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.


We spent another few hours browsing the shops downtown.


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.

Sugar Pine Railway – Strawberry Branch

Cristy and I decided to explore another railroad right of way that’s been converted to a hiking trail. Since Cristy really enjoyed hiking along the Merced River on the Merced River Trail I wanted to find another trail that ran along a river. We decided to try out the Sugar Pine Railway Strawberry Branch. We drove up Highway 108 up to Cold Springs where we had lunch first at Mia’s. Great place by the way.

The trailhead is just a mile back down 108 from Mia’s. After heading down Fraser Flat Rd, you will come to a small bridge that crosses the Stanislaus River. Park at the bridge. The trailhead is on the south east side of the bridge. It is an easy uphill hike. It’s a railroad grade so nothing too steep. There were several springs that were flowing across the trail but the Forest Service actively maintains this trail and they do a wonderful job of it. We actually ran into one of the forest rangers with a crew of volunteers who were working on diverting the springs so they wouldn’t cross the trail.

The scenery is beautiful and the sound of the river very relaxing. There were not as many wildflowers on this trail as the lower elevation trails but we did see some interesting mushrooms and the smell of the pines and firs was amazing. We only hiked up about a mile and a half of the trail. Having a full stomach from lunch may have had something to do with that. Walking back was much faster and easier as it was downhill.

I have to say we’ve enjoyed each of the Rails to Trails hikes we’ve been on. This is a wonderful program and I hope you check out one of your local trails. I’ll leave you with some photos of our hike.

West Side Rails Trail

Cristy and I decided to hike another trail made from old railroad rights of way.  Today’s hike was on the West Side Rails trail which starts in Tuolumne City near Sonora, CA.  The parking area is just a dirt pullout along side the road.  The access to the trail is kind of hard to find; it’s a set of wooden stairs midway at the dirt parking area.  The walk down the trail is beautiful.  Wildflowers are still in full bloom and bush lupine makes the trail smell wonderful.  I can’t normally smell flowers but this lupine is amazingly fragrant.  The first half mile is wooded but then it opens up to a sparsely wooded hillside with sweeping views of the canyon and river below.

The trail is all basically downhill so the walk out is super easy.  The walk back is uphill so you have to keep that in mind in deciding how far to go down the trail.  Luckily the trail is graded for trains so the climb is very easy.  Many sections of the track are still visible.  There are signs along the trail that tell the history of the railroad and stories of the men that ran this route. Here is what Trail Link has to say about this railroad:

The timber industry in the county was in full gear at the turn of the 20th century. An impressive sawmill was built at that time, and the West Side Lumber Company constructed its own narrow gauge railroad, called the Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valley Railway, to bring timber to the mill. In total, more than 70 miles of mainline track were constructed in the area. The initial stretch of the mainline grade, constructed without the benefit of bulldozers and loaders, was blasted into an extremely steep and rocky canyon.

If you’re in the Sonora, CA area and are looking for a nice walk and a nice way to spend a morning stop by the West Side Rails trail.  Here are some of the photos we took on the trail…

Blackhawk Fly-In 2018

This past weekend I attended the Blackhawk Flyin up in Valley Springs, CA.  The fly-in is put on by Blackhawk Paramotors.  They offer training and sales of powered paramotor equipment.  Normally the field is only open to their customers but once or twice a year they open it up to everyone.  This past weekend was their Spring fly-in.  I towed my PPC to work with me on Friday so that I could drive directly to the fly-in after work.

After work on Friday I drove up Highway 26 to Linden where I tanked up my truck and mixed up some fuel for my PPC.  I continued up to Blackhawk Ranch located on the south end of New Hogan Reservoir.  I pulled onto the field and found a spot on the northwest side of the field.  After parking I pulled my PPC out into the sun and started walking the field checking out all the other flying machines.  It was also fun to pause and watch the takeoffs and landings.  Some of them showed some very interesting…um… techniques.


I ran into some friends that I fly with at New Jerusalem and talked with them for a while.  Then I decided to cook dinner.


Yes, I had a heaping helping of MRE’s for dinner.  If you don’t know what that means it’s “Meals, Ready To Eat.”  You either love them or hate them.  I think they are just fine.  You can store them for years, they don’t need refrigeration, and come with water-activated heater to heat the food up.  After dinner I watched the evening flights and after dark listened to the coyotes calling to each other around the valley.

The next morning I put on my thermal layers under my clothes and started warming up my PPC.  It was cold and dewy outside as taxied over to my selected launch spot.  I laid out my wing in the driest spot I could find.  There was no wind as I launched into the air.  The ground run was longer than I was used to  I was coming up on the end of the field so I kicked my rudder bars a couple of times to get off the ground.  When I relaxed my feet the PPC sunk back toward the ground.  So I held a little rudder in until I was climbing and then slowly let it out.  Climb rate was not stellar, I was just above the tree tops as I climbed out of the small valley.  After a few nerve wracking moments I was comfortably above the trees and climbing over the hills.

I tried to relax and just enjoy the scenery.  I’ve flown over this area for over 25 years but something about flying slow in a PPC give you time to notice details you’ve never seen before.  I spent about 45 minutes flying over the lake and rolling hills.

Given all the activity at the field I was a little nervous about the landing.  However, there really was no problem landing.  I just picked an area that no one was in and set down there.  I folded and stowed my parachute, put the PPC back at the trailer and then went to socialize some more.   I also took the opportunity to change my main carburetor jet to one size leaner.  I was hoping that this would give me a little better engine performance.  Given that the engine temps were so cool, my RPMs were so low (only 5900 rpm on climbout)  and my climb was so poor, I thought maybe the engine is running too rich.

After changing my main jet afternoon slowed down quiet a bit.  Kind of a lazy warm Spring day.  Spent the rest of the day napping, socializing, and then having dinner with the other pilots.  The fly-in organizers put on a dinner.   After dark I went back to my trailer and called it a night.

The next morning (Sunday) it was just as dewy as the previous morning.  Since I really didn’t feel good about my climb-out performance the previous day I decided to sit out the morning flight and just pack up.  I’d rather do my engine testing in friendlier terrain.  I said my goodbyes to everyone and headed for home.  Even though I only got one flight in I really enjoyed the weekend.  It was great to get off the grid, fly, and do nothing at all.

Local History

My wife Cristy and I really enjoy driving up to Ripon, CA for lunch.  Our favorite place to eat is right on Main St,  Ede’s Taco Shop.  They have excellent taco truck tacos but lately our favorite has been their albondigas soup.  This past Saturday after lunch we decided to take a stroll up Main.  We walked up one side and down the other.  As we were on our way back we saw a house with an open door and a woman sweeping out front.  She called out, “Our sign is missing but feel free to come on in!”

“What would your sign say if it were not missing?”  I called back.

“It’s the Clarence Smit Museum!”  She called back.

Well, heck, we can’t miss the Clarence Smit Museum!  So Cristy and I walked in and started poking around.  It was in fact administered by the Ripon Historical Society and had lots of photos and artifacts dating back to the mid-1800’s.  Since I work in the medical industry I was really interested in the section they had that was donated by a local doctor.  He had a pretty well-equipped doctor’s office for the time.  He had some 1950’s vintage X-ray machines and other medical supplies and gadgets.


Another section had a collection of old washing machines.  My son loves appliances and I know he would have really enjoyed this part of the museum.  Someone was sure a Maytag fan.


There are also vintage sewing machines, tools, books, newspapers, clothes and a bunch of other things all dating back from the 1990’s to the 1850’s.  It’s a really cool place to go back in time in Ripon.  If you’d like to check it out it’s in the old library building located at 430 W. Main Street. Open on Wednesdays & Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Merced River Trail

Today I took Cristy up to Mariposa, Ca and the Merced River Trail.  Mariposa is a small town on Highway 140 on the way to Yosemite from Merced.  The Merced River Trail is a section of decommissioned railroad.

The Merced River Trail is an ungroomed, mostly dirt trail that follows the unshaded banks of the Merced River within the Merced River Recreation Area. Ideal for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking, the trail offers many stunning overlooks and great natural scenery. – From Trail Link

Prior to hiking the MRT we decided to stop in Mariposa for lunch.  We stopped off at High Country Health Foods & Cafe.  They’ve got a great selection of organic fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods and also a great cafe.  They have gluten-free and dairy-free options for breakfast and lunch.  Cristy had a salad and I had a sandwich, both were delicious.


Afterwards we continued on up Highway 140 until we reached Briceburg.  We turned off and crossed the one lane bridge over the Merced River.  We drove about 6 or 7 miles down a one lane dirt road with beautiful views of the Merced River and the myriad of wildflowers in full bloom.


We finally arrived at the Merced River Trail trailhead and started walking down the trail.  For about a mile it looked just like the road we had been driving on.  But soon we to the trail itself and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon’s hike along the river.  This is one of the most peaceful and scenic afternoons we’ve spent in quite a while and it left both of us feeling rejuvenated.  There really isn’t much else to tell so I will just leave you with some photos of the hike.

If you made it this far… here’s a bonus video too.