High Sierra Flyin 2018

I finally got to return to the High Sierra Fly-in this year after missing last year due to having my parachute repaired and inspected.  The High Sierra Fly-in or HSF was started by a group of guys who liked to land their airplanes at off airport airstrips and in out of the way places.  I joined them a few years in my Rans S6ES.  That was why I built it in the first place.  Even after I had exchanged my fixed wing for my powered paraglider I still went to HSF.  This year will probably be my last but I’ll get to that later.

HSF is held on Flanagan Dry Lake which we call Dead Cow Lake.  That’s because the first time our organizer, Kevin Quinn, landed there he came across a dead cow and so the place was called that.  Dead Cow is roughly 2 miles wide by 4 miles long.  It has lots of room to maneuver and park airplanes.   Lots of camping space too.  A few of our group purchased property on the northwest shoreline of the dry lake and this is where we camp.  The rest of the lakebed is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is open to the public for recreational use.

 

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I left on Thursday morning and made the 5 hour drive to Dead Cow.  I took the long way which is on mostly paved roads.  There is a shorter route that is pretty heavily washboarded and rutted.  I elected to spare my trailer this abuse.  It was only about 30 minutes longer to drive the northern route anyway.

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The last part of the drive was across deeply rutted roads piled almost a foot deep of fine dust the consistency of talcum powder.  I was really nervous about this last portion of the drive even though it’s only two miles or so.  My truck doesn’t have 4 wheel drive so I was a little concerned about getting stuck but the truck, even pulling a cargo trailer, did just fine and I made it out on the the playa of the lakebed.  The lakebed itself is as hard as concrete and almost as smooth.

I drove around a while looking for familiar faces or a good place to camp.  I finally ran across some other PPC’ers at the extreme southern end of the camping area.  There was a small “bay” in the dry lake that was a perfect place to launch PPCs.  I pulled in next to them and set up camp.

 

 

I got done just as the sun was about to set.  My windsock indicated that there was ZERO wind and it was 73 degrees.  Perfect time to go fly.  So the evening I arrived I got to take my first flight at HSF 2018.  It was about as perfect a flight as you can get.  The only problem I had was I had to run full throttle to stay airborne.  After landing I realized I hadn’t changed the mixture in the carburetor but I was now operating at 4000 feet above sea level.  I changed to a leaner jet in the carburetor and this seemed to solve my problem.

 

I flew for a short time with one of the guys I was camped next to, Ryan.  He has the exact same PPC as I do, a Six Chuter P3 Lite. (sorry for the blurry photo)

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After landing and putting my parachute away I broke out an MRE, heated it up, and had a nice dinner under the stars.  There were no clouds and only a half moon so the stars were pretty bright.  I had my propane heater on the ground in front of me keeping me warm since temperatures in the desert drop rapidly after the sun goes down.  That’s no joke.  It was 73 degrees at sunset, by sunrise the next morning it was only 23 degrees!

At sunrise I got up and took care of business.  I saw Ryan getting his P3 ready so I decided to go fly too.  It was around 8:00am by this time and it had warmed up to about 35 degrees.  I had my thermal layer on, a thick fleece, my North Face jacket, and some ski pants on and they were just enough to keep me warm while flying.  My nose was freezing though!  35 degrees air temperature and a 35 MPH wind equals about 20 degrees with the wind chill factor.  Still it was another great flight.  So great that I flew 3 more times that morning!  I made several passes over the main part of the camping area to the north.  Even though the even did not begin until Saturday, it’s amazing how many planes and campers were already there Friday morning!

 

All in all on Friday I flew 5 times, two more times in the evening plus the three flights that morning.   Here’s a short clip of me flying over the campsites.

 

I didn’t stay for the entire event however.  As Saturday morning progressed more and more airplanes arrived and there was more and more activity over the lakebed.  I didn’t feel safe flying my parachute in the area any longer.  There were a few other guys there with PPCs but they tended not to wait around for me.  I didn’t want to fly alone away from the lakebed very far and I didn’t feel safe flying in the lakebed so I decided to pack it up and head home.

The most worrisome part of getting home was the access road to the lakebed.  It was full of that deep powder only this time I was driving uphill to get out.  I was afraid my two-wheel drive pickup and cargo trailer would get stuck.  However, they did just fine and I was soon out on the main road.  Four hours later I was pulling in front of my house.

I really enjoyed this year’s High Sierra Fly in, however, I think this will be the last year I attend.  For a few reasons.  First and foremost, it is DUSTY!  The alkali dust doesn’t bother me too much but I worry about what it does to my machine and parachute.  I intend to clean both but still… it’s not good for the machine.  The second reason I’m not returning is the same thing that makes the event so awesome… the sheer number of aircraft attending.  It’s a crazy awesome mix of Oshkosh and Burning Man.  I know a lot of pilots bristle when I say that but that’s exactly what it is.  The more aircraft that attend the more chance we have of attracting those who don’t operate their aircraft as safely as we do.  If I had a fixed wing airplane still I wouldn’t hesitate to go, however, my slow plodding PPC just doesn’t mix well with the other aircraft.  Could it be done safely?  Yes.  Is it worth the risk?  Not to me.  Not at this point in my life.

We finish old chapters and start new chapters in life.  Doors close.  Doors open.  It’s not like I’m giving up flying.  There are still some really nice (and smaller) fly ins closer to home that are more conducive to my type of flying.  I’ll stick to these from now on.  I wish the organizers of the High Sierra Fly in all the best and sincerely hope everyone operates as safely as possible.

Fly safe.

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Celebrating 31-derful Years!

It’s not our wedding anniversary for another couple weeks but I decided to go ahead and book a trip for my wife and I to Las Vegas to see The Moody Blues.  What’s left of them anyway.  There are only 3 surviving members that I know of and one, the drummer was ill and couldn’t be at the show.  That left the two lead guys.

Anyway, even though these dudes are in their 70’s they can still rock it!  We wanted to see them because their song “Your Wildest Dreams” is “our song”.  When we were dating it seemed to play on the radio every time we were together so we have fond memories of that song.

That was then… this is now:

We walked back to our hotel afterwards and pretty much collapsed.  It was a long day.  A seven hour drive followed by a concert, yeah, time for some sleep!

The next day we just kind of wandered around.  We got breakfast at Starbucks over at Ceaser’s Palace.  Cristy browsed the shops at Ceaser’s and kicked back and surfed my phone.

We decided to walk down the strip for lunch.  We made our way to Urban Eats down at New York New York.  We got there via what I like to call urban orienteering.  Meaning, we went from casino to casino walking through the middle of the buildings rather than just down the side walk.  It took all morning and we were pretty hungry by the time we got to the restaurant.  Plenty tired too.

I didn’t get any pictures of our walk but I did get this movie of a chocolate fountain inside The Bellagio…

After having lunch we were too tired to walk back so we grabbed a Lyft ride back to our hotel.  We napped and watched movies all afternoon.  It was awesome.

Later that evening we walked back over to The Bellagio for dinner.  I had always wanted to see the water fountain at night so this was my chance.  We had dinner at another sushi place.  We shocked the waitress when we asked her if we could pray for her.  She almost didn’t know what to say but she did make a small request so we lifted that up to God in prayer for her.  Dinner was VERY good and afterwards we made our way out to watch the fountain show…

Afterwards it was back to our hotel to relax before our long drive home the next morning.  At least… relaxing was the plan.  We fell asleep around 11pm or so.  At about 1am our next door neighbor came home incredible drunk and incredibly loud.  And he brought friends!  They were so loud it sounded like they were in our room!  We tried to ignore them because after all, it was Las Vegas on a Saturday night.  But finally at 3am we couldn’t stand it any more and called the front desk.  About 30 minutes later all was quiet and we finally fell asleep.

There was nothing special about the long drive home so no pictures or description.  But despite the final night’s setback we really enjoyed our anniversary trip.  Every year with this woman just gets better!

Salinas River State Beach

The smoke is finally starting to clear here in California’s vast Central Valley but at the peak of the smoke problem Cristy and I just had to go find some clean air.  We decided to head to the beach!  Our favorite beaches are near Monterey.    Monterey Bay has numerous beaches and wildlife so is one of our favorites.  Plus it’s fairly close to us.

We trekked down I-5 to Highway 156 and over the hills.  The Diablo Range specifically.  On the way we stopped at Casa De Fruta for some snacks to take with us to the beach.  It’s a good bathroom stop along the way too.  If you have kids its a great stop with a small train, petting zoo, and lots of stuff to help the kids expend their energy.

We continued on to the coast and stopped at Sand City Beach near, you guessed it, Sand City.  We actually park in a large shopping center just before Sand City.  We got on the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail and walked the short distance to the beach.   We walked up the beach a bit and then set up our chairs in a spot next to the cliffs that was sheltered from the wind.  Although it was forecast to be 104F back at our home, the high temperature in Monterey was forecast to be 69F.  At the moment it was only 59F!   But we had brought our jackets and the view under the coastal fog was wonderful.  And the air was spectacular.  It was the first non-smokey air we’d had in weeks.  We just kicked back, watched the little ground squirrels (beach squirrels I guess) scurry around us looking for scraps.  I tossed them a couple of raw almonds.  SCORE!  We also watched the paragliders silently soar along the cliff sides.

The ONLY thing we don’t about this beach is it tends to have a lot of seaweed and associated seaweed smells.  So we decided to move along.  We drove north towards Moss Landing to see we we could find a better beach.  Just as I was approaching the Moss Landing city limits I saw a sign for Salinas River State Beach so I decided to turn off and check it out.   To our surprise the parking lot only had 7 or 8 cars in it.  We unpacked our chairs and walked down the sandy trail over the hill to the beach.  We walked a short distance along the beach and set up our chairs.  At this point the fog was starting to break up and the warm sunshine felt good.

We decided we had sat enough for the day and took our chairs back to the car.  I noticed a sign for a nature trail so we decided to walk down it to see what that was all about.  So glad we did the views of the backside of the dunes were stunning.  Dozens of varieties of flowers, sea grasses, and succulents lined the trail.  We walked down it for about a mile before taking a side trail that lead over the dunes back to the beach.  This section of the beach was entirely deserted except for one jogger and later a train of horses and riders.  It was absolutely wonderful and we’ll definitely be back to this beach.

We walked back down the beach to where we first entered the beach earlier and headed back to the truck.  We then drove up across Elkhorn Slough to a small marina and had dinner at the Pacific Grill.  We had lovely views of the slough and the sea otters and kayakers that were out on it as we had dinner.  After dinner we just sat in the truck and watched the otters and kayakers on the slough until the sun sunk into the re-forming fog.  All in all a wonderful day!

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Union Valley Reservoir

Last weekend Cristy and I took a day trip up to Union Valley Reservoir in the Crystal Basin area of the El Dorado National Forest.  It’s located just southwest of Lake Tahoe at about 4000 foot elevation in the Sierra Nevada mountains.   We wanted to hike, stroll really, a bike path that runs along the shoreline of the reservoir.  More info on the path is located on Trailink.com.

We stopped for lunch first at a pho restaurant in Pollack Pines (this was nothing to write home about).  The atmosphere and wait staff was great but the food was just a little bland for our tastes.  Maybe they tone it down for their clientele, I don’t know.  There are better options in the area for food so I won’t say much more about this place.

After lunch we made our way down the winding road that leads to the trail head at Jones Fork Campground.  All the day use parking was taken up but I was able to squeeze my truck onto the side of the road.  We walked through the small campground and started down the bike path.  It was really a gorgeous walk.  The path is paved asphalt so walking was really easy.  There are interpretive signs along the way that explain what Union Valley Reservoir is for, why it was built, why it’s called that etc.  (If you really want to know, ask me!)

We walked down to the boat launch area at Fashoda Campground and then crossed over to the beach on the other side of the peninsula.  This was a large sandy beach set aside for swimming.  There are lots of rocks in the sand on the edges of the beach so watch your toes!  It was too tempting to just sit in the shade in the sand rather than hike on so we just kicked back, watched the boats on the lake and talked.  After an hour or so we decided we better head back.  After we still have to drive 2.5 hours to get home.

Union Valley Reservoir is a gem in the Sierras.  We were there on a Saturday and while all the camgrounds were full, there was not a lot of people there.  We never saw another soul on the bike path when we were walking it.  I’d really love to go back here and camp some time.

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Birthday Hike at Point Lobos

Technically my birthday isn’t until next week.  My wife’s birthday was last week.  But I’m on call next week, and my wife was sick last week.  So…  I took this past Friday off and we drove out to Point Lobos State Natural Preserve.  It’s about a 2.5 hour drive to the coast but Pt Lobos is well worth it.

First we stopped off for lunch at Flaherty’s Seafood Grill in Carmel for some lunch.  It was very tempting to stroll the streets and look at the shops but I tried my best to keep us on task; a hike at Pt Lobos.

Traffic was already getting pretty bad at 1pm in Carmel.  The road construction did not help.  But once we got south of Carmel traffic dropped to practically nothing.  We pulled into Pt Lobos around 1:30pm and after paying our $10 fee drove to the south shore.  The north shore of Pt Lobos is defined by cliffs and stunning views of town.  The south shore is much lower and is dotted with tidepools and hidden pebble beaches.  We spent some time hiking the south shore trail and exporing the tidepools.  Then as it got later in the afternoon parking became more abundant so we parked at the west side of the park and hiked through the cypress groves enjoying the colorful wildflowers and poison oak. 🙂

Point Lobos is a stunning place and if you ever get the chance, take a visit midweek during the Spring.  I’ll leave you with some of the pictures we took there.

 

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Red Hills Fly-In 2018

I can’t believe another year has come and gone and we’ve had another Red Hills Fly-In!  The Red Hills Fly-In is held at Jack and Myrna Moyle’s Ranch, nicknamed Back To The Future Two Ranch because numerous scenes from the movie were filmed there.  When I had my airplane I would load it up with my camping gear and fly in.  Now that I have my powered parachute I load all my camping gear into my trailer and basically camp in the trailer.  The Moyles’ ranch is located in prime territory; completely surrounded by the Red Hills BLM Area of Critical Environmental Concern.  As such, no hunting or motorized vehicles are allowed in the area.  Other than the sawmill on the other side of highway 120 it is completely serene and peaceful… except for the airplane noise!

Most people fly in.

But others like me have to take the winding dirt road through the BLM land to get to the Moyles’ ranch.  But that’s really not a problem as it’s such a scenic drive.

Once there we pretty much just chill, relax, and catch up with old friends.  Many of us only see each other once a year but when we get together it’s as if no time has passed.  We talk and eat late into the evening and when the chill hits we keep talking and eating around the campfire.

This year was notable for me as it was the first time I had the confidence in my skills and ENGINE to fly my powered parachute from the field.  Well, and the wind was cooperating this year too.  My flights weren’t long because I’m still tweaking on the engine and learning to trust it.  But they were beautiful.  I’ve flown my fixed wing through the area for years but there’s something about seeing it from an open cockpit 300 feet up.  You can smell the smells and really see what you’re flying over.

Jordan Langley caught my take-off and landing on video.  He also got a great shot of Joey Meyers and I flying by in (very) loose formation.

All in all a VERY enjoyable weekend and I can’t wait to go back next year!

El Dorado Trail – Missouri Flat Segment

This past Saturday Cristy and I decided to take another Rails to Trails walk.  We headed up to Placerville, CA to walk a small segment of the El Dorado Trail.  We began our walk at the Missouri Flat trailhead which is just east of Placerville.  This section of the trail is paved and is geared for bikers and walkers.  It also has a Par Course alongside the trail so you can exercise more than just your feet.

Cristy and I tried a few of these out but primarily just enjoyed the walk  At one point you cross a 100 foot high trestle that has been converted into a foot bridge.  Romantics have placed locks with special engravings on the sides of the bridge.  No doubt inspired by the stunning views.

We continued to enjoy our walk enjoying the beautiful scenery.  It was hard to believe we were still in a suburban area.

We started to get hungry so we headed back to the truck and drove into Placerville just a few miles up Highway 50.  We stopped into the old downtown area and had some delicious farm fresh food at Our Farm Table on Main St.  The food was delicious and the views from their second floor were wonderful.

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We spent another few hours browsing the shops downtown.

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If you’re not up to hiking in the wilderness and indoor hunting is more your thing then I highly suggest taking a walk on the El Dorado Trail.