Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
July 3-6, 1996

Lightning from thunderstorms associated with last week's frontal passage wasn't the only electricity in the air. Dunlap was abuzz with preparations for its famous Fourth of July celebration as hang glider pilots kept an anxious eye on the sky in anticipation of good air behind another summer cold front.

Wednesday looked like a good postfrontal spring day. By mid day the wind was N and strong with a deep blue sky and scattered short cumulus. Katie Dunn launched early and quickly climbed to several hundred over. Tip Rogers turned upwind and crossed the gap without losing much. He was last seen getting high around the corner, but eventually sank out near Buck's Knob. Dale McCartney flew over the ramp to warn us of the turbulence, which was enough to convince the launch lizards to postpone aviation a little longer.

Even after another hour it was a wild ride. John Lawton said "It looked like there was a whole lot of pointing going on." Velocity and rapidly drifting thermals encouraged us to keep our noses into the wind. It was the kind of day I'd ordinarily wait for smoother air around sunset to attempt a landing, but headed out early to attend one of those celebration preparations. Approach was spooky. When the side wires went slack behind the treeline at the top of the hill, I was grateful for the margin for error. Others already in the LZ said they had about all of that fun they could stand. Conditions mellowed predictably later, however, and several pilots enjoyed the late afternoon wonder.

Wind had dropped and veered to NE by Thursday the Fourth. No longer ridge soarable in the cross, ascending buzzards in abundance indicated plentiful lift out front. After the parade and festivities, many pilots enjoyed the convective holiday afternoon. Kathy Lee encouraged continued celebration with her assembly of another great cookout. A spectacular sunset was the overture for the Dunlap fireworks display, which roughly coincided with Kathy's announcement that the ice cream was ready. Perfect day!

Katie Dunn reported that it was blowing in light when she began setting up Friday, but was over the back by the time she launched. Curly Dunn and Rick Jacob had already gone to the field so she was looking for a sign when Dave Wollstein climbed to a couple of hundred over. She missed his lift, however, taking a fast sled run. Saturday was S and light but Curly made a low save over the LZ. He was eventually joined by Matt Wagner and the two of them climbed out to about 5000 over. Curly said he was at cloudbase all over the valley and could have flown all day but wanted to catch a ride.

The forecast calls for a chance of thunderstorms through Tuesday associated with the third frontal passage in as many weeks. NW and strong late Tuesday. Veering to N and lighter with good convection Wednesday. NE Thursday. Chance of thunderstorms Friday.