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