Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Pulling Strings


I often find it difficult to figure out what to get people for their birthdays. I don't like getting "things" that aren't needed. This time, all the stars aligned (the timing of Andrew and I being in BC, weather, wind, and availability of all the other required parties) and my niece, Julie, and her boyfriend, Kurt, were able to get tandem paragliding flights! Or, as Julie says, "My aunt pulled some strings (pun intended) to get us flights." :-) 

Thanks to Jim and Colleen at FlyBC Paragliding for helping to make this happen! 

At launch, looking over the Fraser Valley.
Contemplating what's to come. Big family crowds waiting to watch relatives take tandem flights.
It's not always this busy at launch!
And . . . they're off!
Jim and Julie in the air.

Doing a little spiral downwards.
Kurt looking relaxed!
Kurt and Colleen above my wing.
Kurt and Colleen coming in to land.
Whew! Safe back on the ground! 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

A Wascally Wabbit


We had a bit of time in the morning before going flying so we stopped at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack. It's a beautiful place and we will definitely stop there again when we have more time to explore. By far the most humorous residents we saw were the baby rabbits -- which according to some signage, are frequently seen this time of year.


We startled this one and it took off down the trail a short distance before stopping and looking back at us.


We thought it strange that it kept creeping back towards us rather than away. He definitely wanted to get back to where he started from. 



Once I moved over to the same side of the path as Andrew, he snuck by us.


And there's the bum shot!


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Windy Washington

Wind, wind, go away.
Come again another day.

On our way back up the coast we wanted to check out a couple paragliding sites in Washington State. We took the ferry across from Port Townsend to Coupeville on Whidbey Island. 

An absolutely gorgeous soaring site, views of the Olympic Mountains across on the Peninsula. As you can see from the hood on Andrew's jacket in the photo below and the string from the wind meter straight out to the side . . . it was a tad windy! (We checked back the next day and it was lighter winds but the direction was completely wrong.) 
Winds . . . a little strong at the Whidbey Island soaring site.
Sailboat at Port Townsend.
Mt. Baker in clear skies -- on the ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville.
It was fun to see Mt. Baker so clearly. Andrew and I climbed it with his friend, Ian, many years ago.
Sail boat near Coupeville; Mt. Baker in the background.
Since the Whidbey Island site wasn't working, we headed another hour north to Mt. Blanchard. Not surprisingly, it was windy there as well. And the direction was wrong. There were several hang glider pilots hanging around hoping for the wind direction to change. (It eventually did.) They can launch in much higher wind conditions than paraglider pilots can.

The nice thing about this site is that the road to launch can be driven in a car with low clearance like ours has! And, if push comes to shove and we weren't able to find a retrieve driver, there is also a hiking trail that we could take to get the vehicle back.
Checking the winds at Mt. Blanchard. Sadly too strong and across the launch.
Looking out from Mt. Blanchard west launch.
A hang glider after taking off from west launch on Mt. Blanchard.
From west launch, Mt. Blanchard.
The day after this was very cloudy and sprinkling rain so we headed back up to Chilliwack area and hope to get some more flights in around there. We'll definitely come back to these Washington sites though. They look amazing! 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Flying Pine (Bend, Oregon)

We had an amazing introduction to flying Pine Mountain near Bend, Oregon. Thanks to Jeff Gray (who we met on our European paragliding tour) for taking us to his local site!


Honestly, the site doesn't look like much. From the parking lot, you walk 10 minutes up the hill and you're at launch. It's a bare hill with a few odd trees and some sage brush. We arrived late afternoon, once the rowdy conditions of mid day in the high desert had worn off.

We were some of the first ones there and as we hiked up the hill we could see a couple pilots a short distance away kiting up the hill, taking off, staying close to the hillside, landing, taking off, repeat. I figured there was no way I was going to stay in the air for long if they weren't and was a little nervous about trying to fly that close to the terrain. Turns out, they were doing that on purpose for practice.

As we got to the main launch, a couple more pilots took off before us and they were getting more height. It boosted my confidence.


I had a good launch, made one pass close to the hillside and then I was up, up and away! Beautiful, smooth, glass off conditions. More and more people arrived and, at peak, there were probably 20-30 wings in the air. While it didn't seem crowded, I definitely had my head on a swivel making sure I didn't get in anyone's way. At the same time, I was enjoying the view out across to the mountains in the distance and the changing light as evening progressed.

I'm not one for long flights and usually after 30-40 minutes I'm happy to head out to the landing zone. Which I tried to do this time and which usually isn't a problem. But the air was so thermic that it was difficult getting down! Even while doing big ears (a method of losing altitude) there were times that I was still going up. I did many 360s also trying to lose altitude. By the time I landed after 1:15 I was feeling a bit nauseous!

Jeff came down at 1:40 and Andrew at 2 hours. We all had fantastic flights! We will be back!


Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters



The trail to launch, and the launch area, are visible on the right side of the photo.



Saturday, 20 May 2017

Coasts of Washington and Oregon

From Victoria we took the ferry across to Port Angeles and gradually made our way down the Washington coast and part way down Oregon coast. Lots of short hikes through the forest, walks along the beach and a day of playing with our gliders. 

Love the bright forest greens and dripping moss. 



At Willapa National Wildlife Refuge we walked the boardwalk "art trail" and then took a trail up into the hills.

This metal feather display, with the below poem written across the base, was just one of the interesting features along the boardwalk.


Hope is the thing with feathers.
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune with the words,
And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the Gale is heard.
And sore must be the storm,
That could abash the little Bird,
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest Sea,
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of Me.

- Emily Dickinson


We saw lots of slugs! Amazing we didn't step on any.

"Nature is an infinite sphere of which the centre is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere." - Pascal
One of several beaches we stopped at.
The 6.6 km long Astoria-Megler bridge that connects Washington and Oregon.
We met up with Brad and Maren from Discover Paragliding and spent a day with them and their students. Kiting on the beach and flying off the dunes. Unfortunately the wind wasn't quite strong enough for soaring and wrong direction for towing. Still a great day!! And thanks to both of them for a bit of instruction to help us refine our skills. Always learning!




I took this photo completely by accident but thought it was sort of cool! 
Sunset at Cape Kiwanda


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Point No Point

Point No Point (so named because explorers approaching from one direction saw a distinct point, whereas from the other direction they saw no point) is a lovely ocean-side resort west of Sooke, B.C. 

We spent a couple days there with Andrew's sister, Clare. We had a lovely cabin; wandered the trails and beach checking out the tide pools; read our books by a roaring fire while it rained outside; sat in the hot tub for a while; ate delicious meals at the restaurant; enjoyed a beautiful sunset; and, best of all, saw a couple orca whales meander by. A rare sighting we were told! 

Clare and Andrew on the deck of our cabin.
Checking out the tide pools.






Enjoying the beach and the sun.
View from the restaurant.
Coffee and books beside the fireplace while it rains outside. 
View from the loft of the cabin.

Beautiful sunset view from our cabin. 
The restaurant, as seen from the beach.
Rock covered by mussels.
Anemone in a tide pool.
A cloudy, rainy morning.
Little fish in a tide pool.
From the beach, looking up at our cabin.

Another beach-goer.
Sea Otter -- full zoom on my little camera. Amazed it turned out this well! 
Pathway to the beach.
Before heading back to Victoria, we stopped at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. I'm not patient enough to take butterfly photos but liked the bright colours of these few.