Wednesday, April 29, 2009

US Nat'ls - Dunlap CA - Practice Days

I arrived in Dunlap at 1PM on Saturday hoping for a couple practice flights before the comp begins on Monday morning. The weather, when I arrived at launch, was spectacular. Cloudbase was around 6500’ and there were cloudstreets that begged to be followed. I said my hellos to some of the regulars and suited up to fly. Launch was a bit windy at times but lift was abundant and strong. At times I saw 800’/min. on my averager. One other adjective that describes the flying on Saturday is ‘COLD’. It was finger numbingly cold at altitude. I had worn my winter gloves and still was cold.
Some of the early launchers had headed out to the flats and points South but I really didn’t feel comfortable creating a situation that demanded an epic retrieve, so I did a large tour of the area that allowed me to drop into a field in town so I could easily negotiate a ride to launch and the comfort of my trailer. It was a good day with roughly 30km covered in 2:00.
Josh Cohn was one of the early launchers and he made a great flight to a small spot near Fountain Springs. This little spot is South of Porterville and is easily a new site record at around 105km. Nice!

Sunday was a warmer day and mostly a blue day. Climbs were topping out at 6000’. An informal task was called with an exit cylinder at Dunlap Launch then down to Cutler, then back to a landing at the ranger station. I really worked on this task and made some good decisions, but found myself flying alone for the majority of the day. It was particularly lonely on the leg to Cutler and I was fortunate to get back out of the valley after tagging the waypoint. I was definitely ‘tail-end-charley’ today but it was great fun. Many of the guys turned back before reaching the turnpoint but I really pushed to make the full task.
Today I ran into some massive areas of lift that carried, with them, debris and bugs from the orchards and fields below. In these areas of lift (and often flagging the lift for me) were what I call “thermal birds.” These birds are swifts or swallows that dart about catching bugs. It’s not uncommon to find them snacking at 4000 to 5000’ and they are a great help in finding lift.
We all moved into our lodgings at the St. Nicholas Ranch tonight (Sunday Night) and had a great meal before retiring for the night. Unfortunately there seems to be a bit of an issue with the amount of internet use that is available vs. the amount this crew is using, so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to get the word out.

That's it for now -

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