Chris Lee: With lousy weather forecast locally during the Memorial Day long weekend, six of us took a trip to visit the Tennessee Tree Toppers and their new launch at Henson's Gap. Richard McDermott, James Hayes, Derek Bartlem, Chris Lee, Reddy Gadipally and Grace Stansbery (with Francis) made the drive over on Friday.
Winds were cross from the southwest most of the weekend, but paragliders still managed to fly each day. Saturday I managed to get out in a thermal forming of the primary LZ. Long slow climb to get above the ridge, finally got to cloudbase after 40min. Wandered around with the clouds for a little bit before losing touch and getting flushed. Picked up some neutral buoyancy around 1000' AGL and this carried me up the valley, jumping from sunlit field to sunlit field. Landed just short of Pikeville.
On Sunday afternoon, five of us flew together in a mix of thermal and slope lift all the way until sunset (Ayvri animation above.) Derek's flight was good for a new personal best in duration, 1:25hrs. First time he was able to get above launch and see over the back side of the hill he launched from.
Monday afternoon I had another flight that was shaping up to be a sled ride but I caught a thermal low over the north end of the LZ. I was about to turn on final approach when I picked up a little buoyancy and took a turn. The streamers on the field started pulling toward one corner and I could see the tractor mowing the field directly below me, so I kept turning. The thermal consolidated and got me out for an hour long flight.
The locals didn't think much of the conditions and mostly stayed home that weekend, but for us flatlanders, the joy of running off a mountain and into the air was worth it.
We are a group of paragliding pilots based in the St. Louis area.