Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
April 7, 1998

Spring has sprung, the sap has ris'. You know where the flowers is? Take a ride up Henson Gap Road. The redbuds seem to be particularly prolific this year casting a purple haze through the underbrush. Who ever named those things anyway? Even a few dogwoods are starting here and there. They should be right on time for Easter.

Along with the petals and the pollen come pilots from all over to take advantage of spring conditions in The Hang Gliding Capital of the East. Robert Neumayer and Phil Hubert from Maine and Robb Kline from Michigan were among the early migratory manbirds to catch the beautiful day Sunday. I didn't catch a report on their performance, but if they were among the fortunate ones they got a little air. Clear blue skies allowed for heating into the mid 60s and a temp spread in the mid 20s, optimal and indicative of convection. However and as is often the case, high pressure suppressing cloud development for good heating also suppressed convection so lift was sporadic low, generously mixed with strong sink, and capped off at a couple of grand over.

My flight would be best described as a brief struggle. I launched, thermalled, zigged when I should've zagged, and landed. Nevertheless, several pilots showed the right stuff, patiently selected their cycle, worked the lift they found tenaciously, and stayed up a while. Steve Lee reported max altitude gain at around 2100 over. Kathy Lee questioned that estimation reporting 2000 over but he figured it about right as she appeared to be about a hundred feet below him at the top. I won't quote her response but I did take a picture. I don't know how close they were, but recall Kathy expressing concern over their proximity and the danger of a midair. She's not squeamish about curling in tight, so they couldn't have been too far apart. Curly Dunn, John Lawton, Bruce Hawk, Buzz Chalmers, Ned Stelzel, and Todd Guiton also found something and hung on to ride the lift and flush cycles between ridge level and 1000 to 2000 over for between a half hour and two. Jeff Dodgen, Allie Dodgen, Nick Berry, and I enjoyed the view for a few minutes then our own excellent company on a gorgeous afternoon in the LZ.

The forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms ending late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Wind veering W to N and becoming lighter Wednesday. Temp spread around 20 degrees with a low in the mid 50s, high in the mid 70s and scattered cumulus. About the same Thursday with wind becoming southerly. Winds returning to northerly Friday with a low in the mid 40s and a high in the mid 60s. N to NE, clear and beautiful Saturday. Happy Easter!