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 day...you 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.