Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bonfires, Bent Downtubes, Bats, and Badasses.

When someone hears "college spring break", the first thing that people in this area think is Panama City. PCB is the hotspot for spring break and is where the majority of people choose to spend their week of freedom. I, however, chose to do something very different for spring break this year and, quite frankly, it was one of the best weeks I have had. My spring break was better than yours, no doubt.

A couple of years ago, my dad became interested in hang gliding. He headed up to Lookout Mountain in Trenton, Georgia and was hooked. He soon bought me an intro package where I got to take a few flights on the small training hill and do a tandem flight. Unfortunately, my head wasn't in it at that time. I was getting ready to go off to college and had my mind on other things. So I did that first lesson and didn't go back until last week. I knew how much my dad loved the sport and how hard he had been working to finally run off the mountain, so I was pretty excited when he suggested I take part in the park's spring break week. I hoped I would have a good time, but was concerned that there wouldn't be anyone to hangout with and that I would end up being bored. Now I just have to shake my head at myself for thinking that way.

Pretty much as soon as I arrived, I started meeting some of the coolest and chillest people ever. I feel like I laughed more with these people in just 5 days than I have this entire semester. I was refreshed to find such down to earth fun people to hangout with around the bonfire. I wouldn't have wanted to drag myself through cave mud and water with any other people. I don't think these people understand what an impact they had on me. Whether I was freezing cold being drug through frost covered grass on the training hill, army crawling through the cave "pancake squeeze" in mud caked clothes, watching the sunset from the top of the mountain, or sitting around the bonfire laughing about the things that happened during the day, I was happy and having a great time. I felt infinite.

Training at lookout starts you out at a "small hill" where you learn how to properly launch a hang glider, fly straight and make minor corrections, and eventually land on your feet. So, the small hill is where my new buds and I spent our 5 days. For the first 3 days I worked on perfecting my launch, flying straight, and trying my darnedest to land on my feet instead of rolling in on the hang glider wheels. Finally, on Friday, I landed on my feet after my second flight of the day. To someone who has never tried hang gliding, this may not sound like much of a feat. To anyone who has tried hang gliding, you know why I was ecstatic. The sound of my instructors and buddies yelling from the top of the hill after I landed it made me grin like a little kid. I think that was the moment where I knew I was in trouble. I am hooked. I was trying to explain to my roommate earlier how I felt about it all and the best way I could think to describe it was, "I feel like a wolf that has just tasted blood for the first time; I've GOTTA HAVE MORE." And that is the truth. I can't stop thinking about getting back out there to the hill so that I can get 4 foot landings and move on to the big training hill.

While I was learning on the small hill, my dad was over on the big hill re-qualifying to launch off the 1400 foot mountain. And guess what? He did it. After time and time again of dad going up to Lookout and leaving without launching due to the wind, he finally got to launch last week.
Photo Credit: Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding

I am so incredibly proud of him. I've always known my dad is cool, but this obviously takes it to a whole new level. I am so glad that he got interested in this because, had he not, I wouldn't be into it either. I cannot wait until I am ready to launch off the mountain right after him so we can soar together.

This week had a huge effect on me. Not only have I found something that I am genuinely excited about, I learned a thing or two about myself and where I want to be and what I want to do with my life.  Life is too short to sit around getting trapped in the mundane rituals of life. I'm not saying that I'm going to quit school and move to Lookout (although I did toy with the idea a few times while packing to come home). Life requires balance. Just like The Byrds sang years ago, there is a time for everything. A time for fun, a time for learning, a time to relax, a time to be quiet and a time to speak up. A time to fly and a time to drive back to real life in order to make flying again a reality instead of just a dream.

It was hard to come back to school after such an eye opening awesome week...but here I am. I have come back to reality with a better idea of what I want to do in the future than I have in a long time and that is a great feeling. It's going to take some discipline to make myself focus on school this week, but I'll be back at that hill soon enough.

P.S. If my words have inspired you (of course, don't they always?) to look into hang gliding, start here:

Love, C

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