Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.- Omar Khayyam
Alastair Humphrey's microadventures, I had a paraglider microflight the other morning.
It was a whopping 80 feet vertical off a high point along the river bank. (A big hill for the Saskatoon area!) The launch area was good but small - just enough room to lay out your glider between the bushes. We went out early at 7am, just after sunrise, to avoid strong winds (and spectators!). (I'm deliberately not saying where this was since there's no doubt some rule that says it's not allowed! As my father would say, the “stop its” are everywhere.)
It was a new experience to fly unsupervised. And not only at a new site, but a site no one had used before. That's not necessarily a good idea for beginners, but this was a tiny gentle slope with only a few bushes to worry about. In the summer you'd have to worry about possibly ending up in the river, but it's still frozen at the moment. We hung up some flagging tape at the top and bottom to check wind direction. We checked each others harness and glider. We talked through the launch and landing.
It’s similar to climbing with a guide versus on your own. Both involve the same activity, but when you’re on your own, suddenly there are many more things to deal with, decisions that you now have to make yourself, concerns that are now your responsibility. There is no one to correct you if you make a mistake or miss something. Scarier perhaps, but in the end more rewarding.
When you lay out the glider it's hard to believe that tugging on a few of the lines will suddenly turn this large expanse of floppy light fabric into a wing flying strongly overhead. Wonderful magic!
I pulled up the glider and was lucky enough to have it come up straight first time so I could turn and launch. The flight was just long enough to get clear of the slope, make a 90 degree turn, and then land on the ice at the edge of the river. The landing was fast (no head wind) and despite thinking ahead and wearing my Yaktrax I skidded on the ice and ended up on my butt (well padded thanks to the crash pad on the harness). It was still awesome :-)
Shelley had worse luck with the wind and after her glider ended up tangled in the bushes beside the launch she decided it wasn't worth the stress. I'm sure we'll be back and she'll have better luck.
I can't see flying here very much. The hill is too small for much of a flight, and not ideal for a "training hill". But it was definitely fun to do, and a good chance to get out before forgetting everything!