Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
August 31, 1998

With hurricane Bonnie now a nor'easter and Danielle following not far behind, the doldrums seem to have abated a little here in our corner of the southern Appalachians. Fall is less than three weeks away and shaping up dry, promising cracking thermals to cloudbase. It'll be a healthy season if last week's return of vertical air movement is any indication.

Wednesday was forecast north so I was packing for the mountain when Steve Lee called from Powell's Crossroads. He reported encountering excellent lift to above 2500 over right up to his last thermal. Judging from the consistency, he was pretty sure Lookout would be an easy ride. Unfortunately, his last glide encountered the ground before the next thermal. Todd Guiton fared better, making the end of the valley and crossing the plateau to land at the Lookout Mountain Flight Park LZ near Trenton, Georgia. After retrieving Steve, we ran into Judy Hildebrand and Rick Gattone at Powell's Crossroads. One of them made it at least that far, but I was headed for the hill and didn't carefully attend their adrenal ravings.

Sunset was approaching by the time I launched. I knew all the good stuff was probably gone but anticipated a mellow wonder wind flight. The first indication to the contrary came as I cleared my wire crew and spun almost 90 degrees right while ascending vertically. It was really too quick to be scary and the air did seem mostly smooth after that, but every once in a while I'd get turned 90 degrees unexpectedly or go over the falls (encounter rapidly descending air) or both. This treatment intensified until, after an hour, I went out to land. Descent to the LZ was quick in heavy sink all the way through the turn onto final. My sink alarm quit singing at about 50 feet off the deck, the ground began approaching at something like a normal rate, and I had a decent landing all alone in the big flat bottom. Steve and Kathy saved me with delivery of my van.

I've heard Thursday and Friday were good but still not details so maybe next week. On Saturday Kathy Lee, Allie Dodgen, and Dennis Felts took advantage of a genuine sweet wonder wind to boat around a few hundred feet over the trees just before sunset. Sunday was good for some as Ben DeGaris, Jeff Dodgen, and Greg Wojnowski got to cloudbase (at last report).

The forecast calls for N winds Wednesday with a temp differential in the high 20s. Low in the upper 50s, high in the mid 80s. Similar conditions Thursday, perhaps backing to W or S. A stalled front brings rain by Friday and Saturday with lows in the mid 60s and highs in the mid 80s. If it's pushed out soon enough we could have northerly winds behind it Sunday. See you in the sky!