First 200km flight from the Mississippi River bottoms
Classic spring day with cumulus clouds forming by 9am. Low 60's on the ground with temps at cloudbase forecast for the 20's. I was expecting cirrus to shade out the area by 2pm so I setup with not much expectations for the day.
Launch was a little tricky with a crosswind from the WNW. Forward inflating during the lulls worked out best. Strong lift up to 8m/s on tow below 1000' but then a long stretch of dead air until 2500' release. Turned to a nearby cloud and had the first climb out.
Cleared the forested area over the bluff on the first glide then just picked my way across the farm lands, using clouds when I was high and targeting specific fields and tree lines as I got below 2000'. Top of lift was over 6000' so even as some glides were sinky, there was a lot of time to check out different clouds and different lines downwind. Winds even at cloudbase were only 12-14mph the whole day.
Each time I got low, there was a climb waiting to take me back up so it never got particularly nerve-wracking. In part because my expectations were low, I was happy to take any climb and would have been satisfied at landing out at any point.
Clocking past 100km with plenty of daylight left, I set my sights on 160km, trying to bag my first 100mi flight.
A couple of long glides got me there with no drama. I was more focused on trying to get warm descending on transitions, but there was really not much to think about. The clouds seemed to be forming slower than usual and staying intact longer, so not a lot of prediction and anticipation needed. The climbs I found low tended to not have clouds associated with them yet, so it was really just reading ground triggers, staying over dark fields, rock quarries and downwind tree lines.
After the 100mi mark, I set a nice round number goal at 200km just to have something to look forward to. The climb at 5pm was still strong, 2.5-3m/s, because I had stayed out ahead of the cirrus.
During my last climb I noticed that the cumulus clouds were beginning to clear out in my wake, the western sun was finally catching the high cirrus and shading out the ground.
I saw a river ahead but I had a bridge in sight so I knew retrieve would not be more complicated if I crossed it (at least, not any more complicated than the 100mi drive already entailed.) I spotted an intersection with a gas station and headed for an adjacent field. I didn't know how long I'd be waiting for retrieve so I figured I might as well have a place to lay up.
Turns out, by the time I was packed and walking onto the parking lot, Derek was pulling up to ferry me home.
I think there was a lot more potential left in the day, I didn't take the most efficient route and given the lift strength on tow, we probably could have started the day even earlier. I spent time in some weaker lift even tho both the beginning and the end of the day showed stronger cores were out there. For my current flying level, staying up is still the name of the game. Always room for improvement!
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We are a group of paragliding pilots based in the St. Louis area.