Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hang Gliding!

There have been two thing on my list for a while that I've needed to check off - hang gliding and skydiving.  I was thisclose to skydiving about 18 months ago, but it was right before my dad's wedding and he asked me to wait until after - you know, in case I broke a leg or died.  Then it was too cold, then it was my sister's wedding and then time got away from me.

I won a hang gliding gift certificate at work one day for Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding located on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, just a short drive north of Atlanta.  Stephen and I tried to go last November but it was too windy, so we ended up going to Ruby Falls instead since we were already in Chattanooga when we got the call that the trip was a no-go.  Yes, it took us more than 6 months to get back to Lookout Mountain. For Stephen's birthday last year one of my gifts to him was a hang gliding trip, so he was as excited as I was about going.  We have a lot of wedding stuff to do and stuff around the house that needs to be done, but I relaxed and put all that aside and we were off to Tennessee.

If you're in Atlanta, the drive isn't bad at all.  There were people there from Nashville, Kentucky and central Georgia when we were there.  The day starts with your check in at the top of the mountain where if you're lucky enough you can see some seasoned hang gliders running off the ramp off the slide of the cliff.  Once you're checked in you head down to the landing area about 2000 feet below where you get suited up, watch an instructional video and meet the instructor that will be training you that day.  I should mention that there are two options when it comes to their tandem hang gliding, 2000 feet or 4000 feet.  The second is $100 more than the first, so we opted for 2000 since Stephen and I had gift cards and Miranda, Stephen's mom, also had a gift card - her Mother's Day gift from Stephen.  You can also purchase a video or photo package with your flight - I 100% recommend doing this!  We opted for the photos (what would a blog post be without photos!) for $25.  The camera is attached to the hang glider's far wing and takes pictures every 10 seconds.  We each have well over 100 pictures.  Totally worth the $25.  I'm pretty sure you can bring your own camera up, but why take away from your trip to hold and use a camera - pay them to do it and enjoy the ride.

Before you head up, you get suited up in the harness and strapped in to the hang glider.  While you wait to get towed up you just hang out on the ground.

Once you're hooked up to the ultralight plane and the sky is clear for take off - away you go!  In the picture below you can see the blue cone thing with a string attached to the hang glider, that's the end of the rope from the plane, we're still attached in the two pictures below while we climb to 2000 feet.

And we're on our own!  Once detached, we spend our time gliding around while I learned to steer.  My instructor did a few stalls and dives while he was in control, so much fun!  I even got to try them a few times.

It looks like I'm hold onto my instructor for dear life, but that's rule #1 on the hang glider, hold onto your instructor.  If we were to separate and not be connected, we'd go into a spin.  Not good.

We took some time to mug for the camera - what a beautiful view!

Then it was my turn to drive.  He let go of the bar and let me control where we went.

Making a left hand turn.  I love this picture
Hi again!  Can't forget to smile for the camera
The trip was about 10-15 minutes long, it seemed to go by so fast.  While we were up in the air we talked about hang gliding, where we can do it in other parts of the country, our hobbies, etc.

For the final approach to landing the instructor takes back over and we gently landed back on the ground.  The landing was super smooth, much more pleasant than I thought it would be.

I had to include the pictures above.  Once you're back on the ground and it's time to stand up it's all awkward.  Your legs are connected to the glider so it's weird to figure out how to stand up again.

The trip was amazing, I'd absolutely do it again.  Stephen did so well on his trip that his instructor gave him a $100 gift card towards lessons.  For $700 you can learn to fly solo and that includes all of the equipment during your training.  I absolutely recommend hang gliding to anyone who wants to get their feet off the ground.  It's not nearly as dramatic as sky diving (I can only imagine) because it's a nice, gentle glide back to the ground.  The only feeling of weightlessness is when you stall, which I will admit is awesome.

Check it out!  If you don't know the website after looking at all of my pictures, click on the link at the top of the post.

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