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Reflections of Summer 2008

Reflections and highlights of a great summer.

It rained all day Saturday and as the clouds cleared from around the mountains Sunday evening the snow level was down to around 9500 feet. The thick frost on my windshield Monday morning was one more indication that the summer was over. I didn�t join the 50 mile club. That one will have to wait for next year, but that was the only goal that I didn�t make in a summer of great flights, explorations of great mountains and record breaking launches. The Explore Utah Summer of 2008 saw the record for Utah�s highest launch reset 3 times, the record for Utah�s biggest vert reset and totally demolished. This summer saw the pioneering of Utah�s highest drive up launch, and the subsequent resetting of Utah�s highest hang-gliding launch, and Utah�s highest Tandem launch. Powell Point near Bryce Canyon was one incredible flight and I would nominate it as Utah�s most scenic launch, and challenge any launch in the world to match the scenic magnificence of this flight..

In spite of all these incredible flights, as I reflect on the highlights of the summer, the most memorable things had to do with people, and the companionship of sharing the wonders of this great state with great people who share the passion for flying, exploring, and expanding horizons.

One of the highlights of the summer would have to be soaring Cove Mountain with my instructor, Thomas Stankowski of St. George. Physical and financial issues have kept Thomas grounded for a couple of years, but he has received weekly calls from Barrett Kaufman asking him to rejoin the ranks of the flying. Thomas was the greatest instructor in the world for me because of his knowledge of pioneering and his ability to teach flying and life together in one package. He had to pioneer the sites in the St. George area in order to have a place to teach. His pioneering of Warner Ridge (The Usual) gave me my first opportunity to soar, and his encouragement of my pioneering effort in the Central Utah area began even before my first solo flight. Thomas is an inspiration to all his students and having him flying again and flying with me on a site that I had pioneered was an indescribable feeling.

Another highlight of the summer was that authentic gourmet supper cooked by Jochen Rink over a campfire in Granite Creek Canyon the night before we hiked up Mt. Ibepah. I am talking about a full course delicious steak and sausage meal with German seasonings and cooked to perfection Mmmmm. Jochen is a great pilot, a hiker unequaled, a top research scientist, a former candidate for astronaut in Europe�s space program and now we can add to that �campfire chef extraordinaire�.

An interesting development of the summer was the outpouring of friendliness from nice people whom we met in landing zones. For example Cindy in Marysvale has a big, manicured, wide open pasture that makes an excellent LZ from Mt. Edna. The first time we landed there she rode out on her four wheeler, congratulated us on our flight, and helped us haul gear back to the road. She gave permission to land there anytime and let us know which water taps were culinary and which were irrigation so we could fill water bottles. Another example of great people is Bill and Michelle from outside Callao, in the shadow of the Deep Creek Mountains. There are no paved roads anywhere near Callao and it is an 80 mile trip on dirt roads to Delta or Wendover, so you can imagine my excitement when Bill drove by just minutes after I had landed from Mt Ibepah. There might be 4 vehicles that go by in a day out there. Bill was driving a 1930�s garbage truck and I hitched a ride to his home 5 miles closer to my car. He offered to take me to my car but I was worried about making contact with the other pilots and arranging retrieves. So after he had refilled my water bottles and let me use his phone to let my wife know that all was well, he lent me his 4 wheeler and said �use it as long as you like�. Wow what nice people. The four wheeler really helped with the pilot retrieves and also the vehicle retrieves from the canyon. Everywhere we went this summer we met nice people who were friendly and willing to help.

The Pioneer day celebration at Monroe was another highlight of the summer with eight pilots soaring Cove Mountain and all heading out together at sunset to fly over the fireworks crowd and land in the vacant field nearby in almost perfect synchronization. I had the opportunity to fly that night in tandem with my daughter. Many people in the crowd have expressed that the paragliders were cooler than the fireworks that followed. Ridge soaring the 10 mile almost perfectly smooth Fish Lake High Top Plateau at 11,500 feet one morning a few weeks later with fellow local pilots was an indescribable experience, as was a tandem flight with the 8 year old son of a beginning student. He was very determined and in control as we soared 1500 feet over launch in butter smooth air. He would say �I want to drive now� He later took the Photo�s of his flight all over the neighborhood and did some good advertising for me. At least one student is now taking flight lessons as a direct result of the fly in on the 24th coupled with the advertising of my little buddy.

Peter and Nicole from Belgium spent a week with us, they had planned a flying vacation to the Point but were disappointed with a fire in the area and an RC event scheduled, they couldn�t fly. Jonathon sent them our way and Peter continually commented on how much higher the mountains in Central Utah were than the ones in Belgium and how beautiful the scenery was. Peter is a very proficient pilot and took to the 6000 foot verts like a duck to water. The real fun however was Nicole. She would bring a stadium chair and sit on launch and call Peter �sweetie� when he was ready to launch she would say � good luck sweetie, have fun, I know you�ll do good.�

There will still be some great autumn flying and we are looking forward to an awesome season of winter flying highlighted by the Snow Clinic the last week in February where we will be doing some flying in beautiful snow covered mountains.

I would like to thank all the people who made this summer possible especially Jochen Rink whose enthusiasm is very contagious. Dave Dixon and Barrett Kaufman for their effort in promoting the sites in Central Utah, and promoting the sport. Neil McGarry, Doug Carlson, Chris Iezoni, Greg Hummel, and all those who sent me photos to help document the accomplishments of the summer. Jef Anderson for his constant support, organization, and updates to the web site. Ken Hudonjorgenson. for his help with the clinics this summer. My son, Doug, for sharing my love of the sport. Dave Barton, Tyson Boyter, and Chris Lucero for flying with me, and everyone that came to fly, drive or just observe. .

Stacy Whitmore