It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane. It’s…

Frequent readers of The Umenum know that I am stoked when Spring hiking begins. This year is no different.

Flying high above Utah Valley

A few miles from house is Squaw Peak Road. It is a windy road that leads up to Squaw Peak Overlook and to a dirt road that goes behind the mountains for miles. The road is closed from November through May, due to snow. A few weeks ago, I drove up the short distance that is open year-round and parked by the gate that prevents driving any farther up the mountain.

It just so happens that a lady from the UT Dept. of Natural Resources was parked there. I asked her about when the road would be opened, and she told me it would be open May 11. I felt that was too late. Well, a couple of days ago, I was hiking on the north side of Provo Canyon and as I was looking south across the canyon, I could see Squaw Peak Road. Lo and behold, I saw a few cars going up the road. So in my estimation, I think the road was opened on May 4.

On Friday, I decided to go up the road. I immediately noticed two things. First, there were already a lot of people as anxious as I was to see the road opened. People were already sneaking to their favorite camping locations. The second thing I noticed was the wildflowers were out on what I call, Wildflower Hill.

I did not stop at the hill because I wanted to drive to the top of the mountain and see if I could get on the dirt road to document a meadow and to hike a trail. Well, I was foiled because the dirt road was closed. However, the paved road to the overlook area was open and I drove to the top.

This is what I saw when I drove up

As I was parking my car, I noticed something super cool. There were two hanggliders in the parking lot. As I was parking and avoiding hitting them, I could see two pilots getting their gear ready with a little help from their families.

I felt like I hit the jackpot!

I have always been fortunate to come across fun and unusual situations while I am on my hiking adventures.

I hopped out of my car, grabbed my gear and reverted back to my old photojournalist days. I began taking pix of the preparation, talking to the pilots, and getting excited about seeing them take off.

One of the pilots was concerned about the direction and strength of the wind because, in his own words, his gear was not as rugged as the other pilot’s. In fact, in the photo below, you can see him looking out over the valley and feeling and seeing the winds.

The other pilot was not debating on whether to fly or not. He methodically went through his pre-flight routine as shown in the photos below.

Moments after the first pilot starting walking his hangglider over to the mountain’s edge, the other pilot decided to fly and made a last minute adjustment and was happy about the decision to fly.

Making final checks and adjustments.

After all the preparations were made, the first pilot was ready for takeoff. He walked his craft to the launch area and with him holding it overhead, he quietly looked out over the valley and paid attention to the winds.

Pilot #1 (left) looks out over the valley and assesses the winds. He did so for about 5 minutes.

After standing quietly at the launch site for about 5 minutes, the first pilot started moving forward and saying, “OK, I’m gonna go,” and off he went.

It was magical and wondrous to see him take a few steps and suddenly be airborne. I totally loved it!

The sequence of photos below show his takeoff. Below the still images is a video that I shot at the same time. I help the cell in one hand and my Nikon in the other. It worked!

As soon as the first pilot was in the air, he turned around and flew right over me. Once the second pilot was up, they explore all over the valley and went out of sight over Provo.

Heading away and over Provo

Once I could no longer see them, I hiked on the west side of the mountain toward Buffalo Peak. Before I arrive, my acrophobia kicked in on a particularly steep area and I had to turn around and head back to the car. Funny, not funny.

While I was a bit disappointed about the hike, I was excited to drive back down and photograph Wildflower Hill.

I parked in a pull out area by the hill and hike up top. It was beautiful and not yet in its full blossoming prime. Even so, it still made some nice pix and video. Check them out below.

A little bit of red in with the yellow. That will change this week.
Love the color on this one!

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