SLC Finale & Moab

2009-Oct-7 SLC to PHX by way of Moab and Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley

I used up evening's last lift, landing because I was satiated rather than because I had to. What a nice way to polish off my stay here. It was a gorgeous, albeit slightly bumpy, flitting about on the north side. Alas I wasn't able to "bench up"—where you climb up to the higher ridge—but I had a great time playing around with the Viper 2, ozone's newest foray into reflex technology. Cloud 9's Steve Mayer was kind enough to let me borrow the wing so I can review it, really ring it out. I've been wanting to do so since flying the model here some months ago and liking it a lot more than expected. Great handling, decent glide (for a reflex wing, especially) and effective tip steering are all quite desirable.

There are more instructors per capita here than any other place I've visited in America. It's almost humorous, really, considering how relatively rare our sport is. I'm sure countries thick with mountain launches have more but, in the U.S. anyway, this place is unique. San Diego has quite a few but the arrangement is different since there's really one school at the primary ridge, Torrey Pines. Here there must be over a dozen.

Two of the schools are big enough to have well-equipped shops, complete with glider repair, and tons of really cool stuff—Superfly and Cloud 9 Toys. Each specializes in a slightly different area. SuperFly's Chris Santacroce specializes in over-the-water Maneuvers Clinics and Cloud 9 specializes in the sale and mastery of toys of all kinds. But both of them have a mainstay of teaching paragliding which, no doubt, is why their shops are located near the famous hill.

Where else can you fill your paragliding desire by going to one of two local "stores?" So I've upgraded my soaring harness to the Gin Switch and a very lightweight reserve, and finally got a semi-respectable Sol Flightsuit. Plus, I'm looking forward to really trying out the Ozone Viper 2 both on the trip and hopefully at home. Yes, I know, it's getting cold but I'll just have to buck up and make some short forays to the sticks (as in cloverleaf sticks). I'm also looking forward to finally motoring with the Gin Bobcat, a speed flying hybrid that I flew in strong conditions a couple months ago. That, too, will come after I get home.

Salt Lake City is now receding as a new-to-me frontier awaits. First off to Moab and, if all the planets line up, Steve Mayer, Bill Heaner and I will fly Corona arch. It's not a given because I may chicken out depending on the surrounding terrain. I'll be on a fastish wing don't relish the thought of pounding into a rocky landscape going lickity split. But I do want to fly through the arch which actually is no big deal—its huge—I just want decent engine out options while approaching it. Either way, flying there will be quite a treat if it works out. The arch is out of any parkland so its not violating any law.

Next up is, of course, the gathering at Monument Valley, my primary target. I've never been there and can't wait to see it. I've flown over it hundreds of times in a Boeing but that flattened view, while spectacular in its own right, can't possibly compare to majesty of looking up at those amazing formations—million year tributes to the power of water and wind.

1,2) It was crowded but pilots were occasionally making it back to the big ridge which thinned out the lower ridge. 3) Chris is a pg and motor pilot who stopped by to say high. He has an interesting story—living a semi-nomadic life, by choice, in a motorhome. It was good to meet him and his wonderpooch. 4) Mike Steen goes from PG instructor to aerobatic, base jumping, wing suit flying wildman and back again. Today he's instructing, tomorrow (Saturday, actually) he's headed for Turkey to do wingsuit demos at an airshow among other endeavors. 5) This is the new lightweight reserve that will now accompany my Switch harness. 6) Getting ready for the Viper to slither aloft.

Moab Thur 10/08/2009

What an enchanting place! I met Cloud 9's Steve Mayer at Corona arch, a huge remnant of ancient river rock with a river-carved hole in the rock. You could easily fit a 737 through it and I wanted to fly through it. It wouldn't be technically challenging at all but is just one of those things that I wanted to do.

Simply driving here was spectacular. I highly recommend this place because your non-flying significants will probably like it too.

We hiked over to the arch, which is certainly big enough to fly through, but has some places where a motor failure would be most unwelcome. It's not good when your best bet is making it to the elevated railroad tracks. And if you don't make it those, going down in the small canyon just west of the arch, it won't be pretty. Most of the flight there would have had decent options and the tracks would be ok. If you had a motor failure AND there was a train coming, it's just not your day!

As to flying the arch, it just wasn't to be. The launch site is big-enough parking lot when its empty, which it was, but strongish winds poured through the canyon, churning up as they met with frequent obstructions. Steve actually did launch for a 2 minute exhibition of active flying, landing right away about 200 yards from launch after one turn around the lot.

That's OK, it was well worth the drive and hike. I'm happy to have some places remain on my "must do" list and this is one of them.

1) Launch lot with Enterprise and Steve's toy hauler. 2) Scale is hard to see but a paraglider flying through it would be about 1/4 of the opening's size. It's big! 3) These railroad tracks were one landing option coming out of the arch. 4) Steve is into hiking, mountain biking and other athletic pursuits and told me the name of these trail marker which I now forget. This one was particularly interesting.

It wasn't strong, by any means, but I got reacquainted with the Viper 2 over probably a half-dozen flights scooting around the Point's north side. Man do I like this wing. It's very much like the Dudek Plasma in many regards which is another of the new breed of high performance reflex wings. If you want to go fast and with relative safety, reflex is the way to go. I'm looking forward to seeing how it does on the cloverleaf. A much, much smaller version of this wing helped Mathieu Roanet to his World Air Games win in July.

© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!