Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
April 23, 1998

Prima Vera! The almost neon glow of the "first green" in the trees marks the welcome return of an important thermal and wind indicator for the aerial minded. It also dresses the valley in some of its best, the first ensemble in an incredible wardrobe. Of course, the leaves also shade the rocks, inhibiting their heating and dampening thermal development. This is the sweet time when there are enough leaves to indicate thermals, too few to shade the rocks, and the sun's high enough in the sky to cook up a crackin' spring day.

Pilots found such conditions at Henson's last Saturday before Easter. Steve Lee reported a 10 mph north wind at launch and perhaps 20 or better higher with a max altitude gain of around 3000 over. Much of the flying was drifting the lift to Cordell's then pressing back upwind to launch after topping out. At times it was a hard press. Imagine their amazement when, upon landing, they encountered Mike Barber who'd flown upwind all the way from Lookout Mountain Flight Park near Trenton, Georgia. He recounted to Steve the tale of a low save in the river gorge. At one point he was thermalling so low over the plateau that he could only bail into the gorge on one side of his turns. Steve, Kathy, and John Lawton drove him home. Buzz Chalmers reported max altitude gains of 6000 over at Lookout. Apparently, several of them were high over Sand Mountain looking over into the Sequatchie Valley, but only Mike went for it. Henry Maciesowicz reported the day ended with a sunset wonder wind.

Easter Sunday was southeast so everybody went to Whitwell. Steve flew from Whitwell to Henson's then crossed the valley to Cagle Mountain where he found John, Kathy, and Mike. When Mike turned back for Whitwell Steve followed, but they both landed just south of Dunlap. It worked out well, as Steve had parked a vehicle there before going to Whitwell. Max altitude gain was around 4600 over. Henry Maciesowicz reported the best open distance at 32 miles to just south of Pikeville.

On Tuesday Henry took a sled run at Henson's before returning to New York. Kathy Lee soared a cool northwest wind Friday in periodic light rain. Monday afternoon (this past) was northerly and beautiful. Somebody from Atlanta flew early and got 600 over for a couple of hours. Kathy Lee flew later in the afternoon but still early enough to get to 800 over for an hour and a half. I got to the ramp as it crossed out, launched into strong sink, found light lift to forestall the inevitable, and was eventually chased to the field in 500 down. Ah, spring!

The forecast calls for a good chance of rain Wednesday. Low in the 40s. High in the mid 50s. Clearing Thursday and northerly with scattered cumulus. Low in the 40s. High in the 60s. North to east Friday. Best temp spread approaching 30 degrees with a low in the mid 40s and a high in the mid 70s. See you in the sky.