Saturday, November 1, 2008

Prez-Sez - October 2008 by Beth Friesen

clip_image002[6]The prez-sez I need to say something for the ‘prez-sez’, quickly before October slips away. I have a few hours to go. And since I don’t have anything profound to say, the prez-sez just tell ‘your story’. Well alrighty then!

There I was just standing there…….. at the top of the Butte for the 14th (or there abouts) annual Women’s fly-in at Chelan, WA., when Jaro tells me I’ve set up my wing at a perfect place, angled in a prefect direction to do a forward launch! What?? Me do a forward Launch?? You kidding me?? I’ve flown for 10 years now and have probably done about that many forward launches, so I figured, maybe it was time for me to throw one in here. Okay, why not? The wind had died down, almost everyone had left for the day, conditions were perfect, even for the faint of heart, to attempt a forward launch. So, suddenly it became a worthy cause for myself, Jaro and Chris Amonson, to see if it could be done. Ooooops! First attempt…… good. Then after Jaro demonstrated the needed arm rotations to accomplish the job, I took a deep breath, counted down from three, put my head down and blasted forward between the rocks. Woohoo! Second attempt…….. worked, amazingly, and I was on my way to an unexpected adventure!

What I hadn’t stopped to think about was, why had the wind suddenly died down so completely? And WHY was there no lift anywhere along the ridge as I headed east toward the Chelan Falls LZ? Also, looking ahead, it looked like Jeff Spears just squeaked over the last ridge with the big pimple on it, on his way to the LZ. Wow, am I going to make it? “Oh, PLEASE God, help me make it over that ridge! Pleeeeeeease!” Well he did, but not I. I landed a mere 10-15 feet on the west side of the ridge. And wouldn’t you know it, there was a 5 – 10 mile hour wind coming from the NE right into my face as soon as I crested the ridge, carrying my wing. “Cool, I’ll just re-launch. All I have to do is find a place I can put my wing down without having my lines get stuck on the sage brush.” But now the wind was too strong, and too cross, and nearly dragged me back over the top of the ridge. So I stashed my wing as fast as I’ve ever done before, because I could see the sun was about to call it a day, and tried to radio someone I had just heard on the radio, but got no response. So, instead of calling Ernie on my cell phone at this point, I could see that the ridge I was on, was a fair bit steeper than it usually looked while flying over it, and decided to keep my helmet on in case I had a fall and started my climb down. Not only was the ridge steeper than I thought, it was also a fair bit higher and took a lot more steps to get down than I thought it would. But by now Ernie was calling me on my cell phone and it was beginning to actually get a bit dim as far as daylight was concerned. So when he asked for my co-ordinates, I told him I really just wanted to make use of every bit of light I could, and I’d give him the co-ordinates later. My only excuse for this oversight is that I was beginning to panic about having to hike in the dark before I would be able to get out of there. “So please just let me hike!” Then a stroke of genius hit me! I took all my instruments out of my harness, belted them around my waist, carried my radio in my hand, then kicked my 50 lb bag down the hill. It was just slowing me down, and threatening to make me lose my balance, so I figured I’d rather see it go down by itself than have me be attached to it! It would roll and jump with glee about 10 – 30 feet each time, then wait for me to catch up and give it another kick or shove. This helped me get down faster and soon I was crossing the flat (Rattlesnake flats) where the power lines are, with the bag on my back again.

Unfortunately, by now Ernie was getting rather exasperated about not having my co-ordinates, so he began to insist. “What if you fall down somewhere and we never hear from you again?” So I figured I’d better settle down and give them to him. But wouldn’t you know it, by now it was so dark, I couldn’t read what I thought were the co-ordinates, even while using my cell phone to light up the GPS page for me. I needed prescription glasses to read what I was looking at, and the only prescription glasses I had with me were my sunglasses! Well, for some reason they don’t work too well in the dark! “Oh dear, now I’m in trouble! How are they going to know where to find me when I get down?? Maybe I should have given them to Ernie way back there while it was still daylight. But why would anyone want them if I was going to put as much distance as I could between that spot and where I was going to?? Well, this is going to be interesting!” So I had looked ahead while it was still light enough, to determine where I was going to get down the last ridge. There were several gullies or canyons going down it which dropped down to the level of the orchards. So I picked one that seemed closest to a road between two of the orchards. By now it was getting so that I could only see about 50 – 100 feet ahead of me. But again decided the best way was to shove my wing bag ahead of me and see what happened to it and then follow. It turned out to be a good way of reading the slope of the gully. There was a split second or two when the hair on my skin stood on end, when it suddenly occurred to me that I might run into a snake there in the gully in the dark! Eeegadds! Not a pretty thought! But eventually I came out at the bottom relieved to see that it didn’t end with a steep waterfall type ending. So, with a fair bit of relief, I put my radio down to call Ernie on the cell phone and let him know I was down and could see trees rising up in front of me on my level, and tried to describe to him where I was, based on what we could both see on the highway on the far side of the river. After that I proceeded to cover the last part of the gully, not realizing I had left my radio behind, only to discover as I got to the edge of the orchard that I was behind a wire fence reaching from ½ an inch off the ground to about 10 or 12 feet high, with no end of it in site in either direction, with me between two hills. Okay, so what do I do now?

I sat down to rest, think and wait, and absent mindedly began to play with my GPS again. Ernie was still asking if there was any way I could possibly give him my co-ordinates. When lo and behold, I realized I had been on the wrong page before and there was another page on my GPS that had the co-ordinates in a bigger print size! Needless to say I was embarrassed, but relieved! I called him and explained what the deal was, and gave them to him. And I think it was less than 5 minutes after that, that he and Chris came over the hill with our Suburban to pick me up. But not before I had managed to climb over that foreboding fence and dig a hole underneath to pull my wing through! Thankfully the ground was loose, dry and sandy. They then hurried me over to Campbells, where Chris & Patricia were staying for the night with Murdoch & Jan and Pam & Delvin. They all took just one look at me and ordered me into the shower so that we could get over to the dinner at the airport. We got there just in time for me to unplug the chili crockpot, put it on the table for people to help themselves to, and be called upon to present Meredyth Malocsay with an NWPC trophy congratulating her for being NWPC’s Woman Pilot of the Year, as well as having won the Women’s US Paragliding Championship for 2008!! Congratulations to ‘our’ Meredyth!!!!!

It’s an understatement to say that Meredyth has been diligent, conscientious, and determined in learning absolutely EVERYTHING she can about this wonderful sport of flying! I have so much admiration for her aggressive, inquiring, humble spirit and attitude in honing her skills, gathering all the pertinent information she can, and then using every bit of it to make patient, wise, informed choices before, during and after each flight she makes! I would like to salute her and wish her many successful, truly enjoyable flights in each and every competition she ever enters, as well as for every one of the recreational flights she makes. Meredyth, thank you from us all, for being such an inspiration! Cheers to you, and may you have, and enjoy to the fullest, many prize winning safe and incredible flights!

PS - (Two days after my little adventure I realized my radio was nowhere to be found, so I drove all the way back to Chelan Falls, had to climb over the fence 2 more times, but found my radio on the ground right where I had left it. I was so happy I kissed it on the spot! And just last night I learned these fences have gates in them, every quarter mile, for people to walk through!)