Saturday was supposed to be pre-frontal with winds out of the south west. Rich, Kurt and I thought it would be a good day to try and fly northeast from Elk (Northern California). I think this has only been done once before. If successful, it can lead to a 100+ mile flight as you end up flying the St. John route.

We met up with Greg and Ernie in the LZ and headed up to launch. Ernie had a new falcon (new to him) and wanted to give it a try. At launch, the wind was southwest coming up the south launch at a slight angle. We decided to try the south launch. After getting all the gliders set up, the wind switched to the west. The south launch was no longer an option. We hiked our gliders down the 4wd dirt path (with trees on both sides) 100 yards to the north launch. Occasionally the wind would blow in the north launch.

We watched the condition for a while and decided that there were no cycles coming in, just some occasional wind. Greg hit the nail on the head when he said we would have to find our own cycles elsewhere (meaning, just launch and go find some lift). We all got off without a problem, but it was the longest run I have had at the north launch. Instead of the normal 3 or 4 steps, it was closer to 15. I had to run around a couple of small bushes. There was no vertical component to the wind.

Once off launch all we had to do was make a left turn to the west end of the ridge to find lift and get up. As I was climbing out, Kurt was already at 7,000’ (launch is 4,000’). Ernie was doing great in his Falcon, and Greg was over 6,000’. Rich and I were brining up the rear. It was about this time when I spotted a strange looking bird. It had a white head and tail. I did not realize it immediately, but it was a bald eagle.


This is the course line for the first 3rd of the flight.

The winds were too much out of the west and we did not get high enough to attempt to fly to the northeast, so we decided to take the more traveled route to the south east. Everyone else flew to the front ridge and I gambled on the back ridge. After a few miles it became apparent that soon I would not be able to make it to an LZ and I headed for the front ridge. Just as I turned I hit some of the best lift of the day and quickly climbed to 7,000’ at 500 fpm. This got me one thermal ahead of the rest of the group.


We flew right down the top of this ridge, then turned left at the end.  Long Valley is on the right and Spring Valley is off the end of the ridge.  Conditions were better than the hazy day would suggest.

This extra jump made it easy for me to stay high. Just before the jump to Long Valley, the sun disappeared behind some high clouds. Kurt got caught low and had to head out to Clover Valley where he landed. Greg made it to the market in Nice, Ernie had landed at the regular LZ. Rich squeaked over the tree tops into Long Valley. I was having an easy time staying high and enjoying the view.

This is the canyon into Capay valley.  It's about an 8 mile glide.  There are a few places to crash, but nowhere to land. 

Rich finally came under me 1,500’ below. I told him where a thermal was and he caught it. I was in 100 up so I just hung out until he climbed up to me and we headed out. We followed the normal route. The glides were long, but we kept hitting good lift in the few spots that still had sun. In the shaded areas the clouds were so thick that I could not even see the sun.

Once Rich caught up to me it was back to our normal task to try and out climb and out glide each other. He was beating me on glide most of the time. Besides getting a little higher, he was flying 4 or 5 mph faster. It turned out it was usually the line we took. Just a few hundred feet either side made a big difference.


Berryessa lake is in the distance on the right.  The haze got worse as we headed south.  We caught a couple more weak climbs, but it was more of a glide from here.

We hit one more great thermal near the spot we landed last week and climbed to 8,300’. From here it was a 20 minute, 14 mile glide to the next lift. We had a slight tail wind and were able to glide 4 miles for every 1,000’. The rest of the flight was a series of weaker and weaker climbs and glides into an 8 mph headwind. Our last glide we just burned off 4,500’ and headed into the central valley where the LZ’s are everywhere you look, but you have to be careful you don’t land in a rice field (they are nice and green and 1’ deep in water). We landed about 10 seconds apart, just past Esparto for 65.7 miles. Until a couple of weeks ago, this would have been a site record.

The town of Esparto.  It is really nice to fly over so may potential LZ's for a change.  We landed in a field just out of the frame in the upper right.


This is me, with my gear down and locked for landing.

Thanks Linda for driving and Kurt for using your truck!




Vince's IGC file.