Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

October 22, 2013

Fly Camping in Central Utah

So I enjoy camping, and I enjoy paragliding, and a very small niche of people have started combining the two into a sport called Fly Camping.   Or “Vol Biv” in French, which sounds a bit more exotic.  In other words, you carry everything you need to camp in your harness, and then after you fly somewhere, you land on a mountaintop, camp for the night, and fly off again the next day.   Finding the right weather for paragliding two or more days in a row is the key…getting stranded on a mountaintop and having to walk down is kinda a buzzkill.

I suppose this could be combined with Hike and Fly, which is where you hike up a mountain to launch your paraglider.  But by adding all the gear for camping, your pack gets rather heavy so you may want to pick a smaller mountain to launch from than normal!  

So I'm getting my gear together to do some Vol Biv, although it is rather late in the season and winter is approaching.   But there are a few chances left this year, and I was just down at the Red Rocks Fly-In for an informal pilot get together.   The weather was warm right when I arrived, so I took an opportunity to do some combined flying and camping right away.  On the first afternoon of the Fly-In, we headed up to Cove Launch southeast of Richfield for an afternoon glass off.   I had my brand new Advance Lightness Pod harness packed with all of my camping gear, namely tarp, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food, stove and flashlight, among other small things.  It was stuffed...but still almost lighter than other harnesses I've flown empty!   

The afternoon wind was strong and we launched quite late.  I soared high above launch and decided that the best place to camp (and the safest for my first try) was launch itself, which had a large area where I could top land, and then perhaps fly with the group again in the morning if they came up for a morning sled ride.   So although it wasn't very purist, I top-landed on Cove while there were still vehicles and a few pilots on launch.   They finally left and I was alone on the mountain, under darkening starry skies and light winds.  It was quite warm and the stars were brighter than anything I'd seen lately.  

My camping kit kept me quite warm for the night, although lacking a tent it did get a little chilly.  So I pulled my wing over me and used the insulation from the fabric to add a few degrees of warmth.   My camp was a little rocky under my thin sleeping mat...I had chosen it in the near dark and preferably I would search a little more in the future!

The next morning was clear and bright and a little windy, but it died off to nothing.  I didn't want to wait all morning for the thermals to start up, so I just took a sled ride down to the landing zone where my car was waiting for me.  Perfect!    I'm heading to Iquique, Chile in a few weeks, and I'm gonna try it again there...at least down in the desert I don't have to worry about getting rained on!

October 4, 2013

Snow Camping Weekend

Another weekend and another camping trip snuck in before winter arrives...maybe.   This time with my nephew Aidan who was excited to get out on his first backpacking journey ever.  We decided to head back up to the Uinta Mountains again, this time to the western side because it was an easy drive from the SLC valley. 

The weather looked clear and calm starting Friday evening through Sunday morning.  There was a weather system coming through Thursday and Friday but it looked like it would clear out on time for us, luckily.   What I wasn’t counting on was the possibility of snow!  

I picked Aidan up from school in the afternoon; we were already packed up and ready to head out.  It was windy and chilly, and flurries started falling on us on the drive up to Park City.  It certainly didn’t look like a good evening to camp but Aidan was still excited and I was counting on the weather forecast coming through for me. 

As we headed up the Mirror Lake highway, the snow kept flurrying and then began accumulating on the ground.   Our trailhead was at 10,000 feet…by the time we drove into the High Line Trailhead, there was 6 inches of white stuff on the ground!?!?!   I had some misgivings about setting off in winter weather but decided my backpacking gear could handle it.  Luckily we were all packed up, and with a quick change of clothes we left the car and headed out into the forest. 

It was already late, so for our first camp we only walked as far as the first lake on the trail, a couple of miles into the falling snow.  It got less and finally stopped as we hiked, and kicking through the fluffy stuff was actually kind of fun.  Getting our feet wet in the straggling mud puddles was not.   Aidan asked me how many times I had gone winter camping…I had to laugh as I said it was my first time ever!  We set up camp with cold fingers and toes, but cooked a hot supper and were warm and dry in the tent playing Yahtzee by full dark.   Well, almost warm…cold feet lasted quite a while into the night. 

We woke up to bright sunshine and a winter wonderland…an amazing view of fluffy snow tucked into every crevice in each tree branch.   And our hiking that day was equally amazing.   Night had frozen the mud puddles, more or less, but under blue skies it didn’t take long to start melting everything.   Snow clumps fell from trees, and by late afternoon the snow had melted from everywhere but under the deepest tree cover.   Aidan and I hiked slowly through the trees, didn’t try to get anywhere, and enjoyed breaking the ice in the mud puddles. 

We set up camp in Naturalist Basin quite early in the day, giving us time to even dry a pair of wet socks and the tent, and play some more dice games.    This time we were able to kick the snow from under the tent and get down to grass, keeping us warmer for the night and more comfortable. 

The tent was frozen again with condensation in the morning, when I rousted Aidan out of bed before the sun came up for an early start.  It was below freezing, the puddles were frozen again, and even after a hot breakfast our feet stayed cold on the hike.  We headed all the way out to the car, making the 7 miles in about 3 hours without much of a break.   Aidan was a trooper, though, and kept his feet moving down the trail.  What a cool first backpacking trip! Thanks for going with me Aidan!

Breaking holes in the ice puddles with our trekking poles!