I had one of those crappy bisected sleep experiences last night where I woke up ~0100, finally fell back to sleep ~0400, and did not rise until 0730 at which point I saw a note from Ben indicating the possibility of a light north morning at 0900. I put on my hustle but by the time it rolled around the wind looked like garbage and so I opted for higher ROI activities.
The last couple of times I packed the rifle in the car and headed to the range it was owing to the wind being excessive for paragliding. It was nice for a change to do this because the wind was too mild to fly.
Upon arriving at the range I suited up COVID fabulous, set up a target, and got at it.
I appreciated shooting not just in lower wind conditions but also pre-zeroed(-ish) with the same ammo as the previous week. Some adjustments proved necessary but I was on paper from the get-go and made quick progress to a good place.
At 100 yards I found myself shooting high and to the left of the center target at the outset and so first dialed in the elevation turret a couple of times and then played with the windage turret until I punched a few rounds through the bullseye. Having calibrated thus I swung my focus to the lower right target and was pleased to kiss the bullseye with my first shot. Each of my subsequent two shots went slightly higher than the last and on my final one I corrected the height but came in a bit wide. I switched my focus to the bottom left target and… guh, I dunno, I think I was getting mentally fatigued at that point. I took a moment to collect myself and finished up with the upper left target as I approached range closing time and had a reasonably nice but high grouping.
Shortly after returning home I received a note from Ben indicating that things were looking promising for a 1530 northside session so I made lunch, relaxed a bit, then got to the hill by 1545.
I found myself more jittery than usual owing to yesterday’s ill-fated flight but not so much I felt I should ground myself. In moments such as these I am torn generally on whether one ought take some time off to decompress and process versus jump right back into the saddle to avoid letting the experience mess with one’s head. As with many things one ought take it on a case-by-case basis and in this moment powering through the anxiety felt like the right thing to do.
I unpacked a wing, spread it out, cleaned the lines, stowed the bag, strapped into my harness, connected the wing, ran my pre-flight checklist, performed a reverse inflation, spun forward, and then began fighting my way to the edge. The wing dumped to the left several times along the way but I ran under it while applying right hand pressure and always it stabilized nicely. On multiple occasions it tried to cheat past 12 o’clock but I applied timely brake pressure and back it went. As I reached the precipice I looked for an opening in the traffic pattern, glanced left and right for happy wing tips and clean V’s on the brake lines, got slightly tugged off my feet a few times as I made my last few steps, and then I was off.
I had a really nice yet uneventful flight which was just what I needed tonight. At one point I heard Ben say over the radio “I just took a picture of the place that you live and you’re in it”.
I performed several figure eights through the traffic pattern and gradually nudged myself higher in the process. Having learned my lesson from the previous evening I aired on the side of conservatism in timing my rightward turn on the western end of the hill and avoided any drama. On one occasion I did ever so slightly get stuck but I turned away from the hill and was able to claim the airspeed I needed. My only real problem during the whole flight proved to be that my finger tips went numb owing to the temperature, wind, and dubious choice of gloves.
After a few loops Ben suggested that I had positioned myself well for a top landing and so on an eastward pass I began cheating over the top of the hill and allowing myself to descend. Circumstances felt moderately messy as I had pilots on the ground to my right and a ditch to my left on the diagonal path I was cutting while dealing with an easterly wind. Ben counseled me to turn more fully into the wind just before I flared but from his vantage he could not see the ditch and so I declined this one suggestion. I landed crosswind but gently and stumbled slightly in the soft sand, rolled onto my right knee, then sprung up and put down the wing only a little inelegantly, constrained in my ability to run into the wind owing to the aforementioned ditch.
This felt like a great return from the mindfuck of the previous evening and so I decided to be one-and-done and watch an amazing sunset instead of going greedy. I inarguably live in one of the most magical places on earth.