I consider myself a woman of words.
This is not to say that I fancy myself a great orator or novelist, or even a professional copywriter.
No, what I mean is that I’m very seldom at a loss for something to say. (An ex-boyfriend used to joke that I could conduct an entire phone conversation with myself.)
But every now and again, even I am rendered speechless.
And that’s exactly what happened this past week, when — after an augurous red-tailed hawk sighting — I literally took a running leap of faith off Kagel Mountain, 3,547 feet above sea level.
The Adventure Begins
The morning began unlike most others. A naturally nocturnal snooze addict, I awoke before my two alarms began shrieking at 7:00 a.m. Excitement made the coffee I had brewed superfluous, and so I replenished a water bottle, tossed my new camera into a bag and headed northeast towards the 405.
Thirty minutes later, I pulled into Sylmar Flight Park, where I was to meet Fred, Windsports Soaring Center’s tandem flight instructor. Settling in at a picnic table, I savored the sun’s warmth and gazed up at the mountain that would soon serve as my launch pad.
I had been sitting alone just long enough to begin wondering if I should be nervous, when an older man with a grand smile sat down at the adjacent table. When he was joined by a duo of equally cheerful companions who mentioned that Fred should be arriving shortly, I walked over and introduced myself.
First there was Rome, an octogenarian elk habitat preservation enthusiast, Dr. Laura fan, and avid hang glider. Grounded for a few weeks due to a bout of pneumonia, Rome was there to drive the van back down the mountain, after the rest of us took flight.
Then there was Russ, a former Chicago-based consultant in the power plant construction industry. Now retired, Russ follows the wind, living a gypsy existence in his RV and traveling the United States in search of mountains off which to fly. Paragliding was on that day’s agenda.
Then came Barton. Celebrating his birthday by spending the majority of a four-day weekend in Sylmar, he too is a flight fanatic. Barton’s also a devoted brother — proudly displaying his bald head, which he had shaved in solidarity with his sister, who just completed her final round of chemotherapy. Oh, and he’s a rocket scientist. Really.
And finally, as this gliding triumvirate’s enthusiasm boosted my own, Fred — who restores classic cars, when he’s not taking people like me on the rides of their lives — rolled up in a Dodge van, our mountaintop-bound chariot.
After loading our gear into the van, the five of us climbed in and headed up.
This, however, was no easy task.
A few minutes on the freeway gave way to a paved mountain road, which in turn led to a limited access, craggy, dirt path. I questioned whether its width exceeded that of the van — a disturbing inquiry, given the scene below. (Think riding shotgun in a car cruising south on northern California’s Pacific Coast Highway, only more precarious.)
But we made it to the summit, welcomed warmly by that majestic hawk. After much anticipation, take-off was now imminent…
Stay tuned for Flying High :: Part 2 …