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Sonoma Wings Owens Valley Trip:
July 25, 1986 to August 4, 1986

Tuesday, July 29, 1986 - 8:19 AM Lone Pine, California

We're taking an R&R day from flying today, here in the Owens Valley, after two days of flying, one from Horseshoe Meadows (Walt's Point) in the Sierras, and the other from Mazourka in the Inyos.

Reviewing... On Friday night I worked on getting my gear together, and Joan came over later for a little while. We were both excited about our trip, to start on Saturday.

Slept okay, got up on Saturday morning, loaded my gliders and gear, deciding to take both my Comet and my HP, so I'd have a spare if needed. Then I headed over to pick up Joan about 8:45. Got her stuff loaded, and we got off by 9:30 or so.

We headed down to Route 116, and over toward I-80 by 116 and 121. Cruised out Route 50 from Sacramento, and through the Sierras. The traffic got thick close to South Shore, so we cut down Routes 89 and 82 to 395, and these proved to be good roads, and a good shortcut.

We stopped in Bridgeport, north of Lee Vining, for a mid-afternoon meal, then on to Benton on Route 120, to show Joan the White Mountains. They were still very impressive and imposing after five years, as is the whole area.

A few miles down the road, we saw Dale and Susan Bowyer (and Rick Kannisto) coming the other way, so we stopped to greet each other. They were following Franz, who was high over Boundary Peak, on an eight hour, 100+ mile flight, and Roy Wormington and Mike Kunitani were even further ahead.

It was after 5:30, so we headed on south toward Lone Pine, as there was still 100 miles or so to drive.

We got to the hotel (the Dow Villa), and found that Jon James had reserved a room for us, fortunately, the last with private bath, so that was good. We checked in, saw Jon and Ivan awhile later, and finally went to bed after a long drive.

Got up at our usual time (6:10) to go flying on Sunday. Met Ivan Wick and Jon for breakfast next door, then got ready. Rick Masters hooked a ride up with us, putting his glider on Ivan's truck, and riding up in the Trooper with us. He flies this area more than anyone else, had a lot of good tips, which I tried to remember.

click the image for larger view The crowd at launch click the image for larger view Another view click the image for larger view Ralph launches click the image for larger view Ivan launches click the image for larger view High over launch click the image for larger view Over Whitney Portal click the image for larger view Banking in close click the image for larger view Great views of click the image for larger view Peaks to the west click the image for larger view

At the launch (Walt's Point) were about fifteen gliders setting up, including Dale, Susan, and Rick. Mike, Roy, and Franz were also there, but weren't going to fly after their 130 mile flights the day before. Also, Mike's friend, Debbie was there, but was heading home that morning, as was Franz.

We were set up by 9:30 or 10, but no one launched until 10:30 or so, and I got my chance at 11:10, after Susan.

Had a good launch in my Comet, flew out to the saddle, and turned right over the ridge, circling up slowly, watching the gliders above, and those who'd gone on to the next ridge behind launch. Circled over Jon and Ivan, who'd launched after me, then headed to the next ridge, but wasn't finding much there, so came back to the first one, got back up to 10,600', and went to the second one again, where Jon and Dale were circling higher.

Found the lift out the ridge, then came back over the point, and got up over 11,000' to head on down to the next ridge, with Jon, Dale, and Susan ahead, and Rick in same general vicinity, and Ivan stuck back at the first ridge for awhile. Then we all proceeded ridge after ridge northward.

Susan soon decided to head out and land where Joan was waiting in the Trooper, as she was feeling airsick. And awhile later, Jon said he was flushed, and had to head out, near Manzanar, south of Independence.

Dale got high, and went ahead. Ivan eventually caught up with Rick and me, and the three of us worked our way northward past Mt. Whitney and the Portals, and on past Onion Valley, getting to 14,000' maximum, but mostly between 11,000 and 13,000'.

Rick nearly got flushed at one point, so it was just Ivan and me for a few more ridges, 'til Rick got back up and caught up again, near the end of about 35 miles of ridges at Mt. Tinemaha, a rugged black peak where you normally try to get high and cross to the Whites.

I was scratching there desperately at about 10,000', and Ivan and Rick were a ridge or two back. Rick headed out lower, so I decided to follow, as I wasn't getting up. Hit strong sink at first, then found a thermal out in front, so circled up. Ivan and Rick were also out front below me, and circling in stuff as well, but it was a long way out to the highway, so we had to head out when not climbing, drifting north with the valley wind.

I headed for the cinder cone, with Ivan and Rick below me. It didn't look like Ivan would make it out, so I advised him to stay near a dirt road which headed up from Big Pine. But he tried to cross above the cinders, and did have to land there, about two miles from either road, in rough volcanic terrain. But he was okay, and we told the drivers where he was.

Rick landed south of Big Pine, but I had enough altitude to fly over Big Pine toward some nice looking fields north of town. I set up a landing near the highway, descended into gusty winds, and made my final. Flared a bit early, was popped, my feet swung forward, and I dumped in, bending a downtube, but not too much.

I was very tired after five hours and five minutes in the air, and a 50 mile flight on my first flight from Walt's Point, which I felt very good about. Only Dale had gotten further, had tried to cross to the Whites, but hadn't made it.

Mike and Dale were soon there to pick me up. Joan and Jon went back up the dirt road to look for Ivan, and Jon hiked in to help him out.

After my glider and gear were loaded on Mike's big Land Cruiser, we headed up to help find Ivan, but took the wrong road. Finally got Joan on the CB, and then met her in town. She'd come looking for me, after dropping off Jon.

I switched vehicles, got in with Joan, and we went back to find Jon and Ivan. They were still far across the volcanic cinder terrain, so we decided to hike up and meet them, then helped carry the glider and gear out. Finally we headed south to Lone Pine, all pretty tired. I was impressed with how far we'd flown as we made the long drive back.

The others went to dinner at a Mexican place, which we didn't feel like, so Joan and I ate dinner at the coffee shop next door. Then we walked up there to give Jon the keys to the Trooper, so he could take Ivan up to get his truck, which was still up at launch. Then we went to bed. But neither of us slept very well.

In the morning, we had breakfast, loaded up on Mike's and my vehicles, and headed up to Walt's Point again. This time (a Monday) we were the only ones there, but the wind was looking too westy, coming down the road.

click the image for larger view The group: Dale and Susan Bowyer, Joan Eisiminger, Ralph Hyde, Jon James, Mike Kunitani, Rick Kannisto, Roy Wormington, and Ivan Wick click the image for larger view Ralph prepares to launch at Mazourka click the image for larger view Launching the HP click the image for larger view The LZ at Santa Rita flats

So we decided to drive over to the Inyos (south of the Whites) and launch at either Mazourka or Black Eagle. Mike decided the conditions were better for Mazourka, so we headed up there, a pretty drive up a long road to 9400', and a beautiful view out over the valley and to the Sierras.

The wind was smooth and strong from the south. After some picture taking, hackeysack, and sandwich eating, only Rick and I wanted to fly. We thought it might be top landable, but there were other possibilities below as well.

So we set up, and Rick launched first on his Magic, a fairly flat slope launch. He didn't gain much, and kept flying out, finally getting some lift on a side hill, then further out, catching a thermal and circling back.

I launched in a strong wind on my HP, got picked up, and started climbing straight up. Milked the lift, and went back and forth between the hills on either side of the south facing launch, getting up.

Saw that the wind was too crossed for a top landing, so explored other possibilities, and just flew around. Almost top landed on a ridge to the right, but it sloped down more than I realized, so I pulled in and flew over to the front, and down the ridge to a point where I found lift and circled back up.

It was a long way out to the flats below to the south along the road up where we could land, so I pulled in to penetrate in the strong wind, and headed out there. Made it okay, looked over the area and picked a landing zone where it looked flat or slightly uphill. Turned out to be a good one, right on the dirt road, and I had a pretty good landing.

Rick soon followed me out to there and landed also, and soon the others came on down to get us.

Then to Manzanar, where we went swimming. More later.

Friday, August 1, 1986 - 4:01 PM Lone Pine

Back to Monday, trying to catch up...

After the flights at Mazourka, we all stopped at Manzanar for a swim. Manzanar was a WWII detention camp for Japanese-Americans, and above it in the desert is still a reservoir holding clear cool water to a depth of four to six feet, making a very nice swimming pool.

Mike Kunitani was telling us about it, and I asked if his parents had been sent there, and he said yes, that both his parents, who lived in San Francisco had been sent there, and had lost most of what they'd had. Anyway, a very sad chapter of American history.

After swimming, we came back to the Dow Villa, rested awhile, then all went out to dinner at the Sportsman's Café, which was a bit expensive, but okay, except that we had to split into two tables, Joan and I eating with Susan and Dale, and Jon, Ivan, Roy, Mike, and Rick at the other table.

Home and to bed. Both of us had trouble sleeping again, didn't get too much sleep.

click the image for larger view The road up click the image for larger view Joan, our fabulous driver and photographer click the image for larger view In the snow near the Research Center

On Tuesday, we'd told the others we were taking an R&R day from flying, so got to sleep late, before getting up for a late breakfast, then leaving for an excursion up to Westgard Pass and the road up into the White Mountains and the Bristlecone Forests.

I'd flown over there in 1981 (from Paiute), and had always thought it would be a good place to explore, and it turned out to be a fun expedition up to a beautiful area. We drove through lush mountain meadows into rolling mountain hills, at altitudes of 12,000 feet, finally getting to the gate to a University of California Research Center on top, where we had to park and walk, climbing up the bare rock-strewn hillside for a couple of hours, having a picnic there, talking and having a good time together.

Finally, as it was getting to late afternoon, we walked back down to the Trooper, and started the drive back down the mountain, 24 miles or so to the main road through the pass.

We got home fairly late, decided to have only a glass of milk for dinner, which we got at a gas station on the way, where we also refilled. Came on home and went to bed.

We had heard the others on the CB during the day, and no one had made it to the Whites. Roy had struggled below launch for hours, finally getting up, and others had struggled partway down the Sierras to various points, finally landing. So it was a good day to have skipped.

click the image for larger view Roy launches click the image for larger view Rick launches click the image for larger view Heading north click the image for larger view Looking back on Big Pine click the image for larger view Crossing the river click the image for larger view Approaching Black Mountain

On Wednesday, we got up, had breakfast with Dale and Susan, then loaded up gliders on two vehicles, mine and Mike's, and headed up to Walt's Point. Jon had volunteered to be the other driver for the day, as his back was hurting a little the night before.

So we set up our gliders on a day that looked much like the day before, but was to prove far different. I set up the HP this time. But at launch, after suiting up, I realized I couldn't find my gloves. Evidently I'd left them at Santa Rita Flat where I'd landed on Monday. Fortunately for me, Ivan had an extra pair, and loaned them to me, so I could fly.

I launched at 11:15, after a few others. Mike had gone first, and was getting high, thought it would be a good day, so we all followed him down the ridges to the north. I was with Ivan again for a few ridges, but soon moved ahead and was with Dale, behind Mike, as we made the three hour trip up the ridges to Mt. Tinemaha, making pretty good time.

And on Tinemaha, the departure mountain, I got higher than Dale sooner, leaving to cross the valley at about 14,500', with only Mike having started across ahead of me. Just past the crater mountain, I flew into a light thermal, so circled and was able to get from 9000' to about 10,500', making me more hopeful of getting across to Black Mountain.

Crossed the river with 8500' or more, and began running into light lift as I approached the gravel pit, over which I found a good thermal, and climbed from 7500' or so to 9400', even with the top of Black Mountain. Mike was circling up near the top of Black, and I asked for advice as to whether to leave the thermal and head for the mountain at that altitude.

He said that there was lift right up the ridge, so to come on over, whereas my own inclination was to get as high as I could where I was first. So I left the thermal and headed for Black Mountain, flying through some wisps of lift, but getting close to the ridge at 8000' and still not finding anything to climb in, so had to turn around heading out the ridge to the south to look for a thermal.

Meanwhile, Dale, who'd crossed behind me, and had come over the gravel pit much lower, was now circling up the mountain higher, as I looked beneath him for a thermal, but couldn't find one. I was about to go left where my instincts told me, when Dale said to look to the right, so I took his advice, but didn't find anything there. Two lessons to me, to follow my own instincts when in doubt.

Now I was in trouble, down to 7100' near the end of the ridge at the foothills, and not finding anything to get me up. I thought I'd have to land at the base.

In desperation, I headed out the hills to the west, in a bowl there, but still didn't find enough to climb in, so now had to head back to the main ridge below it on the downwind side. As I came over it down to 7000' or less, I hit light lift, and circled in it with all the tenacity I could muster. And after a few circles, it got stronger, and I began to climb out, and the thermal took me up to 9500', where I made a run for the top, found stronger lift, and circled on up to 14,000', to my great relief.

Now it was time to fly the length of the White Mountains, another awesome task. Took my altitude and crossed Silver Canyon, a wide one, with sink alarm sounding. Dale was above and ahead of me, and I caught up with him much lower, down to 10,500' or so, and he warned me not to be too far back into the Whites at that low altitude.

But I wasn't finding much lift, so I did head more out to the ridges, circling in any lift I could find. Finally got to Gunther, low, still sinking, thought I might get flushed, but felt that if people could get up from launching here, I should be able to find a thermal, which I finally did, drifting back to the NE over Coldwater Canyon, and climbing to 12,500' or so, then heading on, but worrying about Roy, who came in far below me, and was scratching down in the canyon.

click the image for larger view Mt. Barcroft with White Mountain beyond click the image for larger view Over the UC Research Station click the image for larger view Approaching White Mountain Peak

I approached the places where Joan and I had hiked the day before, and found a light thermal climbing up the same hill. Stuck with it, and was soon looking down on Mt. Barcroft and the Research Quonsets from about 14,000 feet.

Took some pictures, and headed on towards White Mountain peak at it's level, buzzing the small rectangular building on top, and circling in light lift, which I worked up to 16,500' before moving on.

Then I saw Roy over a ridge further out front, getting far higher, to 17,800', he said later.

By now, my radio batteries had gone dead, and I found to my dismay that the way I'd mounted my external battery pack, the plug wouldn't reach the power socket, so I couldn't plug it in, had to go silent from then on.

Past White Mountain, I wasn't finding much lift, and was soon back down to 10,500' or so, heading out to the front of the ridges. At one point, I thought I was flushed, and would have to head out to the highway short of Benton.

Down to 9000' or so, I headed over a jagged chute for a last hope save, and did find some light lift, so circled in it doggedly, and gradually climbed back up in a developing thermal to 12,000 to 13,000', then headed on towards Boundary Peak, which I could now see in the distance.

Got lift approaching it, and was up to 13,500' as I got to it, circling up to 14,500' above it, seeing Janie's Ranch, and Montgomery Pass ahead, knowing now that I would make 100 miles. So I left with about 15,000' or less, and glided out towards the highway, but then as I approached it with plenty of altitude, I thought I might make it over Montgomery Pass, so headed more that way.

I did make it on a glide, and headed for an open area of rocks and sagebrush beyond the corner of Route 6 and the road to Mina. It looked slightly uphill, and the wind seemed to be from the SE.

So I set up a landing, was streaking along the ground in no wind, tried to bleed off my speed, was about to flare when I began to veer to the right, so flared hard, but didn't stop, slammed in hard, nosed over, went limp and swung through, hitting the keel hard.

I lay there for a moment, hoping I wasn't hurt bad, then stood up, found I wasn't hurt at all, and started taking off my heavy warm clothes, feeling good about making 106 miles, my hope for the trip, but hardly an expectation, and on my second try. I landed at 6:01, for a flight of 6 hours and 46 minutes.

click the image for larger view Ralph and Ivan celebrating at Basalt LZ click the image for larger view Ivan, Susan, Roy, Dale, Rick, and Jon click the image for larger view Mike, Jon, Rick, Susan and Dale click the image for larger view Roy, Mike, and Jon click the image for larger view Roy savors a postflight beer

Then I opened my beer, which was most refreshing, but a gust started blowing my glider over, which I'd left nose down, and in my attempt to grab it, I kicked over my beer can and watched most of it drain into the sand.

Also, I'd bent a downtube, and had torn my sail near the front on the leading edge, where it had hit a cinder rock. But I was okay, and felt very good.

Got my battery pack plugged in, and was soon in communication with others still in the air. Heard Dale relay my landing position, and soon, to my pleasant surprise, I heard Ivan say he was approaching my field from above. I threw some dust for him, and he made a good running landing next to me, and was also very pleased at having made it this far.

We took pictures, congratulated each other, then began folding our gliders as we waited for Joan. Jon had already driven past, chasing after Mike, Dale, and Roy, who'd gone further towards Mina.

To our mutual amazement, all six of us had made our hundred mile flights. Mike, Roy, and Dale past the next hills for about 115, Ivan and I at 106, and Rick Kannisto at Janie's Ranch for 102.

Joan didn't arrive for over an hour, was at Janie's picking up Rick and Jim (from another group).

I switched my CB to channel 19, and called a passing trucker, who answered, asking him to relay a message to Joan on channel 7, told him we were two hang glider pilots in the field to his right, and to look for a red Trooper over the pass. He eventually saw her down the road and gave her the message, telling her where we were.

Finally she arrived with Rick, Jim, and Susan, and we loaded up and waited for Jon, Mike, Roy, and Dale in Mike's Land Cruiser. After taking some movies and photos, we loaded up and headed out about 8 PM for the long drive back.

We stopped in Bishop at the Imperial Gourmet, for Chinese dinner, which we four first-time hundred milers bought (Roy and Mike had done it before). We had a nice celebration, before the last long leg home to Lone Pine.

Then to bed, after a hot bath, and to sleep after a nice backrub by Joan. She slept well also, for the first time in a few days.

click the image for larger view Jon at launch click the image for larger view Valleys to the west click the image for larger view click the image for larger view click the image for larger view click the image for larger view On the ground below Black Mountain click the image for larger view Black from the ground

We got up at 7 AM on Thursday, because now it was Jon's turn, as he'd driven for all of us, and I agreed to fly too, so he'd have someone to fly with, as everyone else was exhausted after their long flights.

So we set up our gliders, the Comet for me this time, and I launched first as wind dummy at 10:46, earlier than the day before. Also said hi to Tom Vayda at launch, whom I hadn't seen in years. He was still flying his Fledge.

I circled up in a thermal over the ridge, and climbed to 11,700' before heading north. Took my time, flying around the bowl, before getting low at the next ridge, where Jon passed me.

Got back up, and made my way along at altitudes of 11,000 to 13,000 feet, taking some more pictures, and getting up back on the ridge looking down on the Sierra valleys to the west, before finally getting up to Mt. Tinemaha, where Jon was circling, trying to get high enough to cross, but he couldn't get over 13,000'.

I came in under him, and began making passes over the steep chasms, finding rasty lift, and managing to work my way up over the top, and climb higher.

In the meantime, Jon gave up and headed on to the next mountain to try it there. But I got to 14,400', so decided to cross, following Tom Vayda, who was ahead and below.

Unfortunately, my vario battery died about then on my trusty Litek, so now I had no vario. It goes for months on a 9 volt battery, so it hadn't occurred to me to put in a fresh battery.

I should have just followed Tom, but instead, I tried to circle in what felt like lift but wasn't, and lost some valuable altitude.

Crossed the highway at about 8000', but saw Tom, who was now far ahead of me, circling in a thermal, after telling people he'd probably be landing.

By the time I got there, I was down to 6000', and not finding anything. Went over the gravel pit low, but no lift, so set up a landing near the road, where Joan and Ivan were now parked.

Then I did hit some lift, and gained 100 feet before losing it, and then came in for my landing. Had a light wind to land in, so didn't blow it badly, did drop the nose lightly, however.

I was almost relieved that I hadn't gotten up, and didn't have to fly the Whites again, as I was still very tired from the day before. But soon, after I'd folded up the glider, Jon came across, got a thermal, and made it up to Black Mountain, so we were back on the road to chase him.

I felt the hardship of the driver, in 100 heat, as we headed up the highway, looking for shade to park in, not even the air conditioner able to keep us cool, though it certainly helped.

So, on we went, through Big Pine, Bishop, Chalfant, and on to Benton, then around past Janie's, and on through Montgomery Pass, as Jon made it over Boundary Peak, and headed NE from there.

click the image for larger view Happy Jon after his long flight click the image for larger view The long drive back

We passed Tom Vayda and his crew, then waited up the road until Jon finally landed after eight hours in the air, getting his hundred miles and then some.

I was exhausted by then, and just as we were about to leave and head home, a guy named Zoardog pulled up in his van and asked if we could help find Jim, who'd landed on a peak across an expanse of desert, through which we could see some 4wd roads.

Exhausted and eager to head home, we reluctantly agreed to head out there to find him, so we spent the next hour following tracks across the desert, never seeming to get closer to the mountain where he was, and finally giving up when the road came to a wash and was impassable.

So we turned around, headed out, and finding Zoardog, returned his radio (an FM), and left Jim to walk out, which he was doing.

Then the long drive home, with a stop for pizza in Bishop. I let Joan drive the last 50 miles, as my eyes were giving out, and most drivers out here don't seem to bother putting their high beams down when other cars approach.

Finally, home and to bed, both of us sleeping soundly for a change out of sheer exhaustion.

Today is another rest day. Slept late, 'til after 10, before getting up, having breakfast, then going out to do our laundry in a local laundromat, and look into some stores.

Also called Allan again. And called Mary again, but got their answering machines. Finally back to our room to take a nap, and escape the heat outside, and catch up here.

Sunday, August 3, 1986 - 7:10 AM Lone Pine

Getting ready to leave, after a very good week in the Owens Valley.

On Friday evening, we went up to the Bonanza for dinner, then came home to our hotel room, watched some TV...

click the image for larger view With Dale heading north click the image for larger view Looking down to Whitney Portal from near Mt. Whitney click the image for larger view Peeking over the rim next to Iceberg Lake click the image for larger view And climbing a bit higher click the image for larger view Landing at Manzanar

For Saturday, since we'd all made our hundred milers, we decided on short flights distance wise, so that no long retrieves would be necessary. I suggested Diaz Lake as a landing zone, but we ended up going farther than that, with Rick and Ivan landing at the junction of Whitney Portal Road, and Jon, Dale, Susan, and I landing at Manzanar, after a flight of three and a half hours (for me), during which we tried to get high over Mt. Whitney, but only Dale was able to.

The ceiling was low, with most of us having difficulty getting much above 12,000'. But later, on the ridge north of Whitney Portal, Dale and I were able to work our way back to the escarpment, and gradually get up to 14,500' or so, from which I took some good pictures (I hope) of Iceberg Lake. Dale went on up and made a pass over Mt. Whitney, where there were a bunch of people.

Finally headed out, did some wingovers, and made a good landing at Manzanar. A very nice ending to a great flying week. A dip in the Manzanar Reservoir topped it off before we returned to the Hotel for a nap before meeting for dinner.

We went to the Signal Smokehouse for dinner, which Dan, our driver for the day, had arranged for us. It was uncomfortably hot there, but the food was okay. I was exhausted, ready to come home and go to bed afterwards, which we did.

Monday, August 4, 1986 - 9 AM Santa Rosa

On Sunday, we got up, had breakfast at the Bonanza, then packed our gear for the trip home, getting off by about 9:30 AM. Saw Dale and Susan in Independence, as we came back to log my flight at the Cross Country Pilots Association. Saw Ivan and Jon in Bridgeport as we were leaving the restaurant there. Joan drove from there 'til past Sacramento, as I was tired.

Made it home by about 7 PM, unloading here first, then to her house, where we said a warm goodnight after a week together, a very nice week in which we solidified our relationship.

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