Issue 32: Flying on Mt Hood

“Hey Wonder Boy, let’s go to Mount Hood and fly our kites”

“Go where?”

“Mount Hood… up on the snow… in AUGUST!”

“You are crazy Dude…that sounds like an adventure… What about Colleen and Connor?”

“Take them with us… a family that flies together stays together”

“Dude… I am not family”

”You are now!”

Alan Cunningham, a.k.a. “Dude” and Kyle Wright, a.k.a. “Wonder Boy” set out August 9th to go fly on the Magic Mile slope at Mount Hood. Colleen (VERY patient wife) and Connor (4-year-old son) Cunningham came along to shoot film and ride the chair lift up to the snowy mountain (a Dora the Explorer reference.) The weather looked good as we approached the mountain… and the traffic started to pick up as we neared Government Camp. We drove into the parking lot at Timberline Lodge and met a massive throng of Summer Hikers, Bikers, and Triumph drivers…evidently there was a car rally for Triumph drivers in the neighborhood. Skiing was done for the day and the temperature was approaching 70 degrees.

It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission… but in this case we decided to check it out with the management before we bought the non-refundable lift tickets. The clerk at the lift ticket office was perplexed when we asked permission to take our kites up to the top of the lift and fly. She said, “I don’t think you can do that.” My reply was, “Is there a rule against it? How about we call your supervisor to check.” The ticket agent called Jill the supervisor and proceeded to tell her about 2 guys, a lady, and a 4 year old who wanted to go fly kites up on the Magic Mile Slope. It looked like the answer would be no until I flashed my Northwest Stunt Kite Association vest and flipped her a card with my “credentials” and assured her that we were skilled technicians and that safety of the other guests would be our number one priority. I even offered to share pictures with her… she respectfully declined. We all jumped on the High Speed Quad chair and headed up the mountain. What a shock… Connor didn’t even flinch when the chair lift took off and he was elevated to 100 feet off the ground or when he was presented with the spectacular view of the Mt Hood Valley. It appeared he was along for the adventure as much as the adults.

The terrain posed serious hazards to life, limb, and kites. Typical Cenozoic Volcanism left blocks of wind stroked lava up to 10 feet tall. Very few “open” spaces existed and the intimidating hike to the Palmer Snowfield pushed us west of the Magic Mile landing. We strung out or line (75 feet of 100#) due to the variable wind (1-5 mph) blowing toward the summit. We chose the standard Tramontana from our arsenal of kites. Imagine preparing to fly on a hill pitched about 10-20 degrees with ankle-sized sharp obstacles right out of your peripheral vision and many unfriendly obstacles scattered around the flight area. I thought Charlie Brown had it tough fighting with the kite eating tree! But we traveled too far to not fly.

The first takeoff took my breath away… as the kite took off, the clouds cleared from the summit. I tracked across the window hoping to not go too close to the ground and caught my first glimpse of my Blue and White Tramontana superimposed over the summit. WOW… glad we brought the camera. Colleen found her way to a good vantage point just out of range of the kite and Connor climbed all over the rocks and found things he had never seen before. Kyle and I flew for about an hour. As the wind pulsed we got a little more daring and decided to show off a bit for the camera. Does that surprise anyone? The only problem with a little trick flying is the unfortunate line wrap that brings you down…or the over-correction due to the wind shifting that caused a few unplanned landings. Most of the time the kite floated peacefully down to the surface. Although the walk of shame presented more than a challenge than keeping the kite in the air at times!

Kite flying is always an adventure with Kyle and Alan. It wasn’t clear if we were the first to fly kites at the 7000-foot level of Mount Hood…BUT…it wasn’t something the management was totally against as long as the Northwest Stunt Kite Association minded their manners and stayed out of “trouble”. Luckily we have patient and understanding families willing to drive many miles and spend many hours hanging out at the beach…or some other local so we can fly our kites.

Alan Cunningham