by Bob Reiter
been flying hang gliders since 1982 and one of my favorite sites has been the Pacific Valley area of Big Sur,
about 60 miles south of Carmel above Highway One. My first flight there in a paraglider
came in the fall of 1998 and I was just as thrilled as on my first hang gliding flight
there 15 years earlier.
was from the top of the Wild Cattle ridge. It's a clear flat area with a good slope aiming
between an opening in the trees. The light winds necessitated a forward launch. I'm a
Novice rated paraglider pilot and don't have a lot of thermalling experience in my PG, but
the conditions were mellow and the launch went off without a hitch. I easily cleared the
trees on each side and flew left to the saddle of the ridge where my hang gliding
experience told me I had the best chance of finding lift. Sure enough, my vario started
beeping and I could feel a slight tug on my canopy.
Banking into the turn, I learned how much easier it is to work
light lift in a paraglider. With one or two turns I was back to launch level, then
slightly higher. While that was hardly an accomplishment I'd even mention in my hang
gliding log book, it gave me a thrill to do it for the first time under a canopy.
The lift didn't last long and soon I was flying out the mile or
so of ridge before it drops off steeply to the coast. Most of the flight was only a couple
of hundred feet above the ridge top, so the wonderful view was an intimate one of oaks and
deer trails and valleys to both sides. I had been nervous about the lower glide ratio of
my paraglider, but it soon became obvious that this was not a problem and I could just
concentrate on flying and watching the spectacular scenery unfold below me. There's no
other way to experience this kind of look at the world, a hundred feet over the tree tops,
silently soaking it all in!
At the face of the front ridge, the open fields I would be
landing in gave way to the awesome and rugged Big Sur coastline. I had plenty of altitude
and cruised out towards the beach, watching the waves break on the rocky shore. Aqua water
dotted with kelp and the occasional seal swirled clearly over the sandy bottom before
sliding up the sloping beaches. I was alone in my bird's eye view of all this on a sunny
and warm morning.
But there was no lift out here, so I banked into a turn and flew
across the field to find the wind streamer along the fence. Flying into the light breeze,
my paraglider settled gently down. I stepped back to earth and dropped the canopy behind
I think I want to do this again...