Scot Huber’ story of setting the site record at St. John.
Saturday’s flight: 52.7 miles, 3 hrs 22 minutes, valley route.
Sunday’s flight: 51.8 miles, 3 hrs 32 min, valley route.
Monday, I decided the convergence zone, which Sunday had been absolutely perfect, was what I was ready for. I launched at 12:06 into a nice cycle in the blue sky. I climbed to 9300 ft. by 12:29 and headed west to Crockett Peak. I was at 8000 ft. when I found lift back to 11,500 at 12:52.
Clouds were forming 18 miles to the north. I headed toward them, knowing that I had the basin LZ if I didn’t make it to them. By the time I got to the clouds, I was at 8200 ft over Spanish Ridge and climbed back to cloud base at 11,500. It was 1:40.
It looked good to the north, with a convergence zone setting up. I was over Alder Springs Road, heading for Government Flat, following the highway in the sky (the cloud street). There are some clear cuts and meadows which looked land-able in this area.
At Anthony Peak, I climbed from 9400 ft. back to 11700. It was 2:44. I was 41.3 miles out. I knew the Yolla Bolly wilderness area was in front of me but I was confident about crossing it, based on my flight to this point. I headed north. At 54 miles out I was down to 9400 ft., when I caught a good one back to 12400 at North Yolla Bolly Mt. I was across the wilderness area, and high. I knew hwy 36 was reachable with this altitude.
The sky highway bent west from this point toward Red Mt. and the Hwy. 3/36 intersection. I followed it but was losing big altitude so I headed back to my last thermal and topped out again.
I headed north, leaving the clouds, hoping to find lift after crossing the pass and reaching the Trinity Mountains to the north. I crossed Hwy. 36 with an LZ below me, but I was losing altitude rapidly. I worked light lift at Knob Peak in a SE wind, drifting with it away from my LZ. After gaining enough altitude, I could see some LZs near Wildwood. It was 3:55; I was 69 miles out and at 7000 ft.
I had my driver, Pete, come out hwy 36, as it didn’t look good. He was near Cottonwood then. I drifted over Wildwood, checking out LZ options, getting down to 4700 ft. I found some light lift back to 7200, drifting to the NW. I was determined to get back to the clouds, which were over Hwy 3.
I could see more LZs along 13 Dips Rd. and then Hwy. 3 at Peanut so I went with the flow, hoping for lift. I burbled along, but was losing altitude where Hwy. 3 comes into Hayfork. I was at 3900 ft.; there were lots of places to land; but I was looking for lift. I found it as the wind went west again.
Climbing slowly, I drifted over the Hayfork airport. At 5400 ft., the lift went thermal nuclear: solid 1100 fpm took me to 12000 ft. It was 5:10. I was 85 miles out.
Back on track under the skyway, I was a happy man. I headed NE to Barker Mt. and climbed to 13400 ft. I knew the Trinity Alps Wilderness was in front of me but I had no pucker factor with all this altitude. I knew that Hwy. 3 followed Clair Engle Lake and I knew that if no LZs could be found, I could land on the shore of the lake, as it is low this time of year.
I hit the Alps at Weaver Bally, NW of Weaverville. I climbed to my max altitude for the day of 13,623 ft. at Monument Peak, 98 miles out, at 5:35. I decided to keep Hwy. 3 within a glide so I stayed on the east side of the clouds, which stretched to the north. I crossed over Siligo Peak, then headed due north from there.
At Black Mt., I was down to 9700 ft., which felt low at this point, but I caught lift back to 11200. It was 6pm, 111.6 miles out. Summerville, to my west, was my bailout LZ, as I could see a nice meadow there.
I dolphin flew for 10 miles, losing little altitude. At 10400 ft., I circled up to 12300 in a good one. I could see Scott Valley, which from previous map study I knew was there, so I knew I was over the Alps safely. I followed the skyway over Russian Peak and over the east edge of the Marble Mountains. I hit Etna Mt., climbing from 9300 to 12600. It was 6:55, 136 miles out.
The clouds dried up at this point so I crossed Whisky Butte, then headed NE for Ft. Jones (which I thought was Yreka) at the end of the valley.
Pete had headed for Eureka from Weaverville, mistaking my radio transmission. I hadn’t heard from him for a while so I figured that landing near a town was a good idea. I crossed over Ft. Jones at 6000 ft. at 7:22, 151 miles out. I wanted to break my personal best flight of 152 miles from McClellan last year so I cruised Hwy. 3 to the end of the valley. At the last LZ in the valley, I was at 151.7 miles. I made some turns at the end hoping for some help to get me up and over the hills, not knowing what was over them. I found enough lift to climb from 4600 to 6600 where I could see some fields along the road on the other side. I cleared the pass with 200 ft. and glided into the valley to my landing field at Oberlin rd., along Interstate 5. A local lady and her daughter stopped and told me I was in Yreka. It was 8:10. I was 158.4 miles out.
I called Pete but couldn’t get his cell phone, so I called his wife Maureen and informed her I was in Yreka. Pete called her 10 minutes later and learned of my location. He was 50 miles west of Weaverville on Hwy. 299, so he knew he had a long drive ahead of him.
I broke down, walked the 4 blocks to Main St. and had dinner. I then booked a hotel room. Pete got to Yreka at 15 minutes after midnight. We drove home Tuesday.
This was a magical flight for me, over some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever laid eyes on. If you’ve never been in the Trinity Alps, I suggest you make the trip. The Russian Wilderness Area and the Marble Mountains are equal as eye candy. I hope to spend some time in all three some time soon.
I have 20 more pictures from this flight that I hope to show at the next meeting.
Stay high. Follow the skyway.