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Darren Stanley

Sunday, 8/7/05
First Flight at Pine Mountain

I was fortunate enough to be present on the day of the 100 + mile flights.  My flight had no comparison as many never will to those flights so I neglected to post.  However,  Tom Truax called me and requested that I post about my flight since it was my first flight at Pine mountain.

So here it goes.  A perfect day on paper for Sunday 8/7 and we all arrived early as many had camped out next to launch Saturday evening.  Tom Truax had called Ron Meyer and they scheduled a meet in Ventura.  I drove and have a vehicle that fits 5 wings and 5 pilots.  We picked up Tom and Sharon exactly at 9:00 am as we were all anxious to fly.  We hit the high school early, 9:23 and at 9:26 I was already saying shall we go?  We were meeting Dean, Bo, Rob, and Mark Stucky at the sand pile.  We did not want to be late.  Hansford, Randall and Mike were at the high school and Randall opted to drive as well due to my vehicle already being full.

On the way up I asked Tom many questions as I always do to the experienced pilots so I can receive as much knowledge about flying and about the sites as possible.  My instructor taught me that.  Tom was pointing out LZís that I had never seen before nor had anyone pointed out before.  We all met at the sand pile where we parked some cars.  The rest threw in and consolidated and away we went to launch.

I had been to launch on many occasions, about 10 to be almost exact; and on all 10 occasions I have received much instruction and local knowledge.  However, on all 10 occasions I have driven down and not flown.  Either from Pine being blown out or just not liking the conditions while watching many other pilots launch away as I spread there wings for them.  I had been perfectly happy with my decision to not launch.  One main reason was the fact that if you donít hit any thermals on your way out your probably not going to make any LZís and you will find yourself hiking through 18 foot high dinosaur star thistles as I like to refer to them as.

I have been flying for 3 years and have flown all the sites including Owens valley so Iím not green, I Ďm just afraid of the star thistles, they hurt.  Also my instructor has taught me to be conservative as well and obtain the local knowledge.  Well I have flown with the Topa pilots for at least 2 years and had a chance to hear many of there experiences including what they had ever done wrong and what they would have done if they had known in advance about where they had landed, and had to hike; or about the glide out to Ojai or to Lockwood valley as well as how big the air is and what they do when big air hits and all of the above . I have become an experienced Topa pilot just from listening on the ground and aiding Eddie on the retrieves.

So back to flying on Sunday, I was standing next to Tom Truax as we all unpacked our gear and Tom was first.  The clouds were just beginning to wisp as I kept my eye on the sky.  I prepared my gear and allowed the seniority of pilots to launch away of course.  I was flying with some of the best pilots in the nation that day and they draw launch numbers that are much earlier than mine.  But I wanted to launch in a timely fashion and Ron helped me to spread my wing out as well as Robb and a few other pilots.  They all wanted me to finally launch this place and see what it is like.  That was comforting on my first launch at Pine.

I pulled up with a perfect launch and flew away.  It felt awesome to finally launch that place.  I said to myself  ďhey Iím flying pine I better get on my gameĒ.  Robb Milley's account of my launch he told later was ďhe hasnít turned yet and heís still going upĒ.  He was right.  I hadnít yet turned in a thermal and I was going up right to the spine.  I was looking for the edge or the core but found nothing but magic air going up all over.  I must have launched at the perfect time because those wispies had now turned to nice puffy clouds.  As I was flying, my mind was reviewing all the information that I had received from Tom Pipkin, Dean, Brendan, Ojai John, Ron Meyer, Tom Truax, Ron F, Bob and of course super fast Eddie whom I had rode in the truck for retrieve so many times I would just keeping asking questions and he has answers.

I was getting stinkin high and not on drugs but in altitude.  It was easy and fat.  As I turned lazy circles I could see the clouds growing and turning black.  Oh and by the way after I launched and just went up without turning everyone must have been watching including all the hang gliders that were up there that day because I saw instantly everyone was following me, hangs and bags alike, up up we went.  I had to get out of the way of the hangs due to the air being instantly filled with pilots.  What a sight.

On my flight I went to cloud base so fast, and I canít say I didnít know what to do because Brendan and I had a talk about cloud suck just the day before on Saturday when I drove down and did not fly.  He said fly the edge of the cloud and if itís sucking to much just fly out of it.  That worked like a charm because I found myself approaching a cloud with such speed I was surely going to get sucked in so I just flew out of it.  The Valley OTB was getting filled in with the big black anvil stuff, I wasnít going there.  I had almost 11k, the highest I had ever been.

I began thinking about were I would fly with my 11k and gathered my local knowledge to know for a fact that I was going to have a butter smooth ride to the high school or close to it.  They are so right on.  When I say they I mean every Topa pilot.  I was stinkin high and with a butter smooth ride I proceeded toward the HS.  I flew over Dry Lake with 8k and tried to find some more lift but again the Topas are so right, there isnít a damn thing coming off of Dry Lake Ridge.  I proceeded on and found myself at 5500 just behind Nordhoff.  I tried squeezing between Cheifs and Nordhoff at Stooges canyon and I could see Stooges but local knowledge told me donít get pinned back in that canyon from flying chiefs and Nordhoff.  So I turned around and picked Rose Valley as my LZ.  I had to burn 1500 to get low enough to begin to set up for my landing and this is how it went.

My GPS said the wind was from the SSW and I set up to land.  Just then 2 trucks began to slowly creep up Rose Valley Road and I thought; great these guys are watching me and are going to be in my way.  As I got a little lower it became rocky and I really had to be on my game keeping my glider open even though it was taking wack after wack.  I flew down wind to go over the trucks that were watching and my next thought was "oh great Iím going to land in the only 3 trees on this road.  Oh no Iím not, donít look at them focus farther out as my instructor would say".  Yes I made it over those trees.  Yes... oh no, with 100 agl Iím going down wind and oh no another car is coming as I glance over into the bushes.  I said to myself I am not landing downwind.  I donít care if I put it in a bush I am not landing down wind.  Just then I cranked a 180 that put me over the bushes with 25 agl.  I straightened her over the road, got out of my harness and set her down into the wind and I screamed yeah yeah I did it, I did it, yes.

The truck that was in front immediately stopped and said do you need a ride before I could even rosette my wing.  I stuffed it in the back of the truck and they took me to the sand pile where Robb Milley's truck was waiting with a nice cooler full of beer... yeah that was a great ride and great fun.  It was so good I did it again this weekend YEAH.

Thanks to all the Topa pilots for all the great local knowledge that I now find myself spreading to others.

Topa Topa

Darren