The morning offered wind northerly and wild which I took as cue to dust off some old project work that petered out early last year when the consulting work unexpectedly piled on. I am intending on combining work to build a general purpose data lake with a desire to generate alerts when local weather seems poised to offer good flying. The afternoon looked set to disappoint but eventually the wind attenuated enough to seem to offer some end-of-day aerial enjoyment. I got to the park ~1620 and was inflating within ten minutes.
At this point the wind was blowing with moderate intensity, delightful smoothness, and consistent orientation. I reverse inflated with no struggle, checked the wing, spun forward, validated clean brake lines, nudged my way forward to the lip in a relaxed fashion to allow the pilot on the finger to my left to go first, felt a joyous tingle of anticipation as the wing pulled me to my tippy-toes well before the edge, and then was off, getting lofted substantially very quickly. Awwwwwww, yeah! As the experience played out I noted that the wind was blowing increasingly easterly and so took great care not to get too close to the west end lest I get stuck. After three circuits I had climbed enough that benching up seemed plausible but I was not seeing other people do that at this juncture so declined. At this point in my training, seeing what other pilots are presently doing is a key component of my insurance policy, and I don’t want to be the first or last in anything. Consequently, after angling out from the lower ledge to bleed off some altitude, on an easterly track I angled 45 degrees inward, sunk on a track that would allow me to land on the first finger on the far side of the parking lot, then swung to wind-alignment, and slowly floated to the ground. I kited for a moment then put the wing down briefly to catch my breath and reorient myself.
The wind sock still looked good so I reverse inflated, spun forward, and began pushing myself to the edge again. Belatedly I realized, however, that given the twig-laden area where I had deflated I ought have spent longer looking at my lines to ensure they were clean. As such I found myself leaning backward while forward kiting to do this check, during which time I lost perspective and let the wing get slightly too far forward, and in doing so deflate. I ducked and spun to return to a reverse-facing position, but just barely in a timely fashion, and down the wing came. Oops. No biggie, but mildly annoyed with myself all the same… Re-inflate, take my time to check the wing, spin forward, push to the ledge, and GO! This flight would also prove excellent, but I had to work harder to get my altitude, and over time the wind would prove substantially more bumpy and easterly, which required that I be very diligent in my brake application and west-end turn timing. Eventually the conditions inclined me toward another top landing which played out fairly similarly until the last moment. Toward the end I adopted a bank angle and approach angle that had the Cessna-flying part of my brain screaming “yo, dawg, DAFUQ are you doin’?” but that on a paraglider is entirely reasonable. Things got a bit bobbly at the moment of truth owing to some gust but a series of micro-adjustments on the brakes got me through and I plopped down for a second gentle top-landing. This time I took a moment to savor a sinking sun.
By the time I was inflating for a third flight I knew that I was quite likely setting myself up for a sink-out and subsequent hike back up but in fact I was happy for this and so dove in. Having to hike back up while watching other pilots who caught the lift band soar and the day slip through your fingers can be maddening. Hiking up at the end of the day after some great flying, however, offers a welcome way to savor the experience while taking in a gorgeous sunset and getting your heart pumping.
So good. I love this place and this sport so much.