Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
July 14, 1997

The summer's been generous so far. Often by this time fronts aren't quite making it past us and NW days are rare. Since the end of the monsoons, however, we've had regular frontal passages and westerly to northerly days, if a little on the light side.

The Lee Team showed the right stuff in the light stuff on three soarable days this week. On Thursday Steve and Kathy launched early enough to get the best part of the day and headed south down the valley. Curly Dunn also got high but turned upwind toward Pikeville. Max altitude gains were reported around 3000 over. Kathy headed out front over Suck Creek to find another thermal and landed near Powell's Crossroads instead. Steve continued to the river where he turned downwind over the back, flying over the Raccoon Mountain pumped storage facility. Once in the Lookout valley he reported getting low over the DNL kidney bean field just north of Lookout's LZ, but a low save got him out and drifted him toward Covenant College. Finally getting cloudbase again over Lookout Mountain Flight Park, he flew with Matt Wagner and other pilots who had launched there before continuing downwind over the back to LaFayette, Georgia. Great XC's Steve and Kathy, especially considering the deteriorating conditions. Curly did an out and return. Nick Berry, John Lawton, Fred Pearson, Kenny Sandifer, Ned Stelzel, and I launched by midafternoon to find reliable ridge lift but max altitude gains below a grand over.

Saturday looked stable with a very light westerly breeze. Steve demonstrated the patience so important at this time of year and perched on the ramp until he saw a bird going up out front and to the left. He jumped into its thermal and turned up close to the ridge to scratch out early. I launched right under him behind Nick Berry and Kathy came off behind me. I floundered in the light lift and zero sink just right of launch while she maintained and climbed slowly. With insufficient patience or skill to work this breath, I turned to the hot LZ which offered an excellent view of Steve and Kathy climbing out to cloudbase. Everybody else went more or less directly to the field.

Watching Steve's launch Sunday, it looked like a repeat of Saturday. He saw the bird, caught the thermal, and started climbing out in pretty much the same place. Kathy launched and quickly marked a thermal for Curly, who joined it above her. They both drifted into the gap, hanging tenaciously with the precious lift, sometimes climbing, sometimes maintaining. Curly eventually climbed above launch, where things got easier as the lift became stronger and wider. Kathy continued to work persistently, reporting dissipation of lift as she reached launch altitude. A sink cycle in the gap eventually sent her to the LZ, but not before she managed to scratch almost an hour out of squeaky little thermals. John Lawton launched later and flew to the same spot to find Kathy's thermal rebuilding. He marked it for Steve, who was able to join it above him. They both climbed out to cloudbase at around 4200 over near Art Matthew's sailplane port near Whitwell. With the light SW wind they were able to make it back to launch with enough altitude to fly by the ramp.

The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms through Friday. An approaching front early in the week will come to a crawl before reaching us, bringing westerly winds beginning Tuesday and perhaps through Wednesday. Expect veering northerly breezes if the front passes Thursday or Friday. Expect the doldrums if it doesn't. See you in the sky!