The Big Hill

It’s Sunday morning and 5:00AM.  We are flying today.  In fact, today will be my maiden voyage off the big training hill.  While most people might not celebrate this milestone, this is such a momentous occasion for me, I cannot help but get excited.  It has taken me 53 flights off the small hill to get to the big one.  I am sure I’m am getting close to a flight park record.

We take Lucy, our foster dog with us to the training hills.  She has been dying for an opportunity to run around and the training hills are the perfect place.  When we arrive, she literally runs a few laps around the field just out of sheer joy.  It reminds me of our girl, Katie, who used to jump in any body of water we got close to and swim laps just because she loved being in the water.

There are 4 of us flying today.  3 of us are re-clearing for the mountain and have already taken several mountain flights.  I’m not part of that “us.”  I’m the only one who has never flown off the big hill before.  When I get up to the top, I decide to go last in the rotation.  I want to watch the others launch before I take this on.  The big hill doesn’t look very intimidating from the ground below, but from the top of the hill, it might as well be the mountain.

My stomach does a flip as I look down across the field below.  For a moment, I consider going home.  But I remember the feeling of being lifted off the ground the first time.  The joy the memory evokes helps me find a little courage.  Everyone assures me I will like the big hill better than the small hill–it’s easier to launch because of the vertical drop.

Ironically, it’s this vertical drop that worries me so much.  What happens if I don’t launch before I reach the drop?  But, I go ahead and hook in when it’s my turn.  I go through the hang check, my stomach getting tighter.  Pete, the instructor, talks to me about just flying straight and level.  He makes it sound easy.  He assures me I will launch.

I pause, do my pre-flight mental check, channel David Hasselhof, push my shoulders back, stand up straight, and call “clear.”

I hear Pete behind me, reminding me to walk, jog, run.  Then, I am airborn–really airborn!  I cannot judge how close I am to the ground.

My glider starts to turn and I try to correct.  I get the glider straight just in time to feel the ground effect and realize it’s about time to land.  I get my hands up and flare, landing on my feet and walking away as the glider floats back down to my shoulders as Lucy comes running over to check on me.  All I can think is, “I want to do that again!”