Monday, May 17, 2010
Soaring With Eagles
I slept in longer, eventually wandering down to the main building with the laptop to get online. The rooms didn't have wi-fi, but the main building did, which is where I killed time until Amanda was done with her pedicure. I saw several hikers, including Big-e, who I talked with long enough to mention that Amanda and I intended to take a little glider ride. He seemed fascinated with the idea and said that he'd keep an eye open for us, but he was getting back on the trail and headed out of town. The trail passes very close to the airport, though, and he figured he'd be near the location at our scheduled departure time.
Amanda finally arrived, with sparkling nail polish on her toes, though admittedly, that was the only difference I noticed with these untrained eyes. We loaded up and drove the mile or two out of town to the airport.
Ryan called for the tow plane to come by, which it did after a couple of minutes. I pulled a knob so he could get the tow rope attached to our glider, then he jumped into the front seat, closed the canopy, signaled to the tow plane, and we were moving down the runway!
Our plane lifted up from the runway even before the tow plane left the ground, giving us a sort of bird's eye view of the plane that was towing us the entire time. As soon as the plane started moving, a vent pushed fresh air towards Amanda and myself, a much needed cool breeze. And almost immediately, I had a problem. I was feeling motion sickness. "It's only a 30 minute ride," I thought to myself. "Buck up!"
Amanda, sensing my discomfort, asked if I was doing okay, and I mentioned about the motioned sickness, and Ryan practically threw a barf bag back to us. Oh, good, there is one. Yeah, I better have one ready. I opened it up, and almost immediately hurled into it. It was like a Pavlovian response. As soon as my head knew it had a safe place to hurl, it just had to go.
Ryan asked if I was okay, and nodded affirmative. It's not a party unless someone throw up, right?
"No, I'll be fine." I paid $200 for the two of us, and I was not going to land early because of a little motion sickness, damn it.
Amanda seemed to think the same thing. "He's fine! Keep going!"
At 4,000 feet, Ryan pulled a knob to release us for the tow plane. We were gliding! A thousand feet up in the air, in a plane without a motor! Quite literally, we would know fall to earth.
We could see the Pacific Crest Trail stretch into the distance--it's amazing how visible the trail was despite our height above it, but I didn't see any hikers. See the PCT wandering through the meadow?
Ryan tossed back another air sickness bag, just in case, but warned that it was the last one he had.
I remembered an incident when I got motion sickness on a bus in Central America with Amanda, and I threw up, and the smell had started making Amanda gag, so then I started worrying about the smell. Having two of us throwing up wouldn't do anyone any good! Amanda started opening up the second bag, but I waved her off. Let's leave that one in reserve. If she started gagging, she should have her own bag. =)
I threw up some more--my God! I had no idea so much food was in my stomach! It seemed like a bit missed the bag, though, and I had a pretty good mess going. I nudged Amanda for the second bag, which she opened and I stuffed the entire first bag into it, then just hold the second bag up to my mouth the rest of the flight. I didn't feel like I was about to throw up again, but heaven forbid if it came on suddenly, the bag was already in place.
Additionally, I could feel some of the vomit was now mixed up in my newly sprouting beard. Keeping the bag over it would help contain any odors. =) Ryan asked again if I was okay, and I nodded. "Keep going!" I shouted into the bag.
We were able to see the Palomar Observatory off in the distance as well, a place we wouldn't be visiting on this trip. Maybe next time.....
After about ten minutes, the glider hadn't lost any altitude at all. The thermals kept pushing us up, helping to maintain our elevation, and the plane soared over the ridge of a mountain--the kind of shot you only see in movies. The top of the ridge passed under us, remarkably close, but pulling over the ridge opened up a view that stretched a hundred miles. Wow!
We glided and soared, as Ryan pointed out features on the horizon and gave us a tour of the air. After our 30 minutes was up, he glided the plane into a steep decline--much steeper than I'm used to seeing on airplanes (apparently, you have to really force these planes to go down--they'll stay up practically forever otherwise, unlike normal planes). Then he banked toward the runway, and we landed safe and sound, stopping nearly on the exact point where we started. Remarkable.
We saw Big-e by the terminal. It's not really a terminal--more like a dilapidated building that looks like it might be used for storage, but that's where the airport operations are run from, and he was taking pictures of us as we landed and started getting out of the plane.
Ryan opened the canopy and jumped out first, then Amanda quickly followed. I said seated for a minute or two, trying to regain my stomach, and Ryan was kind enough to take the vomit bag from me as I unbuckled and exited the craft. Amanda told me that I had vomit in my beard.
"Yeah, I know. Thanks." She gave me some wipes to help clean up, but I made my way to the restroom to do a much better job of it.
Big-e thought the whole thing was so friggin' cool that he signed up for his own soaring adventure, so Amanda and I took seats on the deck and watched them take off and soar around the skies until they landed a half hour later. Big-e seemed positively radiant about the experience while getting out of the plane. We didn't get very good pictures of his exit, however, since his glider was way off at the far end of the runway. By the time we walked over there, they were already out of the plane and tying it down. We swapped contact information with Big-e so we could trade photos later. He had lot of good pictures of us flying around, while we had pictures (and camera-movies) of him landing and taking off.
We gave Big-e a ride into town to mail a logbook of his flying time. Big-e is actually a pilot, and I guess he gets some sort of official flying credit for this little adventure. I'm not exactly sure I understand all of the details myself, but they gave him a small book with the official log of his trip, and he didn't want to carry it on the trail. (Dead weight, after all.) So we drove him into town to the post office to mail it to himself back him.
Rather than made Big-e walk back to the PCT trailhead again, we drove him back to continue his hike.
The rest of the day we spent at Warner Springs Resort. We washed some clothes--even after cleaning up in the restroom, I still smelled like vomit, and I think some transferred from my hands to the jacket I was holding before I had a chance to clean up. So we washed the vomit-smelling clothes. Amanda took a soak in the hot springs while I showed Elk how to carve stamps. Later we ate dinner at the cantina with several other hikers, including Fozzie, HoJo, and Brittany (who, so far, seems to have ducked the "Spears" trail name).
I showed Brittany my "glovelets" after learning that the back of her hands had suffered severe sunburns during the hike. (One of them is even considered a third degree burn--which is pretty darned serious!) Not sure if she'll decide to try something like that or not, although she has said that she definitely needs to do something about it because it really can't be in the sun at all anymore. It's the nastiest sunburn I've ever seen. (And drats--I didn't even think to try getting a photo of it. Maybe if I see her on the trail later.)
And, this became my first Zero Day on the trail--a day with no official miles hiked. Unless you count sky miles, and I'm not sure how many of those I covered. I did get a peak ahead from the sky, though. =)
Posted by Ryan at 6:53 PM