Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
March 2, 1998

In like a lamb, out like a lion. The onset of this March has fulfilled the expectation of the first part of the old adage, but not by much. By the afternoon of March 1 temps were already dropping and snow flurries were seen on the mountains by evening. Meteorologists are abuzz with speculations about what will happen with all that arctic air bottled up in the north by the El Nino pattern. Some of the models show disruption of the pattern typical of this season releasing a lot of that cold air. So, just as spring approaches and begins we may actually have a winter.

Late February is often a lot like spring sticking it's head out the door. It rarely ever decides to come on out and start in earnest, but those few days can be some precious relief for cabin fever. Kathy Lee and Phil Proctor took advantage of a beautiful sunny Wednesday to launch at Henson's in a light SE. That's over the back at Henson's, so they had to hang around a bit to get a good launchable cycle. Kathy reported launching around 3:00 and working light leeside lift to a max altitude gain of around 500 over. She said the lift wasn't strong or high, but more general and consistent. With no more than 500 over she was able to fly all the way over to Dunlap and back. She and Phil both got from 45 minutes to an hour.

While they were flying they noticed two other gliders setting up approach on the LZ and were puzzled over their identity as they weren't aware of anyone else even setting up. On landing they found that Mike Barber and Mark Gibson had flown over from Whitwell. They reported a max altitude gain of around 2000 over, but most of the trip was made under 1000 over.

The rest of the week was SW, bringing nice temps and a little precip, but generally pleasant weather. Sunday was beautiful and clearer but still SW, so pilots in The Hang Gliding Capital of the East went to the Southwest Site. I wasn't, so Jeff Laughrey submitted this report:

Southwest launch: West Southwest 7 to 12 mph, 15 to 20 at times. Tip Rogers, Gary Thompson, Phil Proctor, Matt Wagner, Bruce Hawk, Steve Lee, Kathy Lee, and me. Tip launched in a light cycle and scratched low while Gary was launching into a better cycle. Phil, Matt, Bruce followed as Tip was landing. We ridge soared a while getting up in strong drifting thermals to 600 or so over, then racing back to the ridge before getting blown over the back. Steve and Kathy launched as Bruce went out over the LZ. The air was a bit gnarley at times. Much to our surprise Bruce was climbing good out in the valley too. We all got back to launch level or below then 3 or 4 of us hooked one that took us up pretty good. We were then getting 2500 or so above launch. Steve hung on to that one to get to cloud base near Buck's Knob about 8500 feet sea level. Phil was on the South side of the gap about 2500 over and Matt was at cloudbase at 8500 above sea level in the back of the gap. I was getting high and drifting toward Buck's Knob as Steve decided to go North up the valley. I figured he would not make it back to launch so I stayed with the 4000 feet above launch and drifted North also. I stayed above 2000 over and passed Pitts Gap road then hit a blue hole and dived for the big gap half way from Pitts Gap to Pikeville. I was unable to work anything good there so to be conservative, picked a nice field and landed. About that time I heard Steve say he was near the North end of the valley. Susan Beaudoin was chasing me and we both headed up the valley to find Steve.

The wind was turning NW so Tom Prouhet, Greg Wojnowski and Paul Donahue launched from the Henson's Ramp. Tom radioed that Steve had called from Big Lick Grocery on the top of the Plateau about 35 miles from launch. Steve radioed instructions to turn right at Big Lick and as he turned around to look I pulled up. Steve was quite happy to see his ride. The other pilots hung around the Henson's Gap area for good flights as the day grew older. As Susan, Steve, and I arrived back at launch the last of the pilots were landing.

Thanks for the good report, Jeff! The forecast calls for clearing skies Wednesday. Winds swinging southerly in advance of the next system. Good convection likely with a high in the upper 50s and a low in the upper 20s. Chance of rain and even thunderstorms on Thursday. High in the mid 50s, low in the mid to lower 30s. Postfrontal, northerly, and clearing Friday. Temp difference around 20 degrees with a low in the mid 30s and a high in the mid 50s. Continued clear, warmer, with wind backing to southerly Saturday. Chance of precip returns Sunday, some possibly frozen. See you in the sky!