California Solo Flying Expedition 2014: May 11th UPDATE (Days 7 thru 22)

Screen shot 2014-05-11 at 6.43.47 PM

May 11th UPDATE (Days 7 thru 22)

(Click here for the trip’s home page, w/ all updates, description, & pics)

 

I’ve been on the move!!

 

It has been two weeks since I last wrote in with whats been going on, and a lot has happened since then. The bad weather has continued for much of this section, but I have had four nice flights despite the lack of good flying conditions. It was seeming like I was hiking the whole damn route at first, until I started to hit the real mountains and make up distance in the air. Just yesterday, I logged a 88 mile flight from Walt’s Point up to the Mammoth area. Times are improving.

When I left Frazier Park and the Interstate 5 area, my pack was bursting at the seams with food and supplies. I was heading through the remote Mojave peaks and Southern Sierra, and wanted to have at least 8+ days of food with me because of the lack of re-supply points on the high route. I was planning on not dropping off the peaks and high trails whenever possible, and hiking or flying the high line. Slower and more rugged than hiking down in the deserts, but I wanted to be ready to fly at a moments notice and always sleep up high.

 

The next day after the re-supply at I-5, I unknowingly came upon HikerTown and and the start of my Pacific Crest Trail section. I weighed my pack here- ughhh 73 lbs! I kept on hiking through the wind and upcoming storm for another three days, meeting all sorts of hikers and great people along the way. One of them most notably was Cory aka ‘Night Time’ a PCT thru-hiker who I hiked with for almost four days throughout the bad weather. We cranked out anywhere between 18-30 miles per day, and really moved along headed north.

But close to Kelso Valley he went on ahead, as the next day looked flyable and I wanted to stay at the peak to take advantage of this. I bid him farewell, only to fly over him the next day after he hiked his ass off, and I glided along. I made it to the Walker Pass area before I got low and had to land. I landed in front of him on the trail, and gave some hoots as I flew overhead. He caught up as I finished packing, and we started hiking again. Keep on moving.

The next day was forecasted to have some potential as well, so I decided to make camp on the peak top not far from where I landed, as he kept on hiking. I took off the next morning and instantly got boosted high over the Southern Sierra. I was finally on home ground, and in the air. I cruised north and passed over our ‘Nine Mile Canyon’ launch, and pressed on towards Whitney. As I got about halfway to Walt’s Point, it started to get quite windy. I made the choice to turn inland, and cross over the west side of the crest and land in Kennedy Meadows for a much needed re-supply and burger. I had wanted to make it much further, but I had to make due with what I had.

I was lucky to get these two consecutive flying days in, because the next five days were bad weather. I hiked north to Walt’s Point to be in position, and that is exactly where I was when the weather improved.

Launching Walt’s felt great as it is my favorite place to fly in California, if not anywhere. I climbed on out over the peaks, but instantly I could tell that the west wind was going to be a big problem for a long flight, and also the clouds were gonna over develop and blow up. No matter, I was here to make distance, and this is what I was going to do as long as I could sustain flight.

I soared past Mt Whitney and Williamson on my way north, as the wind increased. I took a beating while crossing in front of Onion Valley, only to be boosted up and up in the strong thermals above Kersarge Peak. While crossing the Palisades it started to fully cloud in and snow lightly, but even with 100% cloud cover, the thermals and clouds were pumping! It was weird to be on full speed bar, vario screaming away, while in a snowstorm. Gotta love the Owen’s Valley- it makes you feel alive.

While passing Bishop the sky became sunnier, but the WSW wind was cranking. I had to slow down and fly the smaller Buttermilk Mountains back towards Mt Tom, as the cloud base was too low over Coyote Ridge to take the quicker back route. I made it over to Mt Tom on the weaker flatland-ish thermals, only to be boosted up and over to Wheeler Crest.

At this point I had been hiding behind the High Sierra and it’s wind shadowed eastern escarpment. But once I rounded around the corner of Wheeler and pointed it towards Mammoth and the west wind, I knew I would not make it to the town of Mammoth Lakes. It was blowing 20+ where I was over Red Peak, and I knew it was probably 50+ mph through the Mammoth venturi coming over from the west side. All I could do was stay low behind Mt Morgan and McGee, and scoot through to the Green Church just past the LZ for McGee. I landed out in the nice grassy field, and was extremely psyched to make this 88 mile flight. It was just what I needed after all the hiking, bad weather, and shorter flights down south.

I hiked into Mammoth the next morning to meet up with friends, eat good food, and relax for a few days. The weather forecast has given me another mandatory 3 day rest break- winds on the summit of Mammoth over the last few days have been 50-130 mph! I write this now with high hopes for flying tomorrow, as the wind is supposed to die down. Lets see what happens.

I have now completed 305 straight-line miles of hiking and flying, and I have another 215 to go until I make my goal of the Southern Cascades and the end of the Sierra at Highway 36. The total length of the route that I am attempting is 520 miles, so I am already over half-way there.

Of the 305 miles that I have completed, 46% of the distance has been covered by flying, and 54% by hiking. I will not hike any more long sections of trail at this point. It is too difficult to cover ground quickly through the High Sierra on foot, so I hope to be flying most the remaining distance. Plus, it’s not cool to hike for distance when the terrain is perfect for flying.  My goal is to always have any vol biv route at least have over 50% of the distance made by flying. If not, then your just carrying your glider around and thats not very sporting.

All is well here in Mammoth, but I can’t wait to leave.

 

-Dave

May 11th, 2014

 

 

Here are the daily updates and pics-

 

Flying above the NutHouse launch by Ojai during the beginning of the trip-

 

Flying above Nordoff Peak, headed towards The Chief and Sespe-

 

Looking towards Santa Paula along the Coastal Mountains-

 

Top landing up high-

 

 

April 24(Day 6)

Well, I had the first major wrong turn of the trip so far. I assumed that the biggest peaks between highways 5 and 58 were accessible to the public, big mistake. It seems that some super giant land grabber called Tejon Ranch owns the entire range- and get this, they don’t allow access! I called them to ask for special permission to pass through, and they said no way.So it cost me many wasted miles and backtracking, and I’ve had to come way out into the flats to go around this offensive ‘ranch’. It’s actually a high end hunting club it seems.
I’ve hiked about 20 miles today, and the pack is incredibly heavy after the re-supply in the towns. Good news is that I’m only about five miles from the Pacific Crest Trail now, and I’ll be back in the mountains tomorrow. Now, if the weather would just cooperate!Here are a few pics from the hike today-
Dave Turner's photo.

 

April 25

Here comes the leading edge of the stormy weather-
Photo: Here comes the leading edge of the stormy weather-
April 25

I made it to ‘HikerTown’! This is a great rest area for through hikers on the PCT, a nice area to rest up, fill water, grab a shower, charge electronics, and meet other hikers. Areas like this one are absolutely awesome, a big help to travelers.From here I take off for the last portion of desert travel, and will be headed towards the higher peaks. The weather forecast is still looking grim, so it’s more hiking for now. Looking forward to getting in the air soon, bigger peaks are on the horizon.
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.

 

April 25

Uh oh. The clouds are getting angry…
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.
Dave Turner's photo.

 

April 26

Surprisingly strong storm last night and this morning. The clouds were threatening all day yesterday, but never let loose until the evening. It was all I could do to lash the little tent down to some Joshua trees before all hell broke loose with the wind and then the rain.Just relaxing in the tent now, about to work on the second cup of coffee. My brain is telling me to get out of the tent, put the rain jacket on, and keep charging! But my legs are telling me to just take it easy this morning, have another coffee or two, and use this short break to rest the body.The base weight of my full camping/hiking/flying kit is 40 lbs. When I left TrailTown yesterday I stepped on the scale with all the food and one day of water in the pack- ouch, 73 lbs!
 
I guess I’ll compromise and chill for another hour or two, but then it’s back on the trail. I think is only another 150 miles to the Boomer Ridge, which is the southern tip of the higher Sierra. Technically the Sierra starts at highway 58 at Tehachapi Pass in another 50 miles or so, but these peaks are similar to the lower desert-peaks that I’ve already been crossing.Ok, another coffee now. And some hip hop blasted at full volume. And some partying in the tent! Not too bad of a morning…

 

April 28

Still windy out here, still hiking…

 

 

April 29

Yesterday I hiked 26 miles over beautiful peaks, today might be similar: too windy to make progress by air. Amazing scenery out here!
April 30

I am more or less at the foot of the Sierra currently and weather is actually looking better. I write this now with high hopes from the top of a peak.Ever since leaving Frazier Park, I have not been able to find or buy any more food. I’m running low now, but still have rations for a few days. I’ll stretch it out as long as I can, as I’m not sure where I will be able to resupply next. With a few good flying days, I’ll have some options.
From Greg-
Greg Didriksen
May 1

Owens forecast is looking stellar for tomorrow, looking forward to flying in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Koosje Pino Mitch Neary Scott Vincikhope yall are excited as I am! Maybe we’ll even get to escort Dave Turner on a slice of his epic journey. — at Owens Valley.
Launching from close to Wiley’s Knob-
Looking north along the flight plan, psyched to be in the air-
Flying the lower desert spines out front, too windy up top to penetrate north with the strong headwind-
Looking down on the PCT-
May 1

Just had an excellent, extremely head-windy flight from the desert peaks to- get this: THE SIERRA! Game on! I needed this flight bad.
May 2

Looks like it could turn out to be a very nice day up here!-
Photo: Looks like it could turn out to be a very nice day up here!-
Boosting up from the Walker Pass area, southern tip of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Looking north-
Heading for Kennedy Meadows-
Sports action-
And a small cravat-
Spiraling down to re-supply and pig out at the Kennedy Meadows Store-
May 2

Nice flight! I launched from Walker Pass this morning, and flew up the Sierra towards Mt Whitney. I was making great progress at first, but a fierce west wind was trying to put a halt to the flying. I was getting pushed into the Owens Valley to the east, which was not where I wanted to land. Hot, dry, and flat trail would have greeted me in the Owens.I kept pushing north until it got too strong, then I started looking for top landing or western LZ’s. I actually ended up gliding through the headwind, and back some, to land right in Kennedy meadows for a re supply and burger.The wind is already howling through the trees as I write this, glad to be on the ground. I wanted to push further north, but strategy is as important as long flights. I actually hiked down from my summit this morning to a safer launch, gotta make good decisions while out here alone and going for it.Now I’m at the store, getting more food and fishing gear. I needed to get more food, this is a great spot for that. They even fired up the grill when I arrived! Looks like the weather is questionable for the next few days, so if I can’t launch while I hike, I’ll be at Walt’s Point in two or three days.Game on!
The Kennedy Meadows LZ-
High camp-
Just after top landing-
Another nice bivy site-
Yes, I’ll take three please-

 

May 5

The Sierra Wave(the mega lenticular cloud street) is forming up above me now, big time. The Sierra is letting me know that she’s mad!

 

May 5

Walt’s Point!But it’s not flyable right now 
I’m either gonna wait here, or make my way to Lone Pine to wait it out for better flying conditions. Now that I’m in the High Sierra, it’s not logical or efficient to keep hiking big sections. You could spend 10-14 days hiking to Mt Tom from here, or just 3 hours flying time from your magic backpack.

Uh, yeah. I think I’ll wait for the weather to get flyable.

 

 

May 8

It’s coming in nice and straight here at launch this morning. Hoping for a good day of flying from Walt’s Point, heading north.I’ve had two great rest days, psyched to get back in the air and make progress.

 

 

May 8

Not even 8:30 yet, and the cumulus clouds are a poppin’!
Photo: Not even 8:30 yet, and the cumulus clouds are a poppin'!

 

May 8

Fully loaded, ready to fly!Kind of funky conditions up here- nice cycles coming up (always) but looks like strong westerlies up high. The clouds are popping all over but are fairly low over the Sierra now. Base is much higher over the Inyos right now, hopefully it gets higher and flatter over on this side as well.Only one raven has come through, which is weird, but the little bugger got boosted way up as he flew over the house thermal! So it’s starting to turn on, time to suit up.
Photo: Fully loaded, ready to fly! </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Kind of funky conditions up here- nice cycles coming up (always) but looks like strong westerlies up high. The clouds are popping all over but are fairly low over the Sierra now. Base is much higher over the Inyos right now, hopefully it gets higher and flatter over on this side as well. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Only one raven has come through, which is weird, but the little bugger got boosted way up as he flew over the house thermal! So it's starting to turn on, time to suit up.
Time to go, get that LM5 in the air!!-
Pushing north, looking at the first of the 14,000 foot peaks-

 

Lone Pine Peak, with Whitney in the back right-

 

At over 14,500 feet, Mt Whitney is the highest peak in the range. And I’m well below it!-

 

Scary looking clouds above Williamson and Tyndall, indicating high winds aloft-

 

 

Starting to cloud in and snow-

 

At least it is coming down as light snow and not rain. But somehow there are still big thermals-

 

Almost to Mammoth Lakes, getting low as I pass McGee-

 

May 8

Hell yes! I just cranked out a 90 mile flight from Walt’s Point all the way to the Manmoth Lakes area, landing behind the Green Church hot springs!
It was one of my most difficult flights to date- big headwind, nasty strong thermals, snow storms, OD’ing clouds filling 90% of the sky, and only a Sonic vario. Dang, I needed that!I’ll be hanging with friends in Mammoth this evening most likely, unless I decide to walk back to the McGee launch. The LM5 absolutely kicks ass! The R11 would of been a handful in these conditions.
Photo: Hell yes! I just cranked out a 90 mile flight from Walt's Point all the way to the Manmoth Lakes area, landing behind the Green Church hot springs!<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
It was one of my most difficult flights to date- big headwind, nasty strong thermals, snow storms, OD'ing clouds filling 90% of the sky, and only a Sonic vario. Dang, I needed that!</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>I'll be hanging with friends in Mammoth this evening most likely, unless I decide to walk back to the McGee launch. The LM5 absolutely kicks ass! The R11 would of been a handful in these conditions.

 

May 8

Sweet cloud flying today, here’s what the LZ looked like after flying Walts to Green Church (90 miles)
 

 

 

If any Mammoth Lakes friends would like to meet up for coffee, I’m headed to the Looney Bean in about an hour.Good to be back!
Photo: If any Mammoth Lakes friends would like to meet up for coffee, I'm headed to the Looney Bean in about an hour. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Good to be back!

 

I noticed on my LM5 glider when it arrived that it didn’t have any ‘Badger Bars’ or rear riser hand loops for flying on speed bar. So yesterday Preston and I tinkered on it, and came up with these. Only cost me about 90 cents to make, not bad!This will give me better control and performance while on bar.
Photo: I noticed on my LM5 glider when it arrived that it didn't have any 'Badger Bars' or rear riser hand loops for flying on speed bar. So yesterday Preston  and I tinkered on it, and came up with these. Only cost me about 90 cents to make, not bad!</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>This will give me better control and performance while on bar.

 

 

Now it’s all smiles and resting for another two days- the weather has crapped out yet again. No worries, it’s looking better on Monday. I’m planning on hiking up to Minaret Vista and finding somewhere to launch once it’s good again. Man I love it out here….

 

-Dave

May 10th

 

 

(Click here for the trip’s home page, w/ all updates, description, & pics)