Lindsay Matush: Today was another day of learning how to fly the Meramec Valley, and proving that it can deliver! The valley still shows signs of intensive floods, and for most of my flight I was trying to dodge the flooded patches of earth. The Mississippi was swollen, and the winds kept wanting to push me over the river, but I had no interest in crossing the flooded Mississippi and causing a lengthy retrieve. The winds never got higher than 3 – 5 mph, and the lift was unconsolidated and difficult to track. Given conditions, I did not expect much from my flight.
I pinned off in a thermal and took it to 4000’. I spent the great majority of my flight above 4000’, working light lift. I determined I would use the day to practice patience, centering difficult thermals, and work on staying up instead of going distance – I decided to view it as a training flight. I believe there was an inversion around 4000’ – under 4000’ the wind pushed me South, and above 4000’ it pushed me West against the Mississippi.
For the first third of my flight, lift was light but abundant, and difficult to center. I had some light clouds that would form and dissipate quickly. If they formed in front of me and I was lucky enough to be close, I could use them to gain 1000’ or so before they would dissipate. I would drift along and catch light lift, with a goal of being patient and staying high. Given the flooded landscape, and the only option to fly South, I decided to work whatever I could. I would hit climbs of 300fpm to 400fpm but not be able to stay with them for more than 2 or 3 360’s.
As the day progressed I would hit bigger ups and bigger downs, but still incredibly erratic. I had very few clouds in the mid-part of the day– a couple to help me out, and once I even headed back to a rare but consolidated cloud that was actively forming behind me. I hit 900 fpm a few times (above the inversion), but still found the lift difficult to center. Following these few patches of major lift I would hit patches of 700 – 900 fpm down.
Ultimately, I ran out of earth! I flew as far South as the valley would allow me, and had to head East across a smaller river that feeds into the Mississippi. The last 1.5 hours of my flight were cloudless and into a slight headwind over slightly higher terrain with spotty LZs. I hopped from patch of unconsolidated lift to patch of unconsolidated lift, trying to stay always in glide of an LZ. The terrain turned slightly hilly and I was able to hop from small thermal to small thermal that triggered off of the hills and pastures between big patches of trees.
I landed in a field and was instantly greeted by a family that used to fly trikes. They were quite excited to help, and extra excited when I plugged in the distance and realized I broke our site and duration record. They called the rest of their family to come meet me, brought me a beer, a plastic bag for my diaper (yep), took pictures to send into the local paper, and drove me over an hour back towards launch. The mom who drove me brought her 4 year old daughter, in order to demonstrate the value of kindness to strangers.
What an amazing day! I learned a lot about flying light lift, reading the clouds, and being patient. And being the recipient of such kindness from strangers is one of the best ways to learn the art of giving kindness in return.
Max vario 4.6 m/sec
Min vario -4.3 m/sec
Max alt (ASL) 1800 m
Min alt (ASL) 138 m
Takeoff alt (ASL) 146 m
Altitude gain 1654 m
Max speed 53.9 km/h
Mean speed 27.3 km/h
Max Distance 75.0 km (15.2 km/h)
We are a group of paragliding pilots based in the St. Louis area.