"The ranch" is a private flight park near Cashmere, WA. Our instructor in Santa Barbara had talked about how nice it was and we were in the area so we thought we'd check it out. Aerial Paragliding runs the school there and it turns out that the ranch is mostly used by students. It's possible to get some longer flights from here if the conditions are good, but there are other bigger flying sites nearby.
In addition to the flying we really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the place. There are lots of deer around, wild turkeys came to visit, a coyote wandered past, and a skunk crossed the road (we didn't ask why). The road up to the ranch is a little tricky in a low clearance car like our Prius but passable.
The first day the wind was wrong for flying so we went down to the park in Cashmere and did some kiting. I'll be the first to admit I need the practice, but it's still a little frustrating to come all this way to do something we could do at home!
Thankfully the wind was better the next day and we got in 7 flights. Most of the flights were from "Don's" launch which is about 800 ft vertically above the landing zone. A "sled ride" is about 4 minutes long. If the wind is right you can do some ridge soaring and I managed to stay up for quite a bit longer on one flight. It was a good place to practice flying closer to the terrain since the slopes are smooth and grassy. The landing zone was large, which is a good thing since I'm still inconsistent on landing at a specific place - sometimes right on target, other times way down the field.
We hadn't signed up for any specific instruction but Doug and Denise gave us lots of helpful tips and we got to eavesdrop on the lessons to the students, at varying levels of experience from first day to almost certified. It's always fun to see the excitement of people getting their first flights.
Our last day we got in 8 flights, including one from a higher hike up launch (Tibbets). There was almost no wind first thing so the first few launches were forwards. After that it picked up enough to do reverse launches. But the best part (for me) was 8 flights = 8 decent launches. Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming they were perfect, but they were relatively smooth and straight with no obvious screw ups. (And no aborted attempts.) Conditions were relatively mild, but that didn't stop some of the other students from having problems. After my screw ups at Jackson I was a bit bummed out, so it was nice to end the trip on a much more positive note.
One of the low wind forward launches. Thanks to Shelley for the video.