Friday, 19 August 2016

Hiking, Bushwhacking and Strolling in Montana

The day after the paragliding maneuvers course we had a couple hours in the morning to go for a hike  at Missouri Headwaters State Park near Three Forks, MT. Both the park and the city so named because the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers come together here to form the Missouri River.

Beautiful scenery and definitely nothing strenuous about the hiking!

The next day we started in the direction of home but did some internet searches to see what we could find in the way of hiking trails along the way. Kings Hill Pass trail seemed reasonable . . . difficulty rating was "hard" but it was a loop trail and 7.5 miles would make a pleasant half day. Andrew downloaded the trail map from which we've had good luck with in the past.

Several hours later of up and downhill bushwhacking and following very old and overgrown logging trails we'd gone about 6 miles and our route was some vague resemblance of loop back to the car. I'm not convinced there's an actual trail here other than the old logging roads!
Following an old logging road.
Bush whacking.
We were "up there" somewhere before bushwhacking our way back down to the valley and creek.
The following morning, we took a stroll in Riverside Park in Great Falls to get at least a little bit of exercise before seriously hitting the road for home. The "river trail" in Great Falls is almost within arm's reach of the waters' edge and a main road on either side. The park, while beautiful, is on the other side of the road. I know I'm biased but, once again, I'm so thankful for the Meewasin Valley Authority and the foresight that City Councils of years gone by had in protecting Saskatoon's riverbank from development.
This rock wall and arch was built circa 1932. The log cabin in the background was the first permanent structure built in Great Falls in 1884 and this is its third location. 

Beautiful stained glass.
A lovely home for ducks, geese and swans. 
The old and beautifully restored railway station, with its distinctive tower, sits at one end of the park.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Paragliding Maneuvers Course - Montana

SIV is the acronym for Simulation d'Incident en Vol (French for Simulated Incident in Flight). In other words, making the wing do things that, for the most part, you really don't want it to do! Things like asymmetric and frontal collapses and full stalls or, things that some people do want it to do like B-line stalls, wingovers, spirals or acrobatic maneuvers.

It's all done over water so that if things go crazier than you want them to, you land in water rather than go splat on the ground. Thankfully, I didn't land in the water but one of the acro pilots, after being unable to get out of a riser twist, threw his reserve, landed in the water and had to be picked up by the boat. Scary! Albeit a bit shaken up, he was thankfully okay. Unfortunately, Andrew and I weren't there to witness it.

Bozeman Paragliding was about the closest location we could find to home and had a course happening on dates that worked around other things we had on the calendar. Sadly, Andrew's hand is still in a splint after falling forward after a landing on our last trip but he came to watch and provide moral support while I took the course. I only scared the crap out of myself a couple times and those times will be obvious when I finish editing some video I took in flight. Thankfully, instructor Andy Macrae has a calm and encouraging voice!
Asymmetric collapse with speed bar.
The course was held at Canyon Ferry Reservoir which was pretty much a perfect location! Everyone in the course stayed at Hellgate Campground and then we took the boat over to a nearby bay that provided an area where launches could be done from a couple different places depending on wind direction and where we had a nice large landing zone completely to ourselves. And even on a busy hot Saturday afternoon, dealing with other boat traffic on the lake was manageable.
Launch area. So thankful of the shade canopy! 
Bill, an experienced pilot, was ground crew the first couple days and helped everyone get hooked in properly and provided some additional instruction.
I was glad we'd done a day of towing in Oregon in the spring so this was one less thing I had to be stressed about.
Being towed by the boat.

This is what the wing is supposed to look like.
This is what the wing is not supposed to look like!

Frontal collapse.

Working on wingovers. Not sure I quite got it but at least I was getting my turns and weight shift a little better.
Nice large landing area. Just one barbed wire fence that was easily avoidable.
Whew! Landed on the ground!
One of my fellow students was a crazy man!
Less experience than Andrew and I but doing several full stalls and spins with full stalls on the second day. No fear!
On my last flight I took time to take a couple photos. Interesting crop circles on the right. 
View to the north end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Our launch/landing area just out of the photo at bottom right.
Throughout the 3-day course I did asymmetric and frontal collapses with speed bar, B-line stalls, spin appreciation (full brake on one side), spirals, something that may have resembled a wingover (I had a difficult time doing the significant weight shift required) and practiced doing tighter turns. I didn't quite get up the nerve to do a full stall. Maybe next time.

This was a great course and definitely made me feel more confident in what both the wing and I can do. Hopefully this translates to flying over land as well as it did to flying over water! Regardless, we'll continue to do maneuvers courses and improve our abilities and confidence.

Thanks so much to instructor Andy Macrae, Bill Bredehoft and John for extra instruction on the ground and making sure we were hooked up properly, Jesse for driving the boat, all my fellow students for making it such an enjoyable course and to Andrew for all the great photos of me in the air. Until next time!
Gorgeous evening sunset view from our campsite.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Flying Revelstoke

On our way home from Chilliwack, we stopped in Revelstoke for the night and hoped to finish off the road trip with one last flight. Despite afternoon and evening thunderstorms and rain showers, the mornings were reasonably clear and calm.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort has the highest vertical of any ski resort in North America and, fortunately, is one of the few ski resorts that allows paragliding.

There were way more pilots around than usual; many of them making a stop on their way home from the annual Willi XC Challenge held in Golden. In other words, pilots with far and away more experience that we have! It was a bit intimidating to say the least.

The launch area was gorgeously covered with wildflowers. But it meant uneven terrain and I stepped in a couple holes just getting my wing laid out. My nervousness (between the crowd of other pilots and the rough ground) meant it took me a second try to get a good launch but once in the air it was pretty smooth sailing. There wasn't much for thermals and even the pilots who were fully geared up for some cross-country flights landed not long after I did.
Beautiful wildflowers cover the launch area.
Joining the queue at launch.
Mt. Begbie on the other side of the valley.
Looking down valley (south) from Revelstoke.
Looking up valley towards the airport runway and the city of Revelstoke. 
There are a couple gliders in this photo but they are all but impossible to see!
There is one glider in this photo and it is much easier to see than those in the photo above.
There was virtually no wind in the LZ and what wind there was, seemed to be coming in sideways from the river rather than up or down the valley. I saw the pilot in the above photo landing far short of the LZ and thought he might end up in the marshy area but it looked like he at least landed on dry ground. 

After several passes over the LZ and much indecision, trying to figure out what the wind sock was doing, I chose a direction and landed just a few feet long and into the uncut grass. I was very annoyed with myself as I had lots of time to plan it out, if only I'd made a decision sooner! 

I didn't feel quite so bad after watching others though. Everyone was having a tough time deciding which direction to land and out of about a dozen pilots who landed while Andrew and I were still there, only two of them (locals) actually landed in the mowed area of the LZ. 

Andrew coming in to the LZ. Clouds starting to pile up!

Andrew landed about the same place I did, just a few feet into the longer grass. Unfortunately, he fell forward after he landed and tweaked his thumb back. However, by the time we got home the next afternoon it was swollen and quite sore. He self-diagnosed, like everyone does, by googling it! After a visit to a medi-clinic, diagnosis was confirmed as a chipped bone on his thumb (known as skier's thumb) but more worrisome was possible ligament damage. The surgeon he was referred to determined that surgery was not necessary but a cast and a few weeks recovery time is what the immediate future holds.

Humorously, this is the exact same injury I had about 30 years ago when I fell skiing and ended with my hand in a cast!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Flying Chilliwack

It was a last-minute trip, even though we knew it was coming. The new car finally arrived in Vancouver. Let's go! We booked the train, packed our paragliders and away we went. 
View from launch on Mt. Woodside near Chilliwack, BC
The train is always enjoyable and relaxing. This is the first time we've taken the train during the busy high-season months but, other than being a very long train, it didn't seem to make a lot of difference. They had extra staff, dining and observation cars so that it wasn't overly crowded. The "Artists on Board" program always showcases some great Canadian talent and the couple (Tiger Moon) from Kelowna who played guitar and mandolin were no exception. 
The train always stops for a while at Jasper which gives a chance to get out and wander for a while, grab a coffee and enjoy the view of Mt. Edith Cavell (when the clouds allow it).
We went straight from the train station to pick up the new car. I'm so glad we waited the extra time to get the "absolutely red" colour! We got in a couple quick visits -- lunch with my niece, Julie, and coffee with Andrew's friends, Larry & Angela, before heading to Chilliwack.
The new design of the Prius gives it a more sporty look than the one we had the past 10 years.
The weather was very good for flying the entire week but the winds were mostly quite calm (with a too windy period in the afternoons) and the daily inversion layer blocked the thermals from going very high. So while we got lots of flights, we didn't get any really long ones. Andrew managed 35 minutes on one flight but most were around 15 minutes.

Our first day there (Sunday) was extremely busy with students from at least a couple different schools and some independent instructors. We caught rides up to launch with Jim at FlyBC.

We sat back and let the students go first. Watching and listening to some of the instructors made us even more thankful that we had such great instruction from Chris at Fly Above All when we first started, and from Nick at Paracrane who recently gave us some more advanced instruction. Both are extremely patient and are positive in their criticism when you screw up (which happens often when learning to paraglide!!)

Even a year and a half later, I still screw up on occasion but flying at Woodside was a confidence booster.  All my launches and landings were pretty good. Even the landing where I had to dodge a couple hay bales still sitting on one edge of the LZ  wasn't disastrous.

We'll definitely come back and fly here again . . . for the amazing scenery if nothing else!
The colourful lineup.
Mount Baker is the snow-capped peak in the distance.

Bob, the handsome calico cat, likes paragliders too!
I strive to be as good a pilot as "Teddy." :-) 

Andrew in flight.
"Para-waiting" for the afternoon wind to calm down!

My pretty wing!
Andrew coming in for landing.
Spot on!
We might have enjoyed a local cider or two . . .   :-)