Saturday, 30 June 2018

June Road Trip (3)

Beautiful terrain near Five Springs Falls in Wyoming
On our way back towards home, Andrew noted a flying site that had been marked on Paragliding Earth. Which often doesn't mean much. Even Mount Blackstrap is marked! But on checking further, it looked promising.

The launch is about a two minute walk from the upper Five Springs Falls campground near Lovell, Wyoming. Fortunately for our low-clearance Prius, the road is nicely paved the whole way up the mountain.

Andrew got some great lift right off launch and had a nice 20-minute flight.

Five Springs Falls launch is about a 2 minute walk from the campground.

More back road travels that meant getting closer to more magnificent wildlife. 

Last summer, Andrew had checked out a few places near Havre, Montana, and he'd gotten some short flights off Otis Peak. There are three directions you can launch from and, sadly, the wind was coming from the fourth direction. Hike, no fly!

But Otis Peak has an amazing number of different types of wildflowers. Fourteen by my count. So beautiful and colourful!

Sticky Geranium
Bee balm/wild bergamot

Threadleaf phacelia
Hairy False Golden Aster
Wild rose
Wild rose
Rainfall put an end to our trip a day early but it was fun while it lasted! 

(Thanks to Andrew's sister, Penny, for flower identifications!)

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

June Road Trip (2)

We meandered through Yellowstone National Park en route to Wyoming -- where Andrew had scoped out a couple more potential flying sites he wanted to check out. 

We saw lots of wild and not-so-wild life in a couple short hikes. Once out of the park, we took roads less travelled and it's amazing how much more wildlife you see on the backroads! 

Food and squawking!
Tourist trail rides in the park.
Small creatures . . . 
And very big creatures!
An osprey mom and one of her babies. We saw a few heads pop up from the nest but it was hard to catch more than one at a time on camera. Papa osprey was hunting nearby.
Baby pronghorn. Mom was keeping a watchful eye on us.
Andrew hiking up a hill near Cody, WY. He ended up walking back down due to high and cross wind.
Good decision making! 
Meanwhile, I took a few photos nearby of wildlife. Love the red rock in the distance. 
There were lots of wildflowers in bloom! 

On one of roads less travelled we came across Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site. They were amazingly well preserved. Definitely some of the most clear petroglyphs I've seen.

Monday, 25 June 2018

June Road Trip (1)

Andrew found a random hill in Montana to fly off of.
I'd been wanting to get out to Air Adventure in Drayton Valley to get in some short tow launches to test out my ankle. The timing worked out perfectly as Jon (a pilot/instructor who just moved back to Saskatoon after being in California for 10 years) was working on getting his Canadian instructor rating and needed a couple "students" to join him there.

Humorously (or not) I came in hard on my very first landing and definitely tested the ankle. It survived! I was way more nervous than I thought I would be and felt like a complete beginner again. Ugh! Hopefully things will come back quicker next time out.

Due to rainy weather, we only got in one day of towing and then spent the next half day re-packing reserve chutes. It's always comforting to have someone knowledgeable overseeing this process when we only do it once a year and it's a vital safety backup.

Jon instructing under the watchful eye of instructor examiner Claudio.

Re-packing reserve chutes
From Drayton Valley, we headed south and stopped for the night at Back to Nature Retreat, a lovely B&B near Water Valley, AB. We spotted a couple fox who were busy hunting for their supper.

This one leaped high in the air and dove head first to the ground. Presumably he found some supper!
They have such long tails.
 From there we headed down into Montana, spotting various deer, hawks and other birds.

A deer in a colourful flower patch.
Andrew kept looking for suitable hills to fly from and he spotted this one just south of Choteau. I hiked part way up while he went up higher and along the ridge to find a good place to launch from. The wind wasn't quite strong enough to soar the ridge but he still got a nice 3-minute flight which I managed to do a decent job of videoing.

Andrew hiking along the ridge to find a launch area.
Just one of the many wild flowers near Choteau
Further south we stopped at Three Forks for the night and went for a short hike at Headwaters State Park. This is the headwaters of the Missouri River where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers meet (hence, Three Forks).

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Accidents Happen - But It's All Fine!

Day 5 was going to be an amazing day! The skies were the clearest they'd been yet and we had spectacular views of the Annapurna range and Machapuchare. I was looking forward to getting in the air. Although also a bit nervous as Claudio had another short XC challenge for us if conditions allowed. 

We headed up a little bit later than usual to let the first wave of tandem pilots get launched. Starting later meant we would hopefully have better conditions for our first flight. 
Lots of wings (mostly tandem) already in the air as we drove past the Sarangkot launch.

But despite arriving later, there was still a big crowd of tandems at the Toripani launch site. We patiently waited until they cleared the area.

In our group, Ronald (an experienced acro pilot and instructor) always launched first so that he could be in the LZ when Dima, a brand new pilot, was ready to land and talk him in over the radio. This day was no different. Claudio helped Dima launch and was talking him through some turns as he headed out to the LZ. Andrew launched right after and was soon getting some good lift along the ridge. I was hurrying to get ready to take off as well. While some of the launch area is fairly smooth, there are some rough patches including about a 2-foot drop off before it levels off again. In my rush, I managed to trip over a rough patch and fall face first into the ground.

I knew right away that something wasn't right but I figured that, as per usual, I'd just take a couple minutes to shake it off and be good to go again. Claudio immediately rushed over and despite my, "I'm okay. I'm okay." told me not to get up, to just take it easy for a few minutes. To his credit, he never asked if I thought I might be able to walk off because I probably would have tried it!

Meanwhile, Andrew was in the air so I asked Claudio to let him know I was okay so that he wasn't looking down at me laying on the ground and wondering what the heck was going on.

As I laid on my back, I moved my ankle up and down and could feel it sort of "click". Then I moved it side to side and it "clicked" . . . and stayed there. Ohhhh, that's not good! I managed to "click" it back into normal position and just left it there. At that point I figured it might be broken. And even admitted out loud that this was my thought.

The end of the road is about 300m from the actual launch location. At this point there's a building with a spine board hooked on the side. (As noted, it's a very busy launch site and accidents do happen!) Claudio sent someone to get the board. He asked if I wanted something under my knee to support it. "No, I'm fine," I said. Claudio ignored me and put something under my knee. This made it feel much better.

Once the spine board arrived, they carried me over to the side. Again Claudio asked if I wanted something under my knee to support it. "No, I'm fine," I said. Claudio ignored me and put something under my knee. This made it feel much better.

Our driver, Kem, had already headed down to the LZ to pick everyone up. Andrew kept his flight short, landed, and they all came back up to launch. But it's a long drive of an hour or more. And, of course, by this time, there was a whole new wave of tandems going so we waited for them to get out of the way.

To get into the shade, I was on one of the many side paths that people use to walk behind the bushes and go pee before they launch. It smelled vaguely of urine. Claudio's wife, Elena, turned many people away and sent them on another path. (And thank you to Elena for the next two photos.)

As I lay there, a fellow pilot and doctor, Tom, who we'd met the day before, came over to have a look. He asked me a few questions and felt at the side and over top of my boot (ouch!). He said, "Oh, you did quite the number there. At the very least, you've pulled some ligaments quite badly." Of course, I latched onto that and figured maybe it wasn't as bad as I first thought. I was already planning how Andrew could still fly, I'd tag along and watch and so on. I knew I wouldn't be going on the planned two-week hike but we could do other things!
Waiting on the pee path.
Once our whole group was back at launch and the tandems were out of the way, they carried me back to the vehicle on the spine board. Ronald tied the laces of my boots together to secure my foot and keep it from moving. I wasn't thrilled with this idea. In fact, in a slightly panicked voice I said, "No, no, no! Don't tie my feet together!" He ignored me. (Are you sensing a pattern here?) Despite the rough terrain and a bit of up and down, they did a great job carrying me. I was surprised that something as quick and easy as tying my boot laces together really did secure my foot well enough that it didn't hurt to be moved. 

Once back at the vehicle, I managed to hop up on one leg and into the back seat. Again, Claudio asked if I wanted something under my knee to support it. "No, I'm fine," I said. Claudio ignored me and put something under my knee. This made it feel much better.

We first went to a private clinic. Which was on the second floor of a building with no elevator so I was carried up the stairs in a wheelchair. I got x-rays done and they confirmed I broke a bone but we had to go to the local hospital to see a doctor. (All the doctors at the clinic were away at a conference.) I figured, okay, they'll put a cast on, Andrew can still fly and I'll tag along. It will all be fine!

I often live in denial like this so you can imagine how shocked I was when the doctor at the hospital (an orthopaedic surgeon), within about 30 seconds of meeting him, advised I had not one, but two!! broken bones, would require surgery and a 5-day stay in hospital. Ummmm, let me think. No!

The doctor put a half cast on (to allow for swelling) and we had time to make some decisions.

Luckily, Andrew has two radiology doctor friends and they were a tremendous asset. He emailed the x-rays to them and both confirmed the type of break (bimalleolar fracture) and that surgery (open reduction internal fixation) was required. One of them, who lives in B.C. even consulted with one of his orthopaedic surgeon friends and we were able to make well informed decisions about what to do. (Keep foot elevated, drink lots of water, and get back to Saskatoon. Surgery within a week or so would still be fine.)

Meanwhile, our travel agent, Faces of the Sea (because we'd also booked a couple weeks of scuba diving), was absolutely amazing!! Thank goodness we didn't book our own flights online! Over the course of about 6 hours as Andrew emailed back and forth with his doctor friends and we kept increasing the distance we wanted to travel to get surgery . . . Kathmandu? Hong Kong? Vancouver? Or can we get all the way back to Saskatoon? They just went with the flow, adding each leg of the flights home as we made decisions and getting us upgrades to business and first class. (We didn't know the incredible deals they got for us on these upgrades until long after we got home. Hundreds of dollars vs the thousands of dollars it would/should have cost!)

The accident happened on a Thursday; we arrived back in Saskatoon at midnight on Saturday; Royal University Hospital emergency on Sunday; surgery on Friday where there were lots of metal things involved.

At my first follow up appointment two weeks later, the surgeon was very pleased with how things were progressing. Five additional weeks of non weight bearing until I get the latest cast removed and I can start regaining some mobility . . . I'll be fine just in time for summer!