Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Double Eagle

When you think of February and the northwest, you likely have an image of scraping ice off windows, braving 20 degree temperatures, and blowing snow, but if you are in eastern Washington, that couldn't be further from the truth. The last two weeks we have had some GREAT flying weather, and the spring thermals have arrived early.

Week before last, the family was invited to attend and fly in a wild eagle release. The eagle was an immature Bald that had been rescued after it had fed on the carcass of an animal that had been put to sleep. The result was the eagle lost consciousness and fell asleep while flying, and crashed through some power lines, before ending up in a heap in a farmers field. He was rescued, and nursed back to health. To do this, the rescuers had to detox the bird and cure him from the lead poisoning he was suffering from. It is common for birds of prey to have high lead in their blood, due to eating things that have been shot with a shotgun. They don't chew much, and just swallow the lead shot. The video was shot by Noah, and the chanting is from a Native American son of the eagle. Keep your eyes out for the paragliders in the video. The eagle went straight for the hill, hit the ridge lift, then soared for a few minutes with the boys before coring off into the sky, hopefully with a new lease on life. The Golden Eagle in the photo above is also a rescue bird, but cannot be released because it is blind in one eye, and can't see well (for an eagle) out of the other. They use it as an education bird, and it was beautiful!

This past weekend, the weather was again beautiful. The day started with a thick fog floating off the river and giving the yard an eerie quiet feeling, but at about 10am the sun cut through the fog, and you could tell the day was going to be on. I have gotten to know the usual suspects, and it only took one text to find out where it was going to be on. I planned to meet up with some of the area's most prolific fliers, and the call was Eagle Butte. The butte is only about 30 minutes from the house (to the top) and faces southwest. I arrived at 2pm to find Rick (Doc) waiting for stronger cycles with Dave (Preacher) having just landed out. Yes, they have nicknames here too. Shortly after arriving, the cycles picked up and it was go time. We kited on launch for a few minutes till "the one" blew through. After a short search, I hit the core, and what started out as 100 slowly built to 2, then to 3, 4, 5 and 600 fpm. The core was smooth, and I climbed from launch at 800 feet to almost 6,000 and cloudbase. The day was clear, and the views were spectacular.

My first cross country in this direction, and boy, does it have potential. This is the direction of Spokane, 150 miles away, and the direction of the prevailing wind. I have high hopes for a big flight from this little hill. I took the photo of the big river (my river) as I flew over Badger "Mountain", away from the cloud that was building around me, and if you look close, you can see our house, about even with the far tip of the first island ;)

Hope you are all doing well, and I hope to see some of you at the Nationals in Chelan. By the way, Chelan is one of the COOLEST places to fly ever. Strong thermals. Big open country and no mountains, so every place is a good LZ!

I think I left my newer Vertex radio in someone's rig - if you find one and don't know where it came from, give me a call.


Alex said...

Nice flights, Doug! Did you make it to your house from Eagle Butte? I have met Preacher and Doc at the Rat Race - we were all flying Cobras in the last one.

firedave2 said...

Nice flying Doug. A bunch of us are looking to do a little flying out your was this summer. Do some research so that we can fly 150 milers to Spokane with you.

Say hey to the family for us.

Waianae Jim said...

Great story Doug, Thanks for keeping in touch. If I weren't such a wimp I'd consider coming to Chelan to work on my 'bump tolerance' and thermal flying. I really need to step up and push it one of these days soon. Can you tell me when the more mellow time of year is? The fall?

Jon Malmberg said...

Doug, I hit dirt in Hood River on March 6th. Finally home from three years in Maui and the last six months in Europe. Looking forward to flying out in Eastern Washington, and will for sure be in Chelan for both the NATS and PWC events.

Fly high, fly safe... Jon Malmberg

StuScolnik said...

Any PG pilot in need of a room for a visit to WA drop me a note. Seattle stu. Stuscolnik