Thursday, April 14, 2011

Karma Flights

Tandem Paragliding for a Cause - Introducing
Matt Cone

This past winter I had the great fortune to take a 2 month sabbatical from work. The time was right to get away, do some soul searching and of course some great flying. I spent 2 weeks in Valle and then 5 weeks in Pokhara Nepal. While in both locations, I took the time to experience the local culture. Most of my past flying trips have been pretty agro with the flying and light on the local experience. I was determined to make that different this time.

Prior to my trip, I become involved with The CloudBase Foundation, a great group of pilots that raise money throughout the year to help children in communities where we fly. During this trip, I was keen on finding a way to link CloudBase with a cause.  In Pokhara, I was fortunate to be introduced to the organization Quality of Life Nepal.  (QOLN) This non-profit provides support for a number of villages surrounding Sarangkot, the primary flying site in Nepal.   QOLN’s “Click-Click” program particularly caught my attention. This is a rare program that provides education for disabled children that are severely underserved in the region.  Their facility is about 100 yards from the primary launch site. Paraglider pilots literally fly above the school all day and waive to the kids below.

So with a specific cause identified and an organization to provide the structure, a group of us here in Seattle (Chris Amonson, Gilead Almosnino, John Kraske, Stefan Mitrovich, Steve Pieniak and others) came together to provide a structure for raising money to help these kids. This summer, we will be providing tandem flights through our website  All money raised will be via donation and provided directly to fund the staff efforts of the “Click-Click” disabled children program. Please consider passing on this information to friends who are interested in helping out.

If you would like to learn more about the project, please visit the website:

Flight reports from north of Seattle

Photo by Murdoch Hughes

We drove, we stood in the rain, we drove home...

Murdoch Hughes
Award-winning Author of "Calafia,"
third in the Rick Sage Baja Mystery/Suspense series,
tentatively scheduled for release
in the fall of 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011


John Kraske

Jason over Cape Kiwanda after running south from Tierra Del Mar Saturday afternoon – photo by Kathy Nesen


Latitude 45 degrees – 13 minutes – 10 seconds North

April 2, 2011

The beach on Saturday was forecast to be 80% chance of rain with southwest winds somewhere in the vicinity of nuking. We took our time leaving Kathy's but wanted to be in Oceanside for Sunday's forecast which was for mostly cloudy with winds from the west at a much more manageable level than Saturday. We were both thinking Sunday just might pan out for some mighty fine squall surfing. It didn't turn out that way at all.

We arrived in Oceanside about three and by the looks of things thinking we might be able to fly out of the vacant lot next to Rosanna's.

The wind was cross from the right and seemed to be west-northwest. What the heck was Weather Underground thinking? Southwest my ass. And when did the eighty percent rain fall? Had it come early in the day? Things did look moist for sure. The cloud base was pretty high for this time of year and there seemed to be a few virga clouds hanging high in the sky off shore, marching to the south.

"Let's book on down to Tierra Del Mar!" was my enthusiastic suggestion. Kathy was every bit as encouraging. We booked. Tierra Del Mar is a mile or so north of Cape Kiwanda, about a half hour drive south.

CAPE LOOKOUT (Anderson or Gannon Launch)

Latitude 45 degrees – 21 minutes – 09 seconds North

April 2, 2011
On our way, passing by Cape Lookout launch, historically known as Anderson and more recently as Gammon Launch there was a gaggle of hangs set up along the road. We stopped.
There wasn't a lot of wind evident on launch. A huge black cummie was obviously sucking or blocking or something. Obviously?
Huh? Rather than chat and banter with the hanging about hangies we decided to stay our course and head south for Tierra Del Mar. Besides, I knew it was far too big of air at beach level for us to fly in the onshore flow being trapped and blocked by Cape Lookout. "We're gonna give Tierra Del Mar a shot." I announced to the condition speculating hang pilots. As we headed back to our car the forecasted 80% of rain, in the form of frozen little white balls, started pelting Cape Lookout in a very serious manner.


Latitude 45 degrees – 15 minutes – 07 seconds North

April 2, 2011

Fifteen minutes later we spied a Nova glider parked high above the launch at TDM.

Jason parked above TDM with "Nantucket Shores" below. Photo by Kathy Nesen

Jason, a Portland area pilot hooted and hollered from the sky as we geared up and prepared to launch our 38 meter tandem in 20 mph west-northwest wind. As a safety margin we set up on the west-northwest facing slope just below and out front of launch. It was all I could do to get a partial wall built before I even had "get ready" out of my mouth. I was really busy as my wing took over and shot overhead fully inflated. Kathy has developed such a fine sense of anticipating that I hardly ever have to say a word. We stepped uphill and were soon in the air, hugging the trees along the road and climbing. The air was smooth and the lift very evident as we penetrated north over the road and up above the irritatingly named vacation housing development, Nantucket Shores. As if Oregon longs to emulate the east coast. Gimme a break. But we were happy to be up and away with Kathy clicking pictures and commenting on how spectacularly beautiful this part of the coast appears. Wow!

We flew up and around the corner, over the lake north of Nantucket….yuck - I hate that name….Shores, raking our shadows across the giant beach castles scattered, out-of-place, above the shoreline.

'Shadow Raking' Nantucket Shores above TDM – photo by Kathy Nesen

We banked left and ran the mile or so south to Cape Kiwanda then back again, barely scratching across the gap where the road accesses the beach, just south of Little Kiwanda. We barely made it between Little Kiwanda and the pine shrouded, sand and sandstone ridge where we were able to eke out enough lift to scratch out a safe altitude and get back to launch. It seemed the wind was slowing booking around a few degrees more from the west. We attempted a few approaches for a top landing just to check the velocity. Finally we set down with no problems. Jason hadn't made it across the gap, landed on the beach and got a ride back, arriving as Kathy and I were setting up for another launch.

The wind had picked up again so we drafted Jason to help ballast our launch. My wing was snapping and flapping and doing its damnedest to take us para-dragging. We had our hands full with lines snagging on rocks and roots, old branches, Scotch Broom and Salal. "Be ready!" was my only, unneeded, command. We were jerked off our feet and dragged a bit as I attempted to control our wing overhead from our tangled, somewhat seated position being dragged and bouncing across the ground. The wing felt fine and was more or less ready to fly, but a huge dead tangle of Scotch Broom was wrapped tight in my right risers and lines, and seemed a little too much so I killed the wing and Kathy and I went for a drag into the tangle weeds behind launch.

As irritating as Scotch Broom can be, sometimes it has its uses. In our case it arrested our wing as we were being dragged over the rain muddied ground towards the highway and whatever lay beyond, me serving as Kathy's mud sled. 'Mud slide slim and the blue horizon…' played in my head. We had a good chuckle as we untangled, checked our wing for rips or line damage, then set up a bit further down the launch face. Covered in mud, looking a bit like twin tar-babies from Briar Rabbit's famed escape into the black berry patch (we just escaped from…), this time we aced our launch with just one stick tangled in our lines. A really dry one it seemed, and as we flew away to the north I gave the tangled line a good quick jerk and the offending hitcher broke and fell to the beach below. Once again we were free flying, up and away, enjoying the majestic beauty of the Oregon Coast, waving to the passing motorists on the beach and highway below. (Yep, motorists are allowed to drive the beaches here.)

We'd invited my daughter and her husband to dine with us back in Oceanside so had to cut our flight short, top landed and left Tierra Del Mar behind. Jason was still in the air as we headed back north. A fine afternoon for sure.


Latitude 45 degrees – 29 minutes – 09 seconds North

April 3, 2011

Maxwell Mt. launch at Oceanside. Photo by Kathy Nesen

Today, oh my what a day! Kathy and I had a leisurely breakfast then loaded up with the idea of checking out Cape Lookout as the chimney tops in our neighborhood were showing west-north-west. As we drove away from Kathy's cabin, there were no fewer than a half dozen wings above Maxwell Mountain and Oceanside. "Look there's a paraglider….there's another one…and another…there's a bunch." I pointed our little Pontiac Vibe uphill towards Maxwell.

I think the whole of the Cascade Paragliding Club was already there. Some flying, other getting ready to. Kathy and I geared up with our small tandem. We flew for quite awhile then top landed because I'd forgotten to call Ancil who I promised I'd give a report. I left him a message encouraging him to join us. Then we launched again and had a short flight due to lightening winds. We caught a shuttle ride back to launch and I took my daughter for an extended sledder. Because the winds seemed to be lightening up, we decided to go have lunch in Netarts at the Schooner. Yum!

After lunch we booked on back to Oceanside. It looked good as there were a number of wings flying above Happy Camp which is a destination for the local coastal xc attempts. We hurried.

At launch I was commissioned to fly a tandem for a Thai woman from Australia. Kat was quite the adventurous soul and pretty excited to fly. Kathy relinquished her seat, flight suit, helmet and gloves. The winds had booked around a little more from the west and our launch was flawless. Working the ridge to the south of launch we achieved what I felt would be maximum altitude and enough to run north towards Cape Meares. A couple other wings were out in front of us and on their return to the south. Kat and I worked the higher hills further back towards the east and found enough lift to get high enough to relax and enjoy the epic views. At the south face of Cape Meares we worked our way to maximum altitude that gave us a captivating view of Tillamook Bay and the north Oregon Coast all they way to Neahkahnie Mountain. I then noticed our lack of penetration and some discerning turbulence. Apparently the wind directions, yes 'directions' (plural) which may have been a wind direction and/or velocity change, or perhaps just the effect of what Cape Meares was having on the winds. I set our course back towards Maxwell where Kathy and Kat's husband and Mother-in-law were awaiting our return and wondering what had become of us.

We didn't make it to Maxwell, having to land on the rock and pebble strewn Hundred Step Beach. What a beautiful and tranquil setting. We hiked up the hundred steps to the road and caught a ride back to Maxwell launch with a group of local pilots.

At Maxwell we discovered that Kat's family and Kathy were down in the parking lot at the beach. We had a few options here. We could ride down with some of the pilots who would be heading for home, we could have Kathy drive up and fetch us, or we could fly down and Kat could have a two-fer sledder that would reunite her with her husband and mother-in-law, and experience a spiral dive for a grand finale'. Of course, I asked if she'd like to try a spiral dive. She was slightly skeptical. "Kathy really loves to spiral. You just don't wanna watch the ground."

"Okay, I'll watch the horizon." I was impressed with her insightfulness. I usually have to tell my passengers to watch the wing or the horizon while engaged in spirals. She already had it figured out. A natural. Kat didn't run out her landing, but sat down in the sand as we touched down. She was probably dizzy from our spiraling, I guess. She was all smiles and hugs though. Can't get much better than that to end the day.

That wasn't the end of our day though. My friend Anne Harper gave Kathy and I a ride back up to launch and we took to wing again. This time with Kathy in the supervisor's front seat. We gained and gained as the wind was a little stronger this time. Only one other tandem and a hang were flying. We opted to run south to Happy Camp. We made it working the somewhat light lift, with ease, working the variable facing cliff faces all the way. A great landing at Happy Camp. An awesome hug and kiss from the woman I love and we were packed up and hiking the road out of Happy Camp. Sea, my daughter, and her husband Chris picked us up and we headed back to Kathy's cabin in Oceanside and a team effort gourmet meal of pasta putenesca and arugula salad. Now that's a way to have a day.


Latitude 45 degrees – 27 minutes – 39 seconds North

April 4, 2011

It's raining and we're packing up for the drive home. What a weekend. Seems like I'm blessed with good flying conditions every time we come to the beach.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Prelude of things to come.

(correction) Photo of Tony Rabino taken by Paul Barron

GoPro HD Camera–A little Gem by Iain Frew

For anybody in the paragliding community who has not heard of or seen a GoPro camera over the last year then they must have been living under a rock! The skies are dotted today with pilots wearing the camera stuck to their helmets, wrapped around a limb, hanging from the canopy or at the end of a camera pole. The success of this little gem is quite simply down to its versatility and high quality video that it produces. gopro
What Camera to choose?
There are a few models to choose from in the GoPro range and  that can make it quite confusing to the buyer. But in reality there are only three different cameras  – The SD Hero 170, HD Hero 960 or the HD Hero  - the difference being the video resolutions supported and additional accessories that can be added. All models do not have any viewfinder or an LCD screen so you cannot directly view the video or the pictures you take until you load them onto your computer or attach it to your TV screen for viewing. The HD Hero model however does have an optional LCD screen you can purchase that allows you to overcome this limitation.
The HD Hero comes in a bunch of different flavors based on the mounting systems that are shipped with the device. There is the Helmet Hero, that is really the one most paragliding pilots will be interested in, Motorsports that comes with a suction cup for sticking to the side of you car, Surf for attaching to your surfboard and Naked – one that comes with a basic set of 2 mounts.
The SD Hero provides a 170 degree field of vision at a resolution of 512x384 pixels and needs 3 AAA batteries to run at a cost of $99.99. Compare this to the HD Hero 960 that provides resolutions of 1280x960, 1280x720 and 848x480 at $179.99 and the difference in dollars is money well spent. In fact I wouldn’t recommend the SD version to anyone these days. the rest of this little review will focus on the HD range.
At the top of the range there is the HD Hero that provides even higher resolution with the Naked version costing $259.99 with no mounts, and $299.99 with mounts. The HD 1080 resolutions supported are
    • 1080p = 1920×1080 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
    • 960p = 1280×960 pixels (4:3), 30 fps, 12 Mbit/s data rate
    • 720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 15 Mbit/s data rate
    • 720p = 1280×720 pixels (16:9), 30 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
    • WVGA = 848×480 pixels (16:9), 60 fps, 8 Mbit/s data rate
As you can see, both letterbox format (16:9) and the old square TV format (4:3) is supported and you have a choice of 30 frames per second or 60 frames per second that provides super smooth playback in slow motion.
In addition to the resolution difference from the HD 960, the HD 1080 camera has a little port on the back that’s supports an extended battery pack or a LCD viewer. More of that later.
Taking Pictures
As well as recording video, the GoPro has also a 5 Megapixel camera. With its wide angle fish screen lens the camera packs in a lot of field. However the best feature is being able to automatically take pictures at regular time intervals which the use can specify. I have mine set to take every 30 seconds and its amazing what you capture sometimes when you forget it’s on – Even my restroom trip to the woods one day! What I like about this mode is that the battery lasts a long time and you don't need to take your hands off the controls at all while flying.
Recording Media
All cameras record MP4 files to those little stamp sized storage cards called SD (Secure Data) cards and the camera does NOT come with any so you will have to budget for buying one if you don’t have a spare one around. sdcardIt’s important that you buy the right kind of card as they need to be able to support data being written to the card while recording at up to 15 MegaBits per second. What you want is one that is rated as class 4 or class 6. A 16GB card can be bought really cheaply these days from Fry’s down at Renton for around $25. SD HC (High capacity) cards come in a variety of sizes and Kingston is one of the better makes around and one that I would recommend. Recording at 720P 30fps will use up a 4GB card in about an hour. About the same time the standard supplied lithium battery lasts! So an 8GB card is generally more than enough for your typical needs. I have 16GB cards but I find that if you have an hour of paragliding video you will need to do a lot of editing anyway. Having 4 hours is way too much!. The camera  automatically creates a new file when 4GB is reached due to the limitations of the storage system , but it means you can record for more than an hour if your battery lasts.
The HD cameras are powered by a lithium battery that as I mentioned before lasts up to an hour  or so in continuous use. GoPro just recently launched and additional battery pack for $49.99 that gives you approx twice the recording video time. Not sure it’s worth the money though personally.
There are just so many options for this camera, especially mounts, and whatever your needs you will find what you are looking for I am sure.mounts I purchased the recently announced LCD add-on ($79.99) for the HD Hero 1080 model that allows you to view the videos and pictures that you take without the need to load the SD card into your computer or attach the camera to a TV. I also have the wrist mount ($39.99) which I thought would be useful but turns out it’s not, at least for flying. The angle of the housing needs to be rotated 90 degrees.
3dmountJust announced this week is the option to take 3D video and pictures using two HD Hero cameras and the the new 3D housing ($99.99). As a geek I am super excited to see how this works out. I can imagine that using this while flying in gaggles will produce some spectacular results. Of course you really need a 3D TV to use this option to its fullest unless you want to watch the videos on your computer screen using the old red/green glasses from the 50's!
For it’s compactness, ruggedness, accessories and high quality videos and pictures, this little beauty is hard to beat. However, it can get expensive when you start adding up all those other add-on’s. Full information on all the cameras can be found at

From Matty Senior:
Inspired by Philippe Broers the PWC photographer

I've uploaded a couple of pictures of a Go Pro camera mount that I made this year. I think its a lot better than putting it on your helmet because you don't get all the movement of your head when you scan the horizon for information. All you need to make one of these is a 99cent clamp from home depot. 2 meters of 1 inch wide webbing some electrical tape and a drill to make the hole for the GoPro and a couple of small washers so you don't break the plastic mount for the GoPro. Both Brad and I have got heaps of amazing footage with this mount in Nepal this season and would recommend it. It is very versatile in that you can easily adjust its position up/down, forward or slightly back to include the face of the pilot and flight deck. It also resolves the problem of not knowing if your GoPro is on record or standby. Below is a link to the pics I uploaded.

Photos from Iain Frew below

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Quarterly Report April 2011

Northwest Paragliding Club
President’s Quarterly Report
April 2011

This report is primarily for those of you who pay your dues (for which we are very grateful) but don’t often make the meetings and therefore don’t necessarily know what your club is doing.  Although the weather has not been great this spring, Club members have been very active trying to improve our flying sites and getting the year off to a good start.

So far this year we have accomplished the following:

·         Passed new club By-Laws. 
·         Changed the club’s membership meetings to the third Tuesday of each month, at Pogacha’s in Issaquah. 
·         Re-initiated the Club’s Blog.  Thanks to the efforts of Chris Amonson and others who have written articles (John Kraske, Joanne Blanchard, Matty Senior, Murdoch Hughes, and George and CJ Sturtevant to name just a few) there are lots of good reading and great photos on the club’s blog.  (Reach it through the link on the club website).  We plan to keep the blog active and a place you can go to find out what others have been experiencing.  Feel free to write up your flying experience and share it with the rest of us. 
Contact Chris Amonson -
·         Up-dated the Club website.  Andy Wood is now keeping it current so that it is a good place to go for information about the Club’s activities.  It includes a calendar of 2011 fly-ins and club events, information about our flying sites, links to weather and other useful information. 
·         Established dates for the fund-raising Tandem fly-in at Tiger on July 17; a camp-out-fly-in at Saddle on August 13 &14, and the Baldy fly-in September 17-18.  We are looking for volunteers to help in organizing these events and making them great.
·         Purchased an AED (defibrillator) to be kept at Tiger in case we have the need to resuscitate someone.  Beth Friesen got us a great deal on a fancy new machine and Bob Hanna is getting it ready for storage/installation on north launch. 
·         Trimmed a number of trees from the north end of the Tiger LZ, opening up airflow from the north. 
·         Replaced the windsock on south launch, which blew down in a winter storm.  We now have two windsocks serving south launch which seem to work well. 
·         Purchased a 55-foot tall Rohn tower, which we hope to install on Tiger’s north launch.  If we are able to install it as planned (with an additional 15 to 20-foot pole), it will allow us to fly a windsock above the trees on north launch that will indicate wind from any direction.  We may also be able to move Wind Talker to the tower, improving its usefulness.  A web cam on the tower would also be nice if we can make it happen. 
·         Received a permit to make improvements to the Cut, which will allow the shuttle to drive through without changing vehicles.  Details are still to be worked out with DNR, but we expect to have a couple work parties in the next month or so to make the improvements. 

We were denied a permit to remove trees from the east side of the Tiger LZ, but Rich Hass is working on a new permit application that we hope will be more successful. 

The Club and USHPA President Rich Hass are working with the County to get the parking lot expansion finished.  The mud needs to be removed and a gravel surface placed.  We are waiting on one of the following, 1) the County to do it, or 2) the County to give us permission to do it. 

A number of our tandem pilots have requested that a 20-foot steel container be installed near north launch for the storage of gear.  We are attempting to get permission from DNR to place such a container.  If we are successful, the club will likely rent space in the container to interested individuals. 

We are also planning to install a new windsock atop Baldy and have committed to assisting DNR with maintenance on Blanchard Mountain.   There will be a number of volunteer opportunities at Blanchard and other flying sites in the North Cascades which NWPC members can take part in.  Watch for announcements or calendar dates for these events.

Lawrence Wallman is working with Washington State Parks to get flying rights restored at Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island, and we are looking for ways to help Roger Brock open up flying sites in Skagit County

As you can see, the Club has a lot of official business underway.  We have spent or committed about $4,500 so far this year getting permits, trimming trees, putting up windsocks and purchasing materials and equipment.  Our costs have generally been a bit less than expected for most items, and we are financially healthy, but the real construction is yet to come.   If we are successful in getting permits to do all the improvements we have planned we will need every penny we can raise.  This means we need another very successful Tandem fly-in this summer. 

At the club meetings so far this year we have heard great stories and descriptions of our member’s trips to Valle de Bravo and Yelapa, Mexico, Nepal and Costa Rica.  We also had a preview of what to expect if you go to the upcoming fly-in at Oceanside, Oregon.  Our monthly meetings are enjoyable and informative and the food at Pogacha’s is very good.  Come out and enjoy the evening with your fellow pilots on the third Tuesday of the month. 

With everything we are trying to accomplish, the Club is going to need your help.  Please be prepared to step up and help when the need arises.  Whether it is putting on a fly-in or maintaining our flying sites, having more people involved spreads out the workload and makes every event easier, more successful and more enjoyable for all. 

If you have an idea that might make flying at one of our sites safer or more enjoyable, please contact me or another of the board members.  We are always open to new ideas.   Our email addresses are on the club web site. 

Please note that all NWPC memberships expired on March 31.  If you have not done so, please renew your membership.  Go to and click on the JOIN button, where you can pay by credit card or PayPal. 

Thanks, and have a great flight. 

Ralph Boirum
President, NWPC

From the archive March 2001

by Paul Klemond

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

“Lets go jump off a cliff!” or Blanchard XC

by Jeff Beck

"Lets go jump off a cliff!", shouted Ron. I was thinking, "Really?", as I looked up to see my buddy loading up his glider. I was happily reviving a burn pile in the backyard and was not yet that excited about flying. It had been blowing SE at 20 all morning as the first indications of cumulous clouds went racing by. I reluctantly left my yard work behind and thought I guess I could go up and repair the water damage on the south launch while the gremmies kick rocks in the blown out cross conditions. I began loading my equipment. A wheel barrow, rake, shovel, and pick. I thought I had better bring my wing just in case but had pretty much just planned on driving if the guys were even able to launch.

We arrived to find a few south end guys setting up and the sight of approaching squalls in the distance. I began the task of repairing the trench that had been cut into the south launch over the winter as Ron joined the others in setting up. We all hid under the gliders as the Squalls came though. First as rain, then hail, and then rain again as the SE gusts continued to blow. While passing the guys with my 10th wheelbarrow load I said, "You know… you should really be helping me out. Not because I really need it but because every time I have done work party stuff I have always skied out". " It's good karma" I said. Just then the gusts seemed to be settling and the guys began hooking in. The first two launched safely and one got over and stayed up for a bit in turbulent lift so I started to set up.

By the time I was on launch the last of them was struggling over the mud flats below. It was a bit cross still but had moments where It would cycle in straight so I went for it. I was down to the tree line in seconds when I found one that I could turn in. It was drifting hard out of the valley as I climbed a few hundred over and I soon found it impossible to follow so I left it hoping to find more to the east. That's when I realized that Ron had saved himself and was now joining me on the east side of the saddle. I was getting thrashed as the edges were vicious. My knuckles were white as I tested out this one and then that not finding anything organized and just barely hanging on. Then I spotted a red tail and decided to follow him back against the hill. It was so rough that I was scared to turn down wind but managed to make a few more turns. Ron was just below me and went violently negative twice being thrown up against his keel in a 30 second span. I made a few more turns in the gnarly air as he decided it was not worth it and started flying towards the LZ. Two more turns and the adrenaline was getting to me too. I had 2400' and I figured that was enough to get across the freeway and went all or nothing to the east.

As I have found so many times before there was lift over my house at the base of the Blanchard road. I have climbed here enough to start referring to it as "my house thermal". It was just as violent but I stayed with it as it got stronger and stronger.

At 3800' the violence stopped and would not return the rest of the day. I was approaching a large dark cloud street that seemed to go on forever in each direction. I thought about going down wind but the landing options get very scarce in that direction and in a strong south wind once you start that way there is no coming back if it doesn't work out. It would be an all or nothing for Bellingham and I was not up for the challenge in my adrenalin exhausted state. As I approached 5000' I wondered how far south I could travel with out turning and headed straight down I-5 with quite a slow ground speed. As the lift would increase I would speed up to maintain my cloud clearance and slow to best glide when it was light. I was over Burlington 10 miles to the south when I finally wussed out and made 6 turns back to 4000' before continuing on.

I was crossing the Skagit River when I noticed a sail plane just to my right and 500' below. That's when I started thinking about Arlington. As I crossed Mount Vernon I saw him climbing to cloud base and left the street for Cultus Mt to the East. I decided to continue on following this cloud to the end and did not give chase. There were military flights going on as well and twice in this area I had them pass 1000' below me. The first was an A-6 and the second an F-18. A good reminder for me to keep clear of the clouds.

My Street finally ended over the peaks west of Big Lake and I got drilled as I tried the late crossing to Cultus Mt. I found myself Low and drifting to the north in zeros toward Clear Lake with a few red tails. I managed to get high enough to make a mad dash down college way to a large housing development with a soccer field in the middle. I had a few minutes to find lift or land. At the last minute I ran into one that was drifting hard but climbing slow and went for it. After hanging on for a bit I saw a Golden Eagle to my east. At first I thought he might have better lift but this has back fired a lot for me in the past so I just kept turning. As it got stronger he came in below me his shoulders and head were glowing the golden color that give them their name. He was big but shy and stayed out of the core as he darted around each time I passed over head. Finally I was on my way again and this time it would be with a tail wind.

I arrived back in Alger in minutes my GPS vario registering 70 mph ground speeds at times. Do I land now in the Blanchard LZ or do I dare cross Samish and Galbraith to find out how long this street really is? The lift was good and I had just flown another 15 miles without turning so why would it stop now? As I committed I started to descend and was getting nervous. I knew of a spot between Lookout Mt and Galbriath that always seemed to produce but it would take me away from a possible lz at Lake Padden. If it wasn't there I would be in a bit of fix and gliding low for Bellingham. It was there. Slow at first but I stayed with it. Again an eagle appeared further east but I resisted the urge to join him. As The strength continued to grow he came in right under me. He was a huge mature and exceptionally beautiful baldy. He had a presence that demanded your attention and respect in a encounter that I will not soon forget.

He had decided to enter my thermal opposite my direction which put us on our first collision course. At first I thought he must not see me as he flew right at me and disappeared just under my side wire. He was looking me right in the eye and did not even flinch as he made it clear that he was a dominate eagle. I have heard they could live to be 30 years old or more and this one had clearly been around the block a few times. I was climbing really well and each time he came around he pushed closer. He then reversed his turn and came up along side of me. I acted like I hadn't noticed in an attempt to not be threatening. That's when he decided that I wasn't turning steep enough and pushed in under my wing looking me straight in the eye. I banked up harder and he was right as the lift increased. He soon passed through me and then turned north on glide. I was right behind him watching him go up and down in the lift. We crossed Galbraith and then Bellingham staying above and outside the 5nm radius of Bellingham airports class D airspace.

I was half way to Canada in a snow squall when I finally lost him. I could see by the shadow on the ground that this cloud street continued far on into BC and it seemed to get darker. I continued on over Lynden but thought it was the border town of Sumas. I looked hard for the crossing but couldn't tell where it was. It was 5:30 now and I could see by the shadows behind me that it was drying up to the south. My hands were icicles and it was time to start thinking about landing. The winds had decreased a lot so I did a 180 and started to glide for Bellingham. I really wanted to land as close to Bellingham as possible and as I neared I could see that I might have enough to land near Scotty Brown's, a bar and grill that had Boundary Bay Breweries IPA on tap. That's when, for the 3rd time in my flying career, that I saw a balloon ahead and below. I had to try and so dove down to intercept. If you have ever tried to catch a balloon you will know how hard it is as it is rising and you are descending. It was close but I missed again. Now my glide was not good but I tucked in my elbows and concentrated on my gliders performance. I would hit sink and loose it then glide through lift as I wondered if I needed a plan B. As I flew over a large industrial complex I felt the hand of god lift me towards me thirst driven goal. I arrived over a field adjacent to Barkley Village with enough altitude for a few wingovers and a banked up approach between light posts and a rare great flair landing after a long XC.

People stopped by for the next 30 minutes with eyes wide as I answered their questions. Ron arrived while I was sipping my IPA an hour later.

My best flight in Chelan was 75 miles to Creston and the legs of this triangle are close to matching that feat and only took 3hr 14 min. It had been a great soaring day for Blanchard and my Karma theory had proven to be right once again. It reminded me of Matty's quote from his Blanchard flight a few years back. Seize the day indeed!