Thursday, October 10, 2013
We started the day out at the Upper West Side. No one had been hang gliding before but we had some skydivers and bungee jumpers excited to try out the next adventure. We headed upstate and even though it was still September, maples burned red and other trees had leaves that were starting to turn. I wondered what they would look like from above. We arrived at the hangar and after a safety talk the day begun. Tom and his crew had 2 gliders out and one pilot so two people could glide at the same time. The sun was out and the sky was covered in soft clouds. One by one, each member of our group got into the body suit behind the pilot and swung into position. Heading up to the skies, we could see them being pulled up, slowly slowly finally reaching the correct altitude, finding a thermal draft and letting nature take them from there. Smile after smile arrived back on the ground to meet us.
My turn arrived and I climbed into the black suit, leaning over until I was parallel to the pilot and to the ground. The engine of the tow plane roared as he pulled us forward and then suddenly, we were above the ground and rising. The initial excitement quickly turned to fear and then back to excitement as we rose, watching the hangar shrink and the trees blend together into a colorful blanket over the ground. Fall was definitely here, I could see it from the sky. Tom, my pilot, and I chatted about wind and air as we got higher and higher. Whamp! The glider coiled back slowly as we suddenly disconnected from the tow plane. We were on our own now, just two people, some metal and nylon, and the wind. It was crazy thinking about being up in the air with no engine, no structure to protect us if we hit the ground.
There we were, outside and in the sky, the clouds that are so hard to touch but call out every day as we stand on the ground. This was a completely different way of experiencing nature and the feeling of freedom that the wind brings. My inhalations and exhalations were somehow deeper the panorama making me feel that I could keep looking forever.
We began searching for the thermal uplift to see if we could get any higher, we found little pockets that brought us up slightly but nothing significant as we flew around. Tom, called out to me to see if I was ready to fly on my own. Tom removed his hands and I was pushing the glider to the left, the right and then pushing forward to go faster. I definitely didn't have the agility and smoothness of an experienced glider but I was moving us!
We were losing altitude so we decided to try the "rollercoaster," speedily we dipped down and then back up - this was speed. Before that, the glider moved slowly and smoothly but now I was feeling the stomach drop of Kingda Ka at Six Flags. After a minute or two of that, it was time to land. We pointed toward the hangar and drifted down to the open field. The wheels hit the ground and rolled us in until our speed dropped enough to stop the glider. Standing up, I felt a bit dazed at the solidity of land, the lack of true movement in walking, the presence of so many people and so few clouds.
We were back but we'd done it. Another adventure that brought me somewhere completely different than I'd ever been before. It's amazing what humans have invented and what, together with nature, we can do with just a bit of sun, wind, and sense of adventure. Submitted by Sarah Knapp.