|Glenwood Mountain overlooking Monroe in southern Utah. |
The LZ is on the edge of town on the far right.
|Over the valley looking at Monroe Peak.|
However once taking care of the logistical hurdles, we were in Vegas and driving up to Monroe Utah! Heads up that despite it being hot (30+ C) in Vegas, it can be quite cool in Monroe (especially in the mornings) since you are driving up to 5300', snow is possible in the mountains, and at cloudbase it can be below freezing, so you need to bring clothes for both hot and cold!
The organization for the event is fantastic! Stacy Whitmore, Jonathan Leusden, and Jef Andersen are the primary organizers, along with an army of assistants. They have daily weather briefings in the morning at the Monroe LZ, regular shuttles to 3 flying sites (with a 4th unofficial site often being used as well), bathrooms with running water and electricity at the LZ, grass (!) to pack up on, and a fantastic coupon book with free/discounted meals at the local restaurants which pretty much covers the event's entry fee. Plus they have 2x daily (once in the afternoon, once at night) presentations on a variety of subjects suitable for all skill levels. They have several Telegram groups set up, with one of them being a dedicated retrieve channel if you land out within a certain radius of Monroe: they will come get you!
|Driving through the canyon enroute to Monroe Peak is stunning.|
|Cove launch with the main S and W launches, and a smaller N launch close to the antennas.|
|Cove's north launch with the west-facing cliffs in the background.|
Monroe Peak is a very high launch around 11,200', and has S and W launches. The S launch is rarely used (it's a bit line-grabby with sharp rocks) and most go to the W side where the rocks are more pebbly and less line grabby, plus it's a huge area and toplandable if you wanted.
Mount Edna is a morning site and is at ~11,700', Utah's highest vehicle-accessible takeoff. There is a chance of snow on launch, so bring your boots! In fact you probably want boots for all the launches...the rocks are big enough on all launches that you want the extra protection and ankle support, especially since you are launching at altitude so need to run that little bit harder/longer!
|Junction launch is an easy 2WD and a short 5-minute hike from the hairpin turn parking lot.|
Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
In addition to these 3 official sites, there is also Junction (same weblink as Edna, scroll to the very bottom), which is south of Monroe, close-ish to Edna, and a morning site with E and NE launches. Many XC pilots use this launch since it offers a morning start to an XC route and has easy access via 2WD. During the event we had XC flights from here on almost a daily basis. My first day I flew from here and flew ~100km, getting to 17,700' and landing at Salina!
There are many other smaller sites, such as Poverty just south of Monroe Peak, a N-facing ridge soaring site (similar to POTM North side) when it's too windy up high. On several of the north-wind days, pilots went there for a change of pace.
While the XC flying potential is fantastic even in late September, there is also plenty of local flying and many pilots will fly multiple laps from Edna/Monroe/Cove all day. And in between flights, you can hang out at the LZ where food trucks are parked so you don't even have to leave for lunch/dinner before going back up for a glassoff flight.
And the glassoffs are great too...Cove is flyable pretty much every evening until dark in light ridge/thermal conditions, and the valley bottom will start releasing at dusk as well, so you can fly over the town and easily stay up...many times we watched pilots flying after the sun had set and into civil twilight.
|Falls colors in full swing|
Peter is not the only one welcoming pilots. Pretty much the entire town of Monroe loves having us and were so friendly! We would have random people come up to us and thank us for visiting, saying how beautiful the PG's and HG's look in the air over town, would show up at the LZ with the family and a picnic blanket and chairs to watch the landings...it's a big deal for this town!
|The first snow of the season!|
Oh yeah, there are free hotsprings nearby! You *can* visit the fancy Mystic Hot Springs, but they are pay-only, and the locals go to the free ones called Red Hills Hotsprings.
|The upper, *very* hot spring at Red Hills. The "regular-hot" pools are below.|
If you are interested in some really interesting hotsprings, check out Meadow Hot Springs, about 1 hour drive away. These (also free) hotsprings are on private property so please be respectful of the landowner. It features 3 pools connected in a giant loop. The hottest one has a 30' deep cenote-like hole you can dive down into (there is a "pull rope" to haul yourself down and guide you back up). Just make sure not to bang your head on the overhanging ledges when ascending. Bring goggles for the best underwater views!
Plus there's oodles of National Forest, State Parks, and National Parks close by. Bryce Canyon is the closest, but there's also Zion, Grand Staircase, Capital Reef, and Grand Canyon not too far away.
If you have the time and want to do a western desert road trip, definitely keep this event in mind; we flew 7 out of 7 days! It's usually the last week of September and fills up quickly. Keep up to date by visiting the CUASA website. I believe they will open registration for 2022 in a month or so.