Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Heaven & Hell

After letting many hours of perfect northerly bay-crossing conditions slip by (averaging 9 mph at 35 degrees), I finally broke down and made the pilgrimage to Kahana to check it out by myself. I wasn't able to rouse the faithful to join me, but I wanted that trip to the promised land of Kualoa badly enough that I was willing to consider undertaking a rare solo mission.

Of course I still hoped someone would show up to keep me company. Jim and Jeff had expressed mild interest. Jared had offered to come out but changed his mind because he felt that the wind was picking up. I hoped that the increase might be confined to wherever Jared was hanging out.

When I got to Kahana, a wide squall line was approaching, but just after it passed, I started out along the road to the north ridge trailhead. On the way I met a serious looking guy on a bicycle who delivered an ominous warning about biblical rains approaching - he said he had just arrived on the bus from Kaneohe and it was raining like Armageddon there. I thanked him for his concern but continued on my way, hiking up through the soaking wet vegetation along the north ridge trail to reach the low launch. The sky was grey from upper cloud cover but the low horizon looked clear enough.

I launched into winds that felt more easterly than I had expected. I could see that there was some major rain drenching the coastline to either side of me, towards Kaaawa and towards Punaluu, but it looked like Kahana and its lone aviator would be miraculously spared. I tried to cross the bay a couple of times but it just wasn't quite north enough to work.

After returning to the ridge the second time, I made my way to the back to soar Puu Piei. As I rose above the summit, something really cool happened: super low clouds began to form just outside the bay, taking shape out of midair as they drifted up to join me over the ridge. I soared in and out of the amorphous forms, always keeping towards the edges to maintain a hazy glimpse of the bay through the mist. It was an amazing feeling - I thought I might be having a religious experience.

Then the voice of God interrupted my reverie. Actually, it was Jeff on the radio, saying he had just arrived to fold up his wing and check out the conditions. I was excited at the prospect of some company. But after a little while he called me again and said he just wasn't feeling that motivated - maybe it was the low clouds, the grey sky, or the squalls offshore, but he took a rain check and headed home. I was glad he had pointed out those squalls, because they really were starting to look menacing. I headed down and soared the trees for a surprisingly long while, at times deep over the park, then buzzed down to a dramatic and showy landing right over a lady who was pointing a videocamera at me.

I quickly folded up, and then walked back out to the beach with a delicious cold obsidian-hued beverage, to see how close I had cut it with the incoming squalls. I was surprised to see that they had blown right on by on an easterly track. Also, the wind had really increased as it clocked to the east, and I began to feel some intensely turbulent rotor gusts on the beach, alternating with moments of complete stillness. I could see cats paws on the glassy water, and as they struck the beach I could see dust devils rising up out of the sand. I couldn't believe I had just been soaring the trees so peacefully, deep over the park, moments before the conditions went straight to hell. Jeff's premonition turned out to be well founded!

I'm glad I flew - I think I'm really starting to appreciate an occasional solo flight. Certainly I enjoyed something close to a spiritual moment flying by myself around the heavenly clouds. But I was also quite lucky to dodge some devilish bullets, which makes me wonder if I wasn't taking a big risk flying by myself, in conditions I had not anticipated, ignoring multiple signs of inclement weather, to score an obliviously sweet but foolhardy window of flying time. Next time I fly alone I'll do it on a day with better odds of success.

1 comment:

Gravity said...

Hehehe Almost "Tree boy" eh? I'll get you my solo dust devil eating Para-panty... ARGH!

Till we meet again on a lonely tree line just over a dust devil filled beach as I throw extra harsh moments of rotor and pelt you with cloud collapsing rain. Ahahahahahahahahaha

The Reaper