Reporter gives bird’s-eye view of flight
The first thing Pine and Royal told me Friday morning is that they were relieved I wasn’t fat. When we made plans to do a story on paragliding earlier in the week, I told them I weigh about 240 pounds. So when I showed up to meet them at the Market at Summit Canyon, they were waiting for me to roll through the front door. Anyway, I’m not that fat, so they figured I could fit into the harness.We had some coffee, and it was time to get going. There were some butterflies in my stomach as we headed up the twisty road leading to Adventure Paragliding’s takeoff zone at the top of Red Mountain above Glenwood, but the nerves were as much from anticipation of my first tandem paragliding flight as from any trepidation. During the ride up, Pine and Royal – Adventure Paragliding co-founders Pine Pienaar and Royal Owens – told Post Independent photographer Kara Pearson and me what to expect when we took off. And it went pretty much just like they said it would. I felt wide-eyed as I looked down to the valley floor hundreds of feet below me. As they laid the glider’s long wing out, a couple of deer quickly glanced at us as if to think, “What are those guys up to?” before they slipped into the bushes on the mountainside. My next step was to slide into my harness and get ready. Royal, who was at the controls for my flight, hooked me onto the front of his paraglider and we waited for the wind to pick up a bit. I stood there, my heart racing, as the glider sail filled with air and the moment of takeoff was just seconds away. “Run, run, run, run, run!” Royal shouted as we neared the edge of the mountain. The wind jerked us upward and we were off. Once airborne, the only thing I had to do was pull the little seat under my butt and enjoy the ride.Royal told me a bit about the controls and the brakes as we floated back and forth, but it was difficult to concentrate on his instruction with the amazing view all around. Mount Sopris and the West Elk Mountains were laid out in all their glory to the south, and the massive chasm of Glenwood Canyon loomed large to the west. But the only noise I could hear was the wind whispering through my helmet. Once I was settled in, I took out my camera and took a few pictures to put in the old scrapbook.After the snapshots, Royal said he was going to do some kind of a maneuver. He pulled on something and we whirled around in a circle until I was almost to the point of dizziness. It felt like we were rounding a corner after summiting a roller coaster; and it was cool. To me, a guy who likes to fish and tube down the river, one of the best parts of the ride was when we were straight above the Roaring Fork River. You could see every rock at the bottom of the crystal-clear tributary. In another minute or two, it was time to prepare for landing. I pulled the seat back out from under me and got ready to land. It seemed a bit fast, but at the last minute, Royal pulled on the brakes and we came to a quick landing. Kara was next to go, with her camera firmly wrapped around her neck. She edged off the mountain about five minutes after I landed. I could practically see her smiling up there all the way from the landing zone. “I was nervous on the mountain top, but once you get in the air it’s such a surreal experience,” she said. “I thought it was kind of like sitting on a swing – you feel secure.”Kara’s pilot, Pine, did a few twirly maneuvers while she was up there, too.”My favorite part was the roller coaster, you can feel the g-forces in your face and in your stomach,” she said. Once I got over the initial nerves of paragliding for the first time, the rush was well worth it. Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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