News flash: turns out going for big numbers is not the only thing you can do in a modern sailplane. There’s no actual regulation requiring sacrifice of all other imperatives to a constant press for maximum distance or speed. It’s okay to slow up sometimes and smell the polemonium eximium (worth googling, trust me). Soaring avails so many things fun to do, and fascinating ways to play!
Compare your favorite kind of flight to a day in the wilderness. Could be a romantic stroll, a competition, an endurance test, or if you can afford it, profound contemplation on the nature of things; opportunity to experience immeasurable nuance in complex surroundings not accessible to everyday life. You can choose to be aggressive or passive, or anywhere between, but however you play it, what’s important is you’re HERE. As you become part of it, it becomes part of you.
And you don’t need to evade it by always climbing high as possible, either. Glider pilots tend to fixate on gobbling altitude any time they can, but why bother topping out when down below happens to be where the treasure is? If it’s a race to Timbuktu, you’ll probably win whether you fly fast or not. I’m more like a dog in the woods, distracted by urgent priorities that spring up along the way. Suddenly I’ll wanna see how close I can get to a peculiar formation in the back of some canyon, and forget about Timbuktu. Such blissful liberty may be impossible to enjoy, however, if instead you’re rushing to leave.
In all my journeys among pathless mountains, I am never lost.
Providence guides through every danger
and takes me to the truths I need to learn.
John Muir, in a letter to his mother
In coming weeks we’ll examine a cache of under-appreciated roadside attractions around the majestic Owens Valley, unique eye candies you have to get down with, ‘cause you’ll never even notice them from high overhead. Each of these has ground my speed to zero for giddy hours at a time on occasion, just because. I think of them as my own personal Crooks and Nannies. Old friends not seen for years, sad to say, but that’s alright. Knowing they’ll outlive us all kinda thaws that last remaining cockle in my heart.
Topping this all-star roster is California’s highest and bluest swimming hole, the always frigid Lake Tulainyo, elevation 12,818 ft. (coordinates: 36.60, -118.28)
Imagine being 2000 feet above timberline surrounded by giant unsolved Rubik’s cubes tossed into piles, an igneous funhouse sprinkled with archipelagos of jigsaw lakes in every shade of aqua from white to black. Amid this superreal stonescape Lake Tulainyo is set like a jewel in its hemispheric bowl, one shore up against the triangular face of a sheer pyramid beside a saddle of boulders so finely combed by countless snows they look smooth as suede. Around the lake’s other half curves a rib of frost-cracked granite you could straddle like a horse. One leg would dangle off a breath-sucking cliff, the other toward a dazzling cube of ice lolling gaily in the lake. Ah, summer in California! At the end of this semicircular rim is a square bench of level bedrock like the spout of a pitcher, a stone’s throw above the drink. Over millennia, how many Pleistocene cataracts have thundered across it into space? Today it’s dusty dry.
You may drive out nature with a pitchfork,
yet she’ll be constantly running back.
Horace, Roman poet (65–8 BC)
The blue emitting from this lake envelops everything it sees, pulling us in. Straight down from a diving turn we fall into our own reflection and level out to hurtle across the surface a cool 200 feet per second. Droves of glittering wavelets radiate from the berg as we chase our shadow toward that ledge, now above us. It looms ominous in foreclosing. Then… forward pressure released at the very crux frees wings to leap, flung between the uprights of a stone slingshot, slowing sensually as we loft away. Video on request!
We’re up and looking back in time to see a glassy stripe across the lake where our downwash suppressed those ripples, visible proof of ground effect framed by the parallel wakes of wingtip vortices. In seconds we watch newer ripples erase that signature forever — until we carve it there again. After all, nothing says good science like reproducible outcomes!
The real question is not how to get from here to Timbuktu, but how to get from Timbuktu to HERE.
JULY 4, 2020
Sean Eckstein, to Cima dry lake, 142 miles:
The July 4th weather looked good for a repeat of the Las Vegas to Arizona direction. If you could get past Clark mountain there would be good lift with cloud markers toward Arizona. The challenge would be getting to Las Vegas.
Lift in the mountains was a bit broken but allowed pilots to climb above 12k. The glide to Apple Valley was kind, and I caught a good thermal over the mine. Leaving Barstow around 9.7k toward Harvard, the air changed. It was the beginning of long stretches of sink, but there were a few good thermals that kept both Richard (TW) and myself pushing forward.
I climbed to 9.7k in the mountains south of Baker and headed toward the towers to the NE, where I found lots of sink, and when I doubled back to Baker there was even stronger sink. I ended up directly over Baker airport around 5.5k just in time for a thermal to break off and take me to 10k. As I was climbing I could hear Richard (TW) commenting on the sink heading toward the towers, and amazingly, commenting on the sink as he headed back to Baker.
With good altitude again, I chose to take a different direction, keeping to the SE of the mountains with the towers and Hwy 15, where there is gently climbing terrain with a few foot hills. There I found less sink. For the glide to Cima at the base of Clark mountain I had enough margin, but strong sink had me watching my sink rate and altitude closely.
Gliding towards Cima, I didn’t encounter the strong sink, or any thermals. By now the clouds past Clark mountain were gone, and it had taken me 4 hr. 45 min. just to reach Cima. After basking in the blazing heat of Baker (108°) and with the clouds gone I was ready to land.
I circled Cima field looking it over and chose my aim and touch down point, and set up a pattern. When I touched down I had to back off breaking because the soil was really soft, and I came to the shortest roll out I think I’ve ever had.
Richard Smolinski, to Baker, CA — 15 miles:
Not much to add to the report from Sean.
I tried to reach Cima 3 times and was shut down with sink on both. One time it was 18kt down. Impressive.
The day was getting late and I tried the east side, but thermals were like bubbles appearing and disappearing with no consistency.
Finally I decided to land in Baker (now I know why they name that place this way) in 120F temp.
Planned to have burger and cold drink with Sean and Peter, but here was another booo. All restaurants closed there, so we headed home.
Good thing: I learned new ways, and put another new landing place on my list..
Three Squadron members flew cross-country last Saturday, June 27, and all were quite successful. Their different perspectives of the same hours that afternoon weave together nicely.
Karl Sommer: 226 miles to Kingman, AZ.
Weather looked promising per Dr. Jack up to 20k thermals towards Flagstaff.
Peter and myself left the same thermal over the mountain at noon with close
to 14k under the wings, Peter marked a thermal E of SlashX where we parted. He
went towards Ludlow whereas I opted to go via Clark Mtn. I struggled, was hot and ready to quit at Baker, a good thermal changed my mind. Got my best one E of Clark Mtn 15k enough for Triangle.
Struggled to Red Lake chasing clouds to gain enough altitude to go for
Hualapai but none wanted to work, got low and thought I’d land on Antares Rd, 75′
wide. Saw some big fields W of it.
Still looking for lift to get to Kingman, not enough, back to that big field
ready to get the gear down, and stumbled into the saving one.
Calling Rose “see you at Kingman”.
Glider in the Box, Rose thought she could get a room in Laughlin. Reception
closed, we haven’t seen so many people, cars, boats, parking with a glider
So we drove back to Crystal, slept a few hours, had Breakfast and headed
Posted flight on OLC
Peter Kovari: 322 miles to Williams, AZ.
After some glider issues and some personal issues I managed to finally start
the season at least for me.
As promised Chris delivered and got us off right after 11 a.m. Thank you
Chris for the consideration, it really helps!
I launched right after Karl (C3) and got towed to the “Morning Mountain”
area where I released in light lift in which I managed a couple of thousand
feet, just enough to get me near Lewis where some clouds were popping and
soon I was going up in good lift joined by C3. We both quickly climbed to
14k to cloud base- not bad for before noon, and we were both off to the
races toward Barstow.
The forecast was pretty good but showing a blowout near Apple Valley so we
both opted to head via Palisades and it worked out well.
The high ground south of Barstow got us both around 12-13k and I decided to
head north/east toward Ludlow and then up the Martian landscape in the
direction of Kidwell, Searchlight and east of Jean.
C3 went up toward the Baker route, but ironically we met up again about the
same time over the high ground east of Jean.
This was my highest-about 16k and it got me well on my way to Triangle
Airpark and Red Lake.
I managed to climb again on the east foothills of Red Lake and called
Hualapai next only to encounter the worst sink in a long time which nearly
made me do a 180 back.
Fortunately as they say ‘where there is sink there is lift’ and I finally
walked into some acceptable thermal, (wish it had matched the rate of sink
going up but it did not.)
From this point on there were good cloud markers and a stiff tail wind
(making centering those thermals difficult), and I made it to Williams. I
nearly had Flagstaff but by then things were glassing off over Williams and
even through my flight computer showed a little above my margins to
Flagstaff- I did not want to mess around in a class D airspace with a low
arrival so I called it a day at Williams.
Richard Smolinski: 208 miles to Triangle, AZ
That was a new adventure.
Forecast was good for Las Vegas directions.
Tow and Chris crew was quick and fast and I was in the air before noon.
Work camp lift and after Mt. Baden Powel took me to 13.5K and I was on my way toward an unknown route for me, to Vegas.
I found some shear line before Adelanto and from there moved toward Dagget.
All it was new for me so I took my time more to discover rather than racing. I decided to follow 15 and get more familiar with route to Jean. Lift was good reaching up to 10kt in some places.
I left Clark Mt at 13K and go toward Jean, where I found good lift that took me to 15K.
Having enough altitude, I target Triangle and Red Lake as my destination and start enjoying Colorado River crossing.
Landed in Triangle and meet awesome people there that met me with cold Tea..
Awesome ride in new direction. Made mistakes and learn new things.
Next week new adventure!
Lean into Cross Country Flying
To any pilot interested in learning about Cross Country Flying out of Crystal, The Crystal Squadron is very open about sharing their knowledge. They welcome you to hang out at the airport on a morning before their flights while they’re planning, rigging, and getting set up. Learn the ins and outs in an informal manner, from a preparation perspective. Receive guidance on next steps. They’re happy to share their secrets. If you’re interested, e-mail Julie@SoaringAcademy.org to learn more.
Hope this e-mail finds you all doing well!
We’re still scheduling through e-mail, so please check availability on Schedule Pointe first (for Fri/Sat/Sun) then e-mail us your reservation request. If you don’t have a Schedule Pointe account, please e-mail us date options for your reservation. Include your cell number. Do not schedule reservations yourself, until further notice.
When we confirm with you, you’ll receive our mitigation procedures. We look forward to seeing you at the field!
Stay safe and healthy and wishing you good spirits,
The Soaring Academy Crew