as you jump into a bush laden ravine instead of a broad and open expanse but as long as you execute as you always have this proves a distinction without a difference. Once I came aloft most of the flight played out in a familiar-yet-different fashion. Nothing at the component-level offered much novelty and yet the experience as a whole was nonetheless quite new. A different launch location, a busier traffic pattern, a somewhat more regularly irregular wind, flying directly into the sun at moments, a more complex landing site… nothing by itself proved a big deal, and if my radio had cut out I imagine I could have managed all of it just fine, and yet the character of the flight offered something quite different from all of my southside flights. I imagine that this variance and cognitive load speaks to the experience I can one day expect when flying at an unfamiliar site in a far away place without an instructor acting as guardian angel whispering things into my ear by radio.
After a few turns, each done with a smooth application of pressure to carve through the full 180 degrees, and the flight as a whole done with a consistent brake pressure to provide a gradual sink rate, I found myself approaching my time to land. As I flew over what would serve as my eventual landing spot I had an altitude such that a single S-turn gave me a nice approach. I managed to find a trajectory that took me along the game trail as intended and I got really busy right at the end as the wind got quite messy but mostly held it together. As I flared and touched down I sustained the direction I wanted but some combination of wind dropout, slightly upsloping terrain, and doubtless imperfect technique caused the last tiny increment of descent to be abrupt in a way such that I think I briefly skied, gently bounced my seat on the ground, and yet came up running, stabilized the wing, then spun around for a controlled deflation.
The hike back up the hill is a bit of a slog but I thought about how much more fit it would make me for the impending skiing season.
Now I find myself fantasizing about “benching up” from a lower-level northside launch to the top for some magical soaring and a sunset landing. Someday soon I hope!