Sunday, October 17, 2010

Natural Wonders

A few days ago, a bunch of us showed up at Kahana with cross country flying on our minds. That's not unusual. But this time a pretty big gaggle had checked in, and it seemed like we'd have a good sized crew for the mission. I was excited to think about exploring some distant downrange destinations with such a big reconnaissance force.

But it soon became clear that our mission would be a bit understaffed - I heard over the radio that Dave had convinced Scot and Thom to try out the sketchy spot from which he has launched before, on the small spine behind Bobo's, the place he has poetically dubbed 21. I have to admit I was a bit annoyed that Dave poached two of my best XC wingmen for his crazy adventure, or maybe just because I hadn't been invited. Then I realized that Jorge and Doug were doing tandems and not flying solo, so they were unlikely to be in on the downrange action. And while Allan was sorely tempted to come along, he decided to exercise the conservative option as a newly minted novice pilot to stay local.

That left just three of us for the downrange mission: me, visitor Josh from SD, and Duck. And possibly Harvey, if he was interested in coming along for his first downranger. A skeleton crew compared to my earlier hopes, but we were feeling motivated. Cloudbase had started out pretty high, although it was dropping, and the wind was starting to get light on upper launch. I was hopeful for a chance to share with Josh the view from the back of Punaluu above Sacred Falls.

We scratched our way up above Puu Piei in light lift, and got well established there well above two grand. There were some low bands of clouds rolling in, so Duck dove into one and sailed straight from Puu Piei towards Punaluu, going directly to the back, though a bit lower than he would have liked. My GPS was out, so I waited for the cloud to pass, making my way halfway out front before hooking a ride to Punaluu on the back end of it. I headed for the front of the Punaluu ridge, as did Josh. Josh got there high enough to dive back and join Duck, but I waited out front a while to see if I could figure out how to harness this one very strong invisible steed that kept knocking me around. I never did, but I got high enough to dive back and join the other two over the Punaluu side of Sacred Falls.

The clouds were not as high as they'd been earlier in the day, but they were still just high enough to afford some sweet views of the hidden emerald landscape surrounding the headwaters of the falls. The views were spectacular, as usual, even though our altitude was a bit restricted by the lowering cloudbase. I will never get tired of seeing that gorgeous green vista up behind the falls.

After a while we pressed on to Hauula, just as Harvey had finally motivated to follow us, arriving super low in the back of Punaluu. As he scratched up over the vast trackless jungle back there, we looked for action above the next ridge, but we didn't find a whole lot of love, so we continued towards Laie, as Harvey was getting established nice and high above Sacred Falls.

Josh blazed out ahead, gunning for distance, but he was also starting to think about where he might be landing. I suggested Pounders, but when he looked down and spotted that slender sandy crescent below, he politely demurred, and said he'd rather find a big grassy field, thank you very much. These mountain pilots are so picky! Well, he was certainly high enough to keep going - I suggested he consider PCC, if he could find a spot where there were no ball games in progress, or even the quad at BYU. I think I sold him on the notion of landing on the main campus green surrounded by throngs of lovely coeds who would be impressed by his sudden appearance from the heavens.

As Josh was landing at the campus, Duck headed for Pounders, and I followed close behind. I could see a large collection of beach towels lined up at our new favorite landing spot in the corner. As I slowly descended, I noticed a couple of the sunning damsels down there had seen Duck, and they jumped up from their towels to start posing for pictures as he floated down towards them in the background. Suddenly I was filled with dread - I have some experience with the nefarious wiles of the mythical sirens at Pounders, demons who pose as innocent but scantily clad maidens, tempting unwary sky sailors into coming too near and crashing on the rocks. I carefully followed Duck in to land, averting my gaze from the treacherous trio of sirens, and landed at the same spot. Then I realized I needn't have been so worried - there were five, not three, so they couldn't have been sirens after all. Every time I fly with Duck I find myself more impressed than ever with his special genius, or at least his random good fortune.

He'd somehow managed to land right in front of a bevy of the most beautiful bikini-clad college students ever to grace the shores of Laie. They were super friendly, and very excited that we had practically landed right on their towels. They were gracious enough to let us take some pictures together, but I don't think it's appropriate to post them on a public site like this. Just try to imagine Duck, standing proudly with his wing over his shoulder, clad head to toe in his outlandish flying apparel, closely surrounded by five lovely young water nymphs, barely dressed, posing and laughing as I tried to hold my camera steady. Dave has warned me many times about burning my retinas by staring directly at the radiance of the sun, but I somehow managed to squint and frame a decent shot. I have to say it's nice to have a memento of such a scenic landing after such a scenic flight.

I realized later that the only downside to the landing option I'd suggested to Josh is that on campus the students have a very strict dress code. But here at the beach it turns out they're really not that strict.

Okay, I can't help myself, I'll post a small thumbnail of our new young friends posing with Duck, and hopefully their mothers won't mind too much. Just to give you an idea of how enthusiastic and cute they really were.

Harvey came in just a bit later, overflowing with excitement about his first downrange flight, and marveling about the stunning views over Sacred Falls. As we were folding up, Thom called to say he'd come pick us up, with cold refreshments. What a guy! Then we heard voices on the radio, and looked up to see Gary and Laurel on their way down. They'd navigated the whole downrange flight for the first time without the benefit of a local guide, and they even found their way to Pounders. Thom retreived Josh and then came back to stuff the rest of us into his truck. Wow, four first flights to Laie, and what a super gorgeous day for it!

Thanks again to Thom, who didn't even get a flight of his own that day, having hiked down from the notorious 21 launch earlier. Fifteen pilots had shown up at Kahana by the end of the day, and many stayed long into the evening to celebrate the day's flying.


Anonymous said...

like your story Alex! RT

Thom said...

Dam It, i could not wait till breakfast coffee and just read the story Alex, it was a good one alot of smiling faces. that may have been laurel's first to Pounders.

Thanks for the President's Log, it was enjoyed with a glass of red.

allanc said...

Great story. My new wing should be here Monday and am sure it will allow me to fly in those stronger winds up high. Will be with you guys very soon.

Jack Brown said...

Nice work Alex but where's the picture? :>