Saturday, July 12, 2014

Seattle, WA

We started from Seattle Needle, observation tower in downtown, very crowded, but view was worth the waiting.
View from Seattle Needle
Right next to the Needle was Chihuly Garden and Glass exibition.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Next attraction was Pike Place Market, very impressive, good selection of food and goods as well as some local features, for example, flying fish.
On the way to Pike Market
Pike Place Market
First Starbucks
In the evening I decided to check out local flying site: Tiger Mountain. They have shuttles to launch, but we did not want to wait an hour and went for a hike. 2500 ft (780 m) elevation gain and heavy backup was difficult combination, but I made it.
Tiger Mountain launch
Nice 50 minutes glass off flight with a lot of lift near mountain, my best altitude was around 500 ft over launch, not enough for any XC attempts, especially considering forest on the slopes and city in the valley.
Tiger LZ

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pemberton, BC, Canada

We arrived to LZ around 10 and I got ride to lower launch right away, but got only a sled ride.
Pemberton lower launch
When we got to launch second time weather was on and few gliders were climbing well above us. There were about 10 pilots and we all climbed above mountain top with some pilots heading east and some NW along the range.
Flying NW from Pemberton
I planned to fly classic route to NW and back, which was easily accomplished. Views remind me of Utah, but with more dramatic and snowy peaks in the distance. Strong, big air thermals with easy predictable triggers.
Flying over the crest in Pemberton
Locals warned me about Whistler express, very strong wind from a neighbor valley and where to land if it occur, but it did not materialized. I had a few gliders flying with me all the time. Plenty of landing options in the valley, at least first 30 km, but further north hike outs could be epic. Great place to fly, next time I would try to stay there for a week or so.
Pemberton LZ

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vancouver, BC, Canada

For Canada you need to have Canadian auto insurance card. Our insurance company provides such card, but I find out about this too late to get it by mail (7 days), so we have to spend a night in Everett and pick it up in the morning from a local agent. It was great to see old friends and explore a city. We went to famous Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, which was interesting, but awfully overpriced.
Suspension Bridge in Capilano
Another suspension Bridge
Another place we was planning to visit, but did not have enough time was Grouse Mountain. Parking in the downtown was pricey as well. Did I tell that lunch was not cheap either? But besides the prices I like city and would like to come back and explore more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

US Paragliding Nationals, Chelan

Since we left Jackson Hole early we opted not to stay in Missoula as planned and keep going as far as we can. Finally stopped at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State park only 60 miles from Chelan, but in the morning our GPS navigator (Tom Tom) decided to challenge us providing a route via unpaved roads and wheat fields. I made it all the way to the river bank where "road" descends 2000+ ft. At that point I realized that if I get stuck further for whatever reason there is no way I can turn around and come back, so I turn around, shut off GPS and found right paved road just by memory, since I competed here in 2012. It was great to see many friends, who competed in 2014 US Nationals and fly 2 tasks with them. Unfortunately there was a fire south of us, which affected air quality significantly.

On Tuesday I opted not to tag last waypoint, which was deep in the smoke and by the time I arrived to goal task was stopped by this exact reason.
Climbing in smoky thermal
Wednesday task to Coulee City also was crossing large section of smoke, but we managed to climb above it and dropped into it only for few miles.
Flying above the smoke
Final glide to goal over Banks Lake
I made goal in decent time, but still slower than Dmitry, who become our National Champion in Sport Class (EN C wings and below), congrats!
Dmitry at goal

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jackson Hole, WY

On our way to Yellowstone I enjoyed watching Teton Mountain Range, thinking that at least 30 km to Jackson Lake or 60 km out and return flight would be a milk run. However, weather did not cooperate and by the time (around 10 am) when we arrived at Aerial Tram parking lot one of the local pilots informed us that it's already strong 20+ mph west wind on top, note that site is facing east. I opted not to fly and keep it for next time.
Jackson Hole

Yellowstone National Park

Another beautiful and colorful park, quite huge to see in one day, but we omitted east side with meadows and wildlife, which was right decision, a lot of wildlife including deer and bison on the west side of park as well. Too bad Boiling River swimming spot near the north entrance was closed. My favorite places would be Lower Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs. Eruption of Old Faithful Geyser was also spectacular. And here is some pictures, which should tell story better than words.
Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone
Coffee Foam
Eruption of Old Faithful Geyser
Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone
Lower Geyser Basin
Bison in Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Yellowstone Lake

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Arches National Park

Arches National Park
After some research I decided to try Fiery furnace "trail", which is not quite a trail, but natural labyrinth of narrow passages between towering sandstone walls. It does require getting a permit, which was not a problem. Rangers try to talk you out of it, but if you persistent you watch a short movie about it, answer few questions and good to go.
Fiery furnace trail in Arches Park
I want to do a big loop, but it was not possible, at least in 2 hours time frame we had for it. We have to trace our path back, sometimes making wrong turns, which was leading to dead ends or vertical drops. It was good idea to attempt it first thing in the morning, so we had plenty of time, but in the end we underestimate it only by half an hour.
Hiking in fiery furnace
This was an excellent trail and excellent park overall.
Balanced rock in Arches Park

Friday, July 4, 2014

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef Entrance Sign
Capitol Reef was not very impressive after Bryce. We found a camp site in Fruita Campground, set up tent and went for some evening exploration. Not enough time for entire Sulphur Creek trail, so we started from ranger station and went up west.
Sulphur Creek trail in Capital Reef
Pretty bleak landscape and we turn around after half an hour or so. Second trail to Chimney Rock was better, but still not very impressive (maybe I'm too spoiled).
Chimney Rock in Capital Reef Park
Anyway park was a big disappointment, I would not recommend it.
Visitors in Fruita Campground

Bryce Canyon National Park

We visited Zion National Park several times, normally during April and try few times to come to Bryce as well, but it was too cold and there was still a lot of snow, so all our previous attempts failed. On another hand July was perfect time to visit, park elevation is around 8000 ft and temperature was tolerable. We picked the most popular Queens Garden & Navajo loop trail, 2.8 miles (4.6 km) with altitude gain only 560 ft (170 m), very easy compared to my normal hikes.
Queens Garden trail in Bryce Canyon
In the middle of the trail we noticed some interesting rock formations further east, so we added some XC section and explore more territory.
Going off the trail in Bryce Canyon
Because trail was super easy I did not bring GPS and, of course, get lost. Eventually we saw very helpful sign "You are leaving Bryce NP", turn around and found right way back to the main trail. My overall impression from the park was very good, I certainly recommend to visit if you did not been there before.
Clouds over Bryce Canyon
Rock formation in Bryce Canyon

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer Trip 2014

This year instead of usual PG comps I decided to try something different. Idea was to visit some parks, which we usually can't reach on our weekend sally and explore some new flying destinations. Here is a map to illustrate our 10 days and 4000+ miles journey.
Summer trip route