(From Jeff in VA)
Soaring yesterday in the Valley of Virginia......
I departed SHD around 2:00pm under an interesting sky and climbed under power southeast toward the Blue Ridge. The winds were very mild, and the sky was mostly blue, except that the length of the Blue Ridge and Massanutten were both marked by cu’s as far as I could see.
In a few minutes, and firmly established in lift over the Blue Ridge near Grottos, I shut down the Rotax and feathered the prop. Silence, finally. My plan was to soar to Signal Knob, at the north end of the Massanutten, and back to Shenandoah Regional airport.
I started north along the Blue Ridge. Exploring the width of the Blue Ridge and several miles north, I was not able to reach higher than 5500’. And it was very difficult to make progress below around 4000’. Conditions on the Massanutten looked considerably better, and there were a couple of haze domes and small puffy cu’s in the valley by then, so I decided to try to transit the valley south of Elkton. I tanked up and at 5300’ I started out across the valley at best L/D. I reached Massanutten Resort a bit low at 3000’, but immediately and luckily connected with a 6kt thermal that took me to over 6000’. So far, no bad decisions! I turned and headed north to my goal.
Conditions along the Massanutten were indeed very good. I was able to fly along without much circling, slowing down or circling only when the lift was extraordinary.
The Cu’s in the last few miles leading to Signal Knob were very sparse, so I loitered for a bit, trying to tank up for the run north. I arrived at Signal knob just over 3000’, turned and pointed at SHD.
Heading south, I had a difficult time reconnecting with the good lift. I found myself over Woodstock at 2100’, in survival mode. I found what I was looking for (ANYthing!) and climbed in 3-5kts to near 5000’. Back over the ridge, conditions were significantly better. I connected with a boomer abeam Luray, which took me to 7240’, my high point for the day.
As I approached Massanutten Resort, conditions were sagging, I was stuck at below 4000 again, and I imagined that I might not make enough altitude to get home. I found a last thermal at the Resort, tanked up to 5400’ and took my 11 mile final glide, reaching home at pattern altitude. 3 ½ hour flight, averaging 56kph. Not a scorcher, but tons of fun!