Well, the 2004 Owens trip is over. It was a great week, here is a synopsis:
We finally got enough nerve to camp at the "bear campsite" in Sonora Pass. It always looked like a great site, but we had been deterred by all of the territorial bear claw markings on the trees 10 feet up. The night passed without incident, so we marked the site in our own way.
We arrived in Bishop on Saturday with "Wrath of God" skies, so we didn't even try to go up to launch. The Fresno boys were just leaving, they said it had been a good week. George arrived bleary eyed midday, and we did a movie and dinner.
We got up early on Sunday and drove to Horseshoe to try to get some flying in before it OD'ed. Dave and I launched, but as soon as we got around Wanoga, it was clear we weren't going to get too far. Cloud base was under 12,000', and the Sierras were already in full shadow to the North. Dave hit hail, headed for the valley, and landed in a nice flat field near Lone Pine. I landed up on the fan near Whitney Portal and Horseshoe Roads. With the day still young, Dave took us on a geology tour south of Lone Pine. Fossil Falls south of Olancha was great. It used to be a waterfall over a lava bed before LA stole the water. Now you can climb down through a fantastic wonderland of sculpted lava that the water carved. We found lots of obsidian flakes from ancient arrowhead making, and Dave even found several arrowheads that had failed the quality control department. Mark hurt his foot on a 9' jump we had to make, it knocked him out of flying for a couple days. Don rolled in Sunday night.
Sorry, I brought the camera, so no pix until Monday. Click on each of the pix on this page for more. - don
With the OD threat continuing, we went to Horseshoe again on Monday, but it was blowing down. Dave continued his geology tour, this time behind Mazourka. He rediscovered "Gold Hill", an area covered with intriguing gold rocks that glistened in the sun. We continued on the serious 4WD road to Squaw Valley, a fantastic flat valley with numerous stone spire soaring up from its floor.
We went to Piute on Tuesday. Don, George, Dave, and I launched into a promising day. The thermals were big and smooth, with 17,000' feet easy to get. George discovered his bad arm was nearly useless, but proceeded to learn to thermal with one arm, and got all of the way to Janies. I got to White just above the peak, and peeked in the windows of the bunker on top before climbing high above it. Don, Dave and I left Boundary above 16,000' and headed for Mina. Nevada sucked. Dave took a Westerly route and was sweating going down in dinosaur country. None of us hit much lift, and we all hit a wall of wind halfway to Mina. Dave landed out near the dry lake bed. Don landed East of the big black cinder cone. I was getting low as well.
I checked my drift by doing several 360's and set up to land on the same dirt road Dave was on. Just as I was about to start my landing pattern below 300', I heard an ominous sound. Loud. Close. I looked over my shoulder to see an F-18 right at my altitude, just a few hundred feet away, doing maybe 300 knots, headed my way. I could see that he would miss me, so I scanned the sky for the second one. They're always in pairs, either flying in formation or dog fighting. Couldn't see it. I was worried about his wake, but didn't know what else to do but continue my planned pattern. Too late to throw smoke. As I neared the ground on final, it was turbulent, and I could tell I was seriously downwind. The ground was screaming by. I tried to flare, too late, then went to the fetal position. The world was suddenly violent chaos. When it stopped, the glider was upside down with me partially on top of it. The basetube apparently caught on some sage brush and flipped the glider.
With some effort, I got unhooked, and assessed the situation. Sore left shoulder and neck, left elbow puncture wound, broken left downtube, glider looked OK. Damn, shot down by an F-18 hotdog!
Dave and Don had bum knees coming in. George, a bum arm. Mark had a bum foot from the Fossil Falls jump. I now had a bum shoulder. I guess we were just a bunch of bums.
We went to Piute on Wednesday. George and I were driving, being more bum than the rest. Mark discovered he was missing his nose cone. So we had 2 trucks and 3 drivers chasing 2 pilots. Don got to Basalt at 17,999+ feet, but it didn't look good either North or East. So he re-crossed Montgomery Pass and landed at Janies. We all went to Hot Creek near Mammoth for a good soak, and bid adieu to George.
We went to Horseshoe again Thursday, Susan and I drove. Dave, Don and Mark flew. It was one of the best Horsehoe days I've seen, it had good launch wind at 9:00. Dave launched at 11:00, got up immediately and blasted North on the Sierra, with Don in hot pursuit. Dave and Don both started their valley crossing one and a half hours after launching. Mark landed, we picked him up and raced to catch up. Don fought all the way to the ground at Black and landed on its shoulder above Big Ears. Dave got back up and continued North. We threw Don some Gatorade, and left him in the desert. (We dropped Susan in Bishop to get a truck to retrieve him.) Dave was already approaching Boundary, so we screamed up 6 trying to catch up before he made his Nevada decision. With his fast pace, he and I were both thinking 200 mile day. But Nevada was OD'ed and had a Northeast headwind, so he had to come back from Montgomery Pass and land at Janies for another 103 miler.
On Friday morning we were having coffee at Schats, and heard a plane. We looked up to see a Titan Tornado headed for Bishop airport. We drove to the airport in time to see Duane land. He'd come directly over the Sierras from his airstrip a mere 60 miles away.
We went to Piute, but there was an East wind blowing the cummies in front of the mountains, and Nevada looked ODed again. Didn’t look like much fun. So we went exploring again. We went 100 yards into a couple of mines, and found blue rocks that we think was silver ore. Then a swim in the Owens River, dinner, and a movie instead of bad food in Nevada.
On Saturday morning, we watched Duane take off, then did some plinking with Dave’s arsenal. Time to go home. Many thanks to Dave for the use of his truck, and being tour guide.
What a week!