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Setting up for landing at Ed Levin Park in Milpitas CA

Took a flight off the top at Ed Levin yesterday, it was looking promising earlier in the day by the weather report. Woke up to some strong winds so I was thinking hmmm, must be blowing pretty hard in Milpitas but after a text or two with Eric it seams like the foothills might not be getting the rough and tumble conditions at my house so I loaded up the truck and headed out hoping to get there in time to ride up with Eric, Octavio, and Ray.

I was a bit behind the others so I drove up the hill for the first time since putting new suspension on the front end of the Tacoma. Truck was handling noticeably better on the road up, nice to know I’m prepared now for many more trips up the hill before having to do that again.

Got to the top of the mountain around 10:30 am. The crew was already set up and just putting the last bits of electronics etc on the bars. Octavio was looking excited as usual with his beaming grin. Nice to see these guys on the top getting the full flying experience after spending so much time with them on the training hills 1700 feet below. Ray and Octavio launched first and we were hoping to see some lift but unfortunately conditions were not what we had hoped and they floated up wind and down towards the LZ. Eric launched next on his other Sport 3 and I was expecting to see him at least get a little above launch but soon after running off the hill he too was challenged to get any positive vario statistics. That left me all alone on the top with my glider and my thoughts and the sound of the light winds washing over the dry grass that was getting old waiting for the rains to come back. The golden hills rolled out in front of me as I walked the trail out to the South Launch. I spent some time taking in the surroundings, appreciating what I was about to do and watching the others touch down in the LZ below that was spotted with cattle and the same golden color wash of dry grass.

“Clear!” Two stepper and I’m off, two more seconds and I’m in the bag clearing myself of the terrain below as I drift to the West to look for my first turn.

I have been “Jonesing” for some decent lift and air time on this mountain for a long time so I was ready to turn in anything that was going up and I was not planning on going down easy if at all possible. I was surprised but a few bubbles just south of launch and got a few 360’s in to maintain my altitude for a while when I was so sure I was doomed to sink out in a 6 or 7 minute flight. The voices in my head saying “Welcome to Sled Heaven Park” the name given Ed Levin by many non local pilots because going up is rare at this site. I then switched my thoughts to something Mike Foy had recently said to me when referring to the same title for our local hills.

“If you can fly here and stay up you will sharpen your skills more than if you were flying at a site with great conditions and lift to play in”

With that thought in my head I was determined to milk out as much time and “feel” as much as I could to extend my Sledder.My flight was only a little over 11 minutes but those 5 extra minutes that were added to what could have been a 6 minute flight were some of the most rewarding minutes in the air in quite a while. After just reading some articles about thermaling in the past couple days my mind was ready to apply all the skill I had and some of the new techniques I had read about. The thermals were small and light but I feel like I was getting in the center of what was there with some consistency and flying away at the right time to find something else.

To add to that simple delight I was also presented with the less than common conditions of an LZ that was half full of cattle grazing right where I usually come in on final approach to land. The great thing about having cattle scattered in the LZ is that it forces you to really analyze the situation at hand. How will I set up my DBF? What does the lake look like? What is my best angle to arrive for final? Working the 600 area for lift is a mixture of preparing for landing by looking at my options and scratching for the last of what you can find to get more altitude before you have to surrender to the inevitable call by gravity to come home again. I decided to avoid the biggest useable part of the LZ all together to take most of the cows out of the equation. I wanted to burn some altitude over the green but I was already below the 500′ floor on that airspace. It became easy to see that I could just follow the tops of the Eucalyptus trees to take them out of the equation as obstacles along with the cows. Flying due West I flew the edge of the parking lot and then dove in Northward on my downwind leg. My target just below and to my left as I cranked a left turn with the bar pulled in, looking at the tall grass that was the second edge of my imaginary box I cranked again to complete my truncated base leg and turned on final approach right where I wanted to be. Wind sock straight ahead blowing right back at me, the heard just to my left eating and shitting with no clue I’m coming in. Rounding out to put myself a couple of feet above the edge of the tall grass I’m ready and releasing my energy by letting the bar out gently……Trim…..Flare!

Great landing right where I wanted to be and feeling I’m also right where I should be on this day in general. Life is Good.