Small road trip May 12-16, 2023

 With Alex off to Europe and I had some time off, I decided to do a small road trip to the Okanagan, after first stopping at BJ for a possible around-Baker flight.

The forecast for BJ (and Baker) was calling for high cloud base and light winds, but the actual reality was there was some SE wind up high, which made me decide not to pursue Baker but stay local.  The air was a bit rough as well, not really to my liking.  All the pilots who attempted the circumnavigation of Baker ended up landing out with long walks out and nighttime retrieves, so I was happy to be back at the LZ with daylight to spare.

BJ RASP for May 12

As the forecast for the following day was for more stable conditions and east wind, I opted to head inland to the North Okanagan to fly Coopers.  Not ideal flying conditions as it was actually NE up high and a bit stable, so after an hour or so I landed at the Freedom Flight Park, which has a very nice setup for visiting pilots...camping, kitchen, shower, wifi, Astroturf to pack up on, etc.  Very civilized!

With the continued east wind and stability to the north, I then headed to Oliver to try my luck at Ottos.  However we ended up going up to Upper Ripley instead, which was a nice change.  You can launch from the SE to the NE and are starting from much higher (almost 1000m), which, for a stable day, makes things much easier!  Had a nice flight with Peter and Rob et al before heading back to Coopers for another short flight as it was threatening to OD later on.

Upper Ripley in Oliver with the springtime flowers.

Finished off the road trip with a flight in Pemberton, where I did the abbreviated milk run to Copper Dome and back.  A bit of north wind up high which, as usual, made the flying a bit rough on the MacKenzie side.  I expect the Miller side would have felt better in the air.

Lower Bridal April 29

A beautiful spring day and did the classic Bridal run from Ludwig to Elk.  Strong south wind up high but as usual, not a problem for flying Bridal!

 Bridal 38km OR.

RASP for April 29 @ Bridal

Woodside triangle April 14

After a very wet beginning to April we finally had a forecast that was looking pretty sweet, the kind of day you blow off work, if able!

Woodside windgram for April 14

Not much inflow wind early in the day, and Harrison Bay was *very* low (it looked like you could actually walk across the Bay!) which made the crossing to Sasquatch very easy.  Up to cloudbase and then time to make our way west towards Dewdney.  My plan was to turn around at Big Nick (and not make the final Dewdney crossing) and then do the Raymont Triangle (Woodside-Bear-Ludwig-Bridal-Elk-Woodside).

Crossing from Sasquatch back to Woodside.  A very low Harrison River!

Cloudbase was comfortable under the 1981m airspace limit, so as long as you remained out of the clouds you were fine!  Crossing back to Woodside was also easy, but it took me a bit to climb high enough, once at Woodside, to glide to Agassiz Mountain.  But finally made it over there and then the crossing to Bear, where some pilots were reporting it being a bit "rough".  Personally I didn't find it any worse than usual, and after getting to 1600m crossed over to Ludwig.

Hwy 7 with the November 2021 landslide still visible, and Hwy 1, looking east towards Hope.

The Bridal side was shady in lots of spots, fortunately the Ludwig/Butterfly location was sunny enough to get high and then do the big glide to the other side of the shade, with a pitstop at 4 Brothers to tank up in a shady thermal.  Despite the shade there was lots of lift and also several pilots flying the Bridal side already who had launched from there.

We weren't really feeling any inflow wind yet, but those who were attempting to cross back to Woodside from downwind (Agassiz/Bear area) were reporting significant west wind and landing short of Woodside, near Harvest Market or Harvest West.  So it sounded like crossing from as far upwind would be best, ie. Elk.

Final into-wind glide to the Riverside LZ.

Cloudbase at Elk was something like 1800m, but you have to be below 1676m when crossing the TransCanada highway west of the Agassiz/Rosedale bridge, so it's a bit of a challenge to make the glide.  You almost always need a flatland thermal partway across to make it.  Fortunately there were still lots of mid-valley cu's forming (not a common occurrence in the late afternoon!) so Tom and Kevin and myself started the glide across.  As per usual, there was a thermal popping off just downwind of the golfcourse at Little Mountain, which got me another 400m and an easy glide to Riverside.  In fact, once back at Woodside, it was tough to get down as everything was lifting off!

78 km FAI triangle flight.

Upper Tunnel Bluffs April 12

 The weather conditions in the Fraser Valley were looking a bit overdevelop-y, but perfect for the north shore, and with a very low tide of 0.5m at 5pm, that meant a Tunnel Bluffs flying day!

I have only been up Tunnel a few times, it's a long hike for me so I don't do it very much.  Many thanks to Guillaume who drove a bunch of us to the upper trailhead parking, and then drove back down, so we could get a 200m elevation gain head start while he hiked from the bottom (he's training as a supporter for the 2023 X-Alps!).

A busy launch at Upper Tunnel

This time of year there's lots of water available en-route, so no need to carry water, just a filter, saves some weight!  And the launch still has a bit of snow in the back which is nice as that helps to reduce the chance of line-snaggage.  When the snow fully melts it'll be time to add more grass seed to make the launch even nicer!

We had 9 people on launch today, which is a site record, and I opted to go last as I wanted to relax a bit after the hike and not feel like being in a rush.  Plenty of lift in the skies, but down low it felt a bit rough, while up higher it was definitely smoother.

Looking north up Howe Sound and the Brunswick Beach LZ.

This time of year the Lions are still fully in the snow, and possibly top-landable, but with the always-there risk of sinking in up to your thighs and having a hard time relaunching :)  Best to simply enjoy them from the air, and also the views of the Vancouver skyline, and of course the fjiord itself with the mountains dropping directly into Howe Sound.  Some OD on Vancouver Island and also Gambier Island ended up with some rain coming out of a cloud that didn't seem to really justify it...just so unstable I guess!

Upper tunnel flight.

Short road trip to southern Okanagan

 Alex and I have been wanting to go on a southern California road trip, but unfortunately since many of the roads and passes in CA are currently (still) closed due to snow, flooding, landslide, etc, and since the weather on the Oregon coast was also looking iffy, we decided to head to the southern Okanagan instead to fly with the local pilots there.

It's still very much winter there with snow higher up, and the occasional snowsquall in the Willowbrook area.  But flyable if you are willing to put up with the cold!

As usual Ottos was the call for most days (they have a ENE launch in addition to the usual S/SE launch), with the occasional McIntyre, Secrest, or Parker choices, depending on wind direction, strength, and whether it was going to OD or not.

As always, the trip was a success with several flights and also nice quiet camping listening to the coyotes at night.  A nice change from the city!

Mt. St. Benedict March 29

 Al Thielmann very kindly offered his truck to drive up a bunch of equipment while pilots hiked up.  Unfortunately, his driver did not want to attempt to drive through the still-snowy upper part of the road, so we all had to hike up our gear from that point onwards.  Then when Al arrived from his hike, he walked down and Hammered his way up the snowy part and got the truck to launch anyways!

March 29 windgram for Mt. St. Benedict.

There was quite the crew on launch today; I counted 19 pilots!  And cloudbase was very high, above airspace, plus very cold, something like -10C at 2000m.  Dress warm!

Several pilots including Alex flew the back way to Woodside and onwards to Bridal, while I decided to stay "local" and fly the Steelhead region, as I needed to land near the car since we were continuing inland to the southern Okanagan after flying.  Staying legal, airspace-wise, was difficult as cloudbase was somewhere north of 2000m, and after I hit the convergence between the upper level NE, and the incoming SW, I briefly exceeded the ceiling according to my GPS.  But as it's actually barometric pressure that matters and not GPS, after making the necessary instrument adjustments I came in at 1980m, 1 meter under the 1981m ceiling, that's cutting it tight!

The water levels in both Hatzic lake and also Stave Lake are extremely low, making for some nice emergency LZs if need be, although it would then be a long walk back to a road.  But as the conditions were so "on" that wasn't really a could fly anywhere and it was hard to get down!

33km FAI triangle.  

Woodside March 18 and 22

 First flights of 2023 and on my new Swift 6!  Since I'm a lot more picky nowadays about the days I fly, I decided to step down to an EN-B (my first in 20 years!).  I'm happy to say it's not much of a difference, performance-wise to an EN-C, but has an easier mental workload.  I'm also happy to be on a brightly-colored glider for improved visibility and safety.

I hadn't flown since October 2022 so definitely some cobwebs to dust off.  Not really XC conditions but it was fun to fly around for 2 hours in light lift and make sure my reflexes and instruments are still up-to-snuff :)  I think Alex and myself were the only ones to get high enough to drift back to the cellphone antennas.

Hedley October 8

A bit smokey on Hedley lauch!

 On my way back to Vancouver from southern Utah, I stopped at Hedley as the local South OK group was flying there.  It's been years since I flew Hedley and it's still a bit of a scary place to fly if there is wind forecast.  Fortunately even though there was a morning wind, it died shortly after we got up to launch.  However the smokey skies did not dissipate (there was a fire in nearby Keremeos) so not much of a view.

Rob doing some week-whacking while we parawaited.

Spent about 45 minutes below launch height, scratching against the rocks to the west.  A few other pilots held on as well, but turned out to be a bit more stable than we would have liked, ah well good to fly the site again!

The Similkameen River at the Rustic LZ has a pool to cool off in!

5-week road trip to southern Utah

After attending last year's Red Rocks fly-in and having a fantastic time, I've been wanting to go again and enjoy the sand, heat, and dryness (compared to Vancouver!).  This year there was a trifecta of events going on in September: the Red Rocks US Nationals, the Red Rocks Fly-In, and the X-Red-Rocks, so there were going to be lots of pilots around the area for over a month!

The fall colors in full swing!

Southern Utah is a gem of a place to visit and especially in the Monroe/Richfield area, due to the multiple paragliding sites, some great hotspringing, and oodles of National Parks within a day's drive.  July and August tend to be thunderstormy due to the numerous Gulf of Mexico monsoons throwing bands of precipitation into Arizona and Utah, whereas by September the monsoons have largely finished for the year.  As well it's cooled off a bit and the crowds are less!

First off was the final leg of the US PG Nationals.  The weather was not the greatest as there was a late-season monsoon swirling in the Gulf of Mexico, throwing bands of storms at us, but we were able to get 3 tasks in.  I think the comp was just held a bit too early, a week later, with an extra buffer week to allow any late-monsoons to dissipate and the weather to normalize, would have been ideal.  Results can be found at the Air Tribune website.

Alex tries out a new stump-clearing technique during a parawaiting session

The Red Rocks Fly-In is pretty much the largest free-flying event in the USA, up to 300 pilots will participate and the logistics are to the point that it's a well-oiled machine!  There are 3-4 flying sites close to Monroe, 2-3x daily shuttle service, a large LZ with bathrooms, grass, shade, and running water, cheap or free camping nearby, and lots of other activities to do if you want to the take off from flying.  Rather than re-list all the amenities, simply visit my last year's post since most of the info remains current.

Red Rocks 2021 Blog Post.

Meadow Hot Springs and the 30' deep pool.

This year the RR Fly-in was sold-out, but fortunately with the multiple flying sites and huge skies, it's hard to say things are crowded...The new challenge this year was hiking up the training hill (300', 10 minutes) and seeing if you could bench up and away to Monroe Peak behind you.  On an overdeveloping or potentially windy day when you aren't sure you want to be up high, this is an excellent option!

Sunset at the north rim of the Grand Canyon

Once again, flying in Monroe in mid-late September was very picturesque as the larch trees are just changing colors from green to gold, the maples are going red, and there may be the odd snowfall to coat everything in white.  Simply spectacular, I never got tired of looking at the colors and the overall vistas.

Climbing out over the Junction launch.

In addition to the flying, I took the opportunity to visit many of the nearby National Parks.  There are 5 within a few hours drive of Monroe (Arches, Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands), and if you are willing to do an overnight drive, you can go see the Grand Canyon too.  And going in September is *much* nicer vs. July or August...less or no crowds and the temperatures are more reasonable.  One thing I really enjoyed, overnighting in the Parks, is the fact that many are "International Dark Sky"-rated, which means they are exposed to little to no light pollution and thus you can make out many celestial features that are otherwise obscured by nearby city lights.  Camping out under an easy-to-see Milky Way is an experience I urge everyone to do at least once.

One of the many sights in Arches NP.

Hot springing is easy to do in southern Utah.  Monroe boasts some commercial hotsprings, but if you want the "locals' experience", go to Red Hill Hot Springs (Google it).  And if you want to see some really special hotsprings with swimming and diving, check out Meadow Hot Springs near Meadow.  And finally, if you want to go further abroad, check out Fifth Water Hot Springs just east of Spanish Fork.  These ones are a ~45 minute hike in and rather than only a couple of pools, the entire river at the 45-minute mark is hot, just pick a random spot or sit under a hot waterfall!  Go early in the morning (I went at 7am) and plan to be out by 10-11am as the daily crowds arrive.  If you go early enough, you'll have the place to yourself for an hour or so!

Several of the established pools at Fifth Water Hot Springs. 
You can also just pick a random spot if the pools are too crowded for your liking;
the entire river is hot at this point!

After nearly 5 weeks in southern Utah and the fall XC season winding down, it was time to head back to Vancouver.  But one more stop, Yellowstone National Park is (almost) on the way back!  And with it being early October by this point, the crowds were minimal and in fact some amenities were closed for the season, and overnight frost was common.  This park is a geologists dream with steaming hillsides, geysers, and hot acidic pools.  Oh yeah, wildlife is all over the place too!

One of the many hot acidic pools at Yellowstone NP.

I'd say my favorite part of the park was the boardwalk surrounding the main geyser area.  From the boardwalk you can safely walk within a few meters of steaming fumaroles and venting geysers, and you can see the footprints of the local wildlife that all of a sudden stop and there's a new hole where the ground gave way...don't leave the boardwalk!  Be aware of the crowds that will surround Old Faithful, there is a clock there that will give you an idea of when the next eruption is scheduled so you can plan things in advance.  If you want a less-crowded eruption-viewing experience, walk the boardwalk to the other side and you'll see the eruption from another angle and away from the amphitheater.  

Part of Grand Prismatic Pool.  The rest of the pool is hidden in the steam. 
There is actually an overlook view of the entire pool from the hillside behind.

If visiting Yellowstone NP, I would recommend planning your overnight stops in advance since things tend to book up, and with the size of the park there's no way you can see it in a can spend 2+ hours simply driving from one part of the park to another.  Add in any hiking or exploring off the beaten path, and you are looking at 3-4 days easy.  Also bring enough days of food and water...there are limited shopping and restaurant opportunities once inside the park.

Lower and Upper Bridal Falls August 14, 2022

Waiting for the knob traffic jam to dissipate before launching.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.


A nice, rather average, but totally flyable day, at Bridal.  With the Woodside shuttle out of service, and the cancelled Sunpeaks fly-in pilots on their way back to the coast and the Island, Bridal was busy!

Launched and got away from the knob traffic jam and then flew up to Upper launch and top landed.  Nice and quiet up there, lots of berries on launch!  Alex also top landed and then relaunched to fly to Cheam, while others flew to Ludwig and Elk.  All in all an uneventful day in the Fraser Valley and lots of happy pilots at the Wildcat for dinner later that evening!