Standing on a mountain’s summit — yes, even in the Valley — always seems to spark a spiritual rise in me. Whether it’s because of an energetic vortex or merely relative oxygen deprivation, it always feels damn good.
So there I was, about to take my typically mystical mountaintop experience to a whole new level.
After my offer to help set up the glider was kindly ignored (for good reason, I’m sure), I spent a few moments relishing the 360 degree view and watching out for rumored rattlesnakes.
Then it was game time.
Fred guided me through a practice run, rehearsing our run, leap and launch. We strapped on our helmets and kneepads, and wrestled ourselves into contraptions that would connect us to the craft. He described the glider’s capacity and my harness’ strength — and how to operate the emergency parachute in the event that catastrophe struck and he was knocked unconscious.
On that note, we approached the edge of Kagel Mountain, and — after Rome and Barton assisted Fred with some last minute adjustments — we transitioned from earth to sky.
It is difficult even now to try to put into words how exhilarating it felt to tap into a thermal updraft and gain 1600 vertical feet within seconds, or how poetic it was to realize that the bird’s shadow moving across the canyon below was actually our glider.
Equipped with nothing more than a glorified kite, we peacefully meandered thousands of feet above a reservoir and desert hills still scarred from last year’s fires. The house-lined streets and gemstone-looking swimming pools dotting the valley below looked as they would from an airplane; yet our skin was being kissed by the sky, not sucked dry inside a mechanized, pressurized, gas-fueled behemoth.
It was PURE. And it was MAGICAL.
And then, after more than twenty minutes in the air, it was time to return to land.
Following a couple of intentionally dramatic descents — think Six Flags™ roller coaster — the grassy landing field grew closer with every second. I bent my legs behind me, and we touched down so gracefully that it took a moment to register we were actually on the ground.
Physically, that is. Days later, the euphoria lingers on…