Monday, August 21, 2006

Tree Landings: Incidents, Karma, or Tree-venge?

When flying in Hawai'i, it is not a matter of if you will land in a tree, it's when you will land in a tree. Ask any of the veteran pilots, we've all been there: that revelation that comes just before the tickle of the first leaf on your face; that poking feeling in uncomfortable places that develops while you are discovering the differences between a rubber tree and a kiawe tree; that knowledge that you will be spending the next forty-five minutes breaking branches and sweating like a madman while your friends are tracing beautiful circles in the sky. If you're not familiar with these sensations, just wait . . . you will be.

Fortunately, tree landings, especially those that happen to involve rubber trees, are usually non-injurious; both pilot and equipment tend to escape with, at most, only minor damage (mostly to pilot ego).

Usually, there aren't many tree landings in one week. In fact, more than two in a month is a note-worthy occurrence. But . . . the tide has turned . . . war is on our doorstep.

Hear me out!

Most of the members of the HPA are pretty "Green." We care about the beauty and majesty of Nature. We seek to work with Nature and never do anything to harm Her flora and fauna which make up the many amazing places we've flown; both at home and abroad.

And, for showing such respect, Nature has richly rewarded us with some of the most spectacular vistas and marvelous experiences in human history. Our lives border not only on the insane, but also on the fantastic; Icarus, each of us.

Paragliding is the fullfillment of humankind's oldest desire: The dream of flight; realized.

But . . . Nature is ever vigilant.

Someone has angered Her; a price had to be paid.

For decades, a beautiful rubber tree has been minding its own rubber-tree-business at the base of the Low Launch. Many of us, myself included, have lain it its soft, leafy embrace. Its leaves have adorned many a canopy and decorated many a D-line. It has served as both obstacle course and reference point. It has restrained the eroding soil and served as a home for bugs and birds. On one occasion, it even prevented this author's backpack from tumbling hundreds of feet down the face of the mountain; my own private catcher's mitt.

It was part of the paragliding community.

I keep writing in the past tenses of the English language; not because I am unable to conjugate verbs in the present tenses, but because the present tenses no longer apply.

Someone has taken a saw to that beloved Ficus Elastica. All that remains are some scarred stumps and broken twigs.

I'm guessing it was a "well-meaning" paraglider pilot. The path is now clear. No more pulling DHV 1-2's out of the foliage.

However, this is one area modification that DID NOT have to happen. HPA has been flying this site for years without chopping down that tree. Nature has left us alone, because we haven't been hurting Her. You know . . . "Do unto others," and all that other "Karma-Kine" stuff.

Come-on people!!! . . . you've seen The Lord of the Rings! Remember when Treebeard saw what the White Wizard had done to his forest!!! You don't just go cutt'n down trees without starting a war you can't win!!! Trees are BIG and POWERFUL!!! If you make them angry . . . they will seek revenge!!!

Now . . . take a look at what happened at the Flyathlon: Four . . . that's right, count'em . . . four tree landings in one day!!! . . . all experienced pilots.

You're just fly'n along and suddenly . . . without warning . . . Wham!!! Crack!!! Thwack!!!. . . a tree reaches out and plucks you out of the sky!!!

Luckily, although some of the events were absolutely SPECTACULAR, no one was seriously injured and no equipment was lost.

But . . . mark my word . . . these bruised egos were only a warning; a little nudge; a sap-speckled shot across our bow.

Please don't test the ire of the trees. Peace can still be maintained. Keep your saws in their sheaths unless you need to escape the embrace of an amorous arbor; then cut only as little as possible.

Let's try to keep the peace with our loveable leafy friends . . . please.

I'm just say'n.


firedave said...

Peter I get your point, but I have nothing to offer of the mystery.

Keep working on getting those medications right, I think there is still some work to be done.

Alex said...

Thanks for the entertaining story, Peter. I always appreciate your contributions to the website. I encourage any pilot who can type a few words to take a minute and share a flight story or a few pictures with the rest of us.

I just wanted to correct a minor detail - most pilots do call it a Rubber Tree, but that particular tree is properly called an Octopus Tree, or Umbrella Tree. Click here to see some pictures of Rubber Trees (mostly appearing on Maui), and click here to see pictures of our familiar Octopus Tree.

nightshift said...

OK. It was me. I cut down the umbrella tree, the little evil bush that smote my ass 7 months ago. There were witnesses. Lava Girl was my enabler. She lent me her tree saw. It felt good. As far as "tree karma" goes, Lori and I planted 6 new plumerias in our garden.

Alex said...

Hey Shifty,

Thanks for coming forward so quickly. Like Peter (or maybe not quite as dramatically as Peter), I was very disappointed to see the stumps at the launch the other day. The best way to deal with trees near launch is to avoid them - with practice you will find it's really not that hard.

A reminder to everyone: please do not saw down trees around our launches. I really thought we'd learned that lesson already.

Your pal,
El Pres

Alex said...

Dangler told me yesterday that he did some gratuitous chopping on the same poor octopus trees the other day too. Again, while I appreciate the honesty, I still must condemn the totally unncessary launch modifications. Let's work on our flying skills and not our lumberjack skills, okay?

sandy said...

And for the record, Nightshift and my tree saw only lopped off a few limbs -- not the whole tree! I will miss that tree, even though I've had to dodge it a few times.

Some guidelines to keep in mind for minimal environmental impact:
- cut off/down only when necessary
- stick to the trails
- pull only the "grabbiest" of weeds, leave others to control erosion
- avoid removing large rocks (they can control erosion, too)