After a week of quite wonderful flying, we escaped down to south east Utah for the weekend to avoid a storm. It was the right move, as now all the mountains are capped with snow.
One of the best things about flying this time has been a growing sense of proficiency. We’ve been awarded our P3 licences – which means we are intermediate pilots, rather than novices. I’m not scared of the glider now – even in strong winds, I’m in control (if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can drag you all over the place as you try to launch). We also had a truly spectacular flight on the north side of the ‘point of the mountain’ (the south side is pictured above). The north side has a lower ridge and an upper ridge. You launch at the lower ridge and if you get high enough you can fly back towards the upper ridge and end up soaring far, far above launch, with views beyond the mountains. There’s nothing quite like soaring along the top of a ridge and seeing the contours of the mountain beneath you – the dusty rock, the autumn colours of the low shrubs. There was a hawk flying alongside us – hovering just in front of Michael’s feet. It was incredible.
The national parks in south east Utah reminded me a bit of some places I’ve seen in Australia – the red rock, the dust, the desert plants – but in other ways they were like nothing else I’ve ever seen. We went to the iconic ‘Arches’ park, which is filled with stone arches, but my favourite was the section of the Canyonlands national park called ‘Island in the Sky’. We kept looking out at the mesas – crumbling rock formations that do look a bit like islands if you think about it, wondering – is that the island in the sky? Is it that one? Is it around the next corner? And then we came to the end of the road and saw this:
As we peered out over the cliff to the mottled, spiky, canyoned lanscape below, we realised – we were on the island in the sky. We had been all along.
Now we’re back in Salt Lake City, and hoping for some more soaring before we head back to Europe and work and thesis and all the rest of it. I want just a little more time on my very own island in the sky, bobbing upwards in the air currents and singing my favourite flying song: up up and away, in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon…