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It has been quite some time since we last flew, 8 months.  I was not sure if I would be able to fly at all this year.  Both me and my wife were laid off earlier in the year.  I was able to find another job, but at 30% less than what I was making.  It is enough for now to allow me to keep hang gliding especially since the gas prices are so much lower than last year.  Since this was the start of the season for me and Rich, I drove my truck with my glider loaded on top to Rich's house.  For the rest of the year I will keep my glider at Rich's house.

I dusted off the cobwebs from my weather predicting software, XC Skies and Dr. Jacks.  They both were showing a chance for a nice flight from Elk.  XC Skies predicted the possibility that the sea breeze would come in as far as Elk and almost to Hull.  The lift out in the Sacrament Valley did not look good.  Two years ago at this time our first flight of the year resulted in a 100+ mile flight and a new site record.  It did not look so good this year, but maybe would could make the flight over to Hull and do some triangles.  The top of lift at Elk was supposed to be 7,000' and 9,000' at Hull.

For some strange reason my wife Nancy asked if she could come along.  Last year she came up with me and tried to drive for us.  She ended up going 80 miles in the opposite direction before she figured out she was lost.  She eventually back tracked and with the help of Kathy on the radio, was able to find us.  We got up at 4:00 am and left the house at 4:45 am.  The drive up took about three and a half hours.  When we arrived at Rich's house we found that Linda, his wife, was still in a lot of pain from getting rear ended in Rich's hang gliding truck.  The accident was several months ago but she still has a lot of lingering pains.  I asked Nancy if she would drive (something I said I would never do again, but I was desperate) and she said yes.  We loaded up the truck with Rich's equipment and headed to Judy's restaurant to meet up with Bill and his wife Cathy. 

After breakfast we stopped by Bill and Cathy's house and loaded up his equipment and headed off for Elk.  Down in the canyon the wind was out of the south.  At launch we found it to be crossing from the west at the south launch and very light from the northwest at the north launch.  We decided to launch from the north launch to avoid the hike down from the south launch.

Bill happy to be flying again.

Last year I had a lot of radio problems.  I purchased a new radio at the end of last year and I am double checking it to make sure it works.

With all the confusion last year with Nancy trying to find us, I made sure we went over the map before we launched.  I am showing Nancy the possible routes we could take.  I marked them with a highlighter pen.  Nancy felt confident she could find us this year.  Off in the distance you can see the clouds that had already formed over Hull.

We saw a lot of cycles coming up the south and very few up the north side.  Finally at 12:45 a nice strong cycle came up the north launch and we got ready in a hurry.  Rich was first to launch into a nice cycle.  I was next and had to wait almost 15 minutes for another cycle.  There was just not a lot happening.  While we waited on launch, Rich climbed to 5,800' (about 2,000' over launch). 

In the picture above you can see how high Rich climbed waiting for us to launch.  We can be seen standing on the north launch.

An almost decent cycle came through and I decided to go ahead and take it.  I had to run all the way down to the bushes in front of launch and then push out to clear them.  It was a little more excitement than I wanted.  The cycle picked up a bit and Bill was able to launch in the same cycle.  After some searching to the left of launch I finally caught a decent thermal over the point and climbed to 5,400'.  Bill climbed up as well.

There were clouds over Hull that extended about 50 miles to the south.  Unfortunately, they were more east then we could reach.

We flew together over Elk, and with each lift and sink cycle we found ourselves lower and lower.  The sea breeze had moved in just as predicted.  Bill got caught on the lee side of Elk and had to head out to the creek bed about 4 miles from launch.

In the picture above, if we have no other choice, we land in the creek bed in the upper part of the picture.  Just short of this spot, Bill found some lift and was climbing at 300 fpm.  I was down to 4,200' only 100' above launch so I told Rich I was heading over to the creek.  Before I came to Bill I hit a nice 500 fpm thermal that I took to over 5,000'.  Rich came over and climbed up to join us.  Now we had an easy glide over to farmer Bob's field which is across the street from Rich's house and easy for Nancy to find.

Farmer Bob's field is in the upper left of the picture, just across the highway with a line of trees across the north end (the picture is looking south).  We had been in the air less than an hour so we looked around for some lift to play in.  I found some just to the south east of the LZ.  Rich and Bill worked some light lift over his house.  I was able to stay between 3,400 and 3,700' without even trying.  After a while Rich and I flew over to White Rock, a couple miles west.  He hit good lift and climbed to over 4,000'.  I just stayed level between lift and sink.

This is looking east.  The cloud street was right were XC Skies said to would be.  Too bad we could not get over there.

Bill flew over to the rice fields, the flooded fields in the upper right of the picture and was able to stay up.  He was probably getting the same lift I was earlier.  While we were playing in the air, Bill spotted a white truck pass by our LZ.  He asked Nancy if that was her and she said yes.  She had missed the field.  She may have driven another 60 miles west if Bill did not catch her.  She turned around and found the field without further problems.

I decided to land.  I the picture I am on final into the wind.  I try to stay at least 5 times the distance down wind from the height of trees that are up wind.  The trees at the north end of the field are about 40' tall so I want to be on the ground 200' from the trees.  The wind was blowing about 12 mph on final, but as soon as I dropped below the tree level it fell off to about 2 mph.  I was expecting this and flared hard as I came into ground effect.  I dropped down into the hay.  You can't tell from the picture, but it was over 4' tall in spots.  I now had to carry my glider 200' through chest high hay to the gate.  It was quite the workout.  I could only manage 30 steps at a time before I had to put down the glider and rest.  I could not lift the base bar higher than the hay so I had to drag it through.

Rich then Bill landed a little after me. After Rich landed he set down his glider and completely disappeared from view.  When he stood up again he looked like a prairie dog popping up.  We are hoping that farmer Bob cuts his hay before we have to land in his field again.  All in all it was a good day to practice.  Rich had most of a 2 hour flight.  My flight was almost an hour and a half.  Bill was about the same as me.  I have been working out a lot more this year and am not quite as sore as I would be after my first flight of the year.  Rich took over 250 pictures during the flight.

A satellite view of our ground track.

My vario graph for the flight.

My ICG file.

Vince