Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
June 14, 1999

Just been too busy flying to write about it. Late spring this year is dry with relatively low wind velocities but good thermal climb rates. These days aren't easy though. The first few hundred feet can be a slow struggle with snaky lift that's difficult to track. Concentration and timing are paramount, as a poorly scheduled launch will likely miss the cycle. Sometimes after laboring to avoid the earth for hours in these conditions, as the sun lowers in the west the valley rewards us with its last exhalation of the day and smooth lift everywhere. It's what we call a wonder wind.

Tom Prouhet found such a breeze to bear him from Henson's to Suck Creek and back on Monday, May 24. It was northerly again Tuesday, 5/25 but Steve Lee reported turbulence early. It wondered again late though and Tom made the trip down the valley again, this time with Kathy Lee. Phil Proctor and Jeff Laughrey joined them enroute in a sailplane. A wonder wind three days in a row is almost unheard of, and we had four. It's often difficult to predict however, and Tom and Mark Furst went about a half hour too early on Thursday, 5/27.

It was finally prefrontal again by Saturday, 5/29 and the SE forecast sent everybody to Whitwell. This time Tom and Mark got up and out and as far as the power lines at Daus. John Lawton landed at George Galloway's strip south of Dunlap and Jeff Laughrey made it to town. Steve Lee finished the flight of the day with a landing just outside the city limits at Crossville. Not far behind him were Kathy, Tom, Curly Dunn, and Dale McCartney at the north end of the valley. Dale claimed second place for the day, landing 100 yards farther north than anybody but Steve. We heard a later report that Terry Presley flew from Lookout Mountain Flight Park near Trenton, GA to Monteagle then north to Pikeville. Curly and Tom were back at Whitwell for more the very next day (Sun., 5/30). Finding enough lift to stay in the game until conditions improved after about an hour, they eventually climbed to cloudbase at around 3000 over. Judy Hildebrand and Lori Allen almost waited through a wonder before setting up and launching on an XC flight to Cartwright.

Thursday, 6/3 was postfrontal and northerly. I launched early for a change and worked light lift climbing very slowly to about 1000 over. From there things were typically stronger and easier. Reaching the top of the lift with Kenny Sandifer over Cordell's at around 3000 over, we could see Steve Lee working and drifting toward the south low. He announced his XC intentions so I pointed down the ridge to follow him. We didn't hit anything but light ridge lift after the 127 gap so Steve kept up the pace down the valley, hoping to get good position near the river and find lift there to go over the back. I abandoned the chase in my slower glider when threatened by an approaching thunderstorm and landed south of Powell's Crossroads. Steve continued to Inman Point north of the airport, flew in the rain, and eventually turned north again to land at the Powell's Crossroads Recreation Center where he enjoyed a snow cone and a ball game. I hitched a ride to Dale McCartney's place and he took us home. Thanks for the retrieve, Dale!

It was obvious Sunday, 6/6 was another great Whitwell day on the way back from church. Waiting to turn left at the traffic light north of town, I saw Steve Lee crossing the gap at Fredonia Mountain. When I reached the house and contacted him on the radio, he informed me he'd be landing shortly near Mount Airy Golf Course. I picked him up there and dropped him with Kathy, who'd landed at Daus. Buzz Chalmers and Terry Presley reported flying almost to Dunlap and back, a real challenge considering this light day on that broken ridge.

Steve and I set up in no wind Monday, 6/7. I launched and found nothing all the way to the field. Steve waited a few minutes and launched into very light ridge lift, maintaining a few inches above the trees for a half hour before it let him down. He worked to hit every molecule of air that was going up and prolonged his ensuing ride to the field considerably. Just when he was almost certainly too low to recover, almost time to do about the third turn before final, he started climbing. He reported a max altitude gain of 2500 over in that thermal. The drift took him to New Hope where he entertained the Parks briefly, watching from their front yard, before landing at Dale's.

Perhaps the very best flight (fun's hard to quantify) was this past Sunday. Again launching at Whitwell, Steve Lee was apparently working the southerly face around the corner when he got hammered. He reported making a beeline for Castle's field when he hit the one that got him out about a 1000 feet above the field. Kathy was also able to find enough altitude to cross Star Gap, and eventually landed at Daus. Jeff Dodgen wanted to hang glide but also wanted to attend a friend's birthday party north of Pikeville, so he flew there. Steve reported eventually climbing to 5200 over at cloudbase and landing about 75 miles away near Crossville, very close to the same place he'd flown in a record breaking flight with Greg Heckman several years ago.

The forecast calls for cooler, dryer air to move into the area behind a front which will become stationary to our south by Wednesday. Winds E to SE with a low in the upper 50s and a high in the mid 70s. The front will back up Thursday returning a chance for rain. Winds S to SW with a low in the upper 50s and a high in the mid 70s. If it pushes out by Friday expect clearing skies and a light NW wind. See you in the sky!