There was a flyable morning at southside to be had, insofar as people did indeed fly, but the PIREP I received included visibility on the order of 100-200′ and I try not to do VFR in IMC so I passed. The ever increasing wind intensity in the afternoon, meanwhile, threatened to make the day a bust. I nonetheless left my house for northside ~1620 because being social while grousing about the wind seemed preferable to pouting at home while doing same. Arriving at the park ten minutes later I took heart at the site of several wings in the air.
From the parking lot the wind felt of moderate intensity and wonderful smoothness. I walked to the edge of one of the fingers to ensure I was not fooling myself and it felt good there as well. Ariel top-landed next to me, noted that the wind was smooth but starting to attenuate and that I ought hustle up, and quickly re-launched. I trotted back to my wing and expeditiously set up while noting the fog hanging over the upper hill.
I reverse-inflated, checked my lines, sampled the wind, spun forward, ensured my brakes looked clean, pushed toward the ledge, found a gap in traffic, and then I was off.
After my first turn circumstances proved slightly ambiguous as to whether I would be able to soar but I snugged into the ridge, found the lift band, chained together several circuits, and as the light began to fade found myself at a nice altitude for a top-landing. On my penultimate eastward track I made careful note of the windsock and anticipated a landing done optimally with a ~45 degree rightward skew relative to my launch trajectory. On my ultimate eastward track I vectored ~45 degrees into the hill to come over the field and allowed myself to begin to sink. Perhaps ~15′ above the ground I swung 90 degrees leftward, applied a full flare, touched down smooth as butter, then forward kited for a minute or two while savoring the moment and finding a nice debris free location to collapse the wing.
My feet must have been touching ground just as the year rolled per UTC. And what a year it has been. I am thus reminded of a quote that my late maternal grandmother kept pinned to her refrigerator and liked to recite from time to time.
Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit…what a ride!’
Happy New Year!