Not since 1996 has La Salina Flying ridge undergone such a serious flying site rehabilitation. With the full consent, consultation, and blessings of the Ejido La Mision (the owners of the 15,000 acre flying ridge), Bajabrent (BB) retained Mexican contractors, and laborers (and weighed in himself), to reconstruct the 3 primary launches, roadway from free road to launches, hiking trail and LZ.
The most important achievement was the removal of dozens of large protruding boulders from the south side of North Launch,
which for years, had been the backbreaking danger in launching in cross conditions. In spite of attempts to carpet-soften the blows, numerous arms, legs, backs, collar bones, etc. had been shattered on these bruisers over the years. It has forced some from the sport!
But to get the job done right, while avoiding a deluge of rain, the team had to get there! First up was the road access to launch.
Although BB prefers to hike 9 out of 10 times to launch, because of the upcoming flying events, and the need to facilitate launch access for emergency vehicles, spectators, press, physically challenged pilots, (and lazy/smoker pilots), the road needed cleared.
Over the years the road has been shifted, as the Ejido has needed to divert the same to facilitate agricultural and ranching endeavors. The new roads have been wrought with potholes, protruding embedded boulders, and washboard topography. Meanwhile the old road always had issues especially upon the grade leading upgrade from the lake, and the road running parallel to the ridge, always riveted like a bombed Iraqi freeway!
In the early days, BB occasionally would drive a sedan to launch. But in recent years only Mad Maxine was allowed to make the excursion, then most recently Jingle-Jade! BUT ALAS happy days have returned as the roadbed has been transformed into a user friendly access road. BUT before pilots are permitted to use the same, they need to check-in with BajaBrent or the Ejido La Mision. Access fees, pilot registration and liability waivers are NOW in force. (see below).
It took 1.5 days to clear the roadway up to launch. Midway through the second day, Flipper tripped on the North Launch carpet while inflating in strong conditions. Simultaneously she got popped, and took a hit on a protruding boulder. This was just an hour before the back hoe arrived to remove the same.
The whole incident was a sobering reminder of the importance of this project. Flipper suffered a couple of bruises and a ornery headache, but recovered nicely, to have–hopefully—the last boulder-war story!
Upon arrival of the Hoe, BB had Enrique clear the brush surrounding north launch. Now it will be much easier to top land. Likewise brush and boulders were removed east of the launch/roadway to provide for HG access and perhaps for PPGs to land/launch. Perhaps even Bullwinkle’s PPG quad!
Next came North Launch, itself: them D#@N BOULDERS!!! BB wasn’t convinced Enrique could clear them with a backhoe and front end loader. That illustrates why BB went to law school and NOT heavy equipment school. Enrique gave a confident “wink” and a “grin” as he set about hoeing them outta there.
But with each rock Enrique would hoe up, another 5 came with it! BB nicknamed the project: “Pandora’s ROX”!!!!
BB, ever mindful of the environmental consequences of similar projects, was very concerned about the ultimate placement of the removed boulders. At first, it seemed logical to move them to the east or north of the launch area, HOWEVER, as Pandora’s ROX unfolded, it became intrinsically clear that this was NOT going to be possible, unless BB wished to recreate the great wall of China surrounding the launch area.
Alas BB, Ponchita and Enrique conferred and it was unanimously decided that the only solution was to shove the boulders over the edge of ridge, making sure of course that there were no pedestrians, livestock, or other beings below the oncoming bombardment. Fortunately, the fallout was to the north of the switchback so as not to endanger the pathway with debris. However, mid-launch was directly in the path, an unavoidable consequence: BOMBS AWAY!!!
Enrique set about to dig, push, re-position, pull, push, shove–reposition– hump, dump, and push some more. His skill at operating the hoe, was amazing….and in many situations quite daring as he teetered over the edge of the cliff, with two hydraulic arms thrusting the hoe in the air, her front-loader offsetting the rig, dangling in midair! Ponchita and BB kept their distance, admiring the breathtaking performance of a man at work, in seemingly choreographed lockstep with his amazing machine.
Hours passed quickly as a barrage of volcanic boulders–bigger than quads– avalanched below. Each departed and 15 seconds later could be seen broken into fragments steaming through mid-launch coming to rest on the distant desert floor.
BB pondered whether he’d done the “right thing”, as it looked like such a mess! The committee conferred again, and Enrique assured BB that 10 loads of dirt would solve the problem. But that would need to wait for another day. Meanwhile, the crew departed to South Launch.
South Launch, historically has been a much more inviting place to launch one’s glider. However, its grade is more flat than North, and therefore requires a little more finesse on inflation, that can actually cause the pilot to get “popped” when the wing hits the power zone. Furthermore, BB believes that although south has “La Salina West” profile, for launching in those predominate conditions, it tends to be windier than North Launch by 1-2 knots.
In the earlier days, when BB began flying LS, south launch seemed more forgiving and acceptable. Over the years, however, North has won out as the primary launch in spite of its boulder-danger. On the occasion a pilot would launch from south, it became the exception rather than the rule.
HOWEVER, THIS IS ABOUT TO CHANGE! On the day that the hoe arrived on south launch, it was decided to remove ALL brush, cacti, and debris from the west side and below the launch @ 20 feet. Enrique expertly swept the hoe back/forth until this was accomplished, and what remained became strangely reminiscent to BB, as he recalled how South Launch originally appeared in the late 90’s.!
In spite of year after year, maintenance of the brush around south launch, apparently the use of Mexican laborers was insufficient to overcome the annual growth of shrubs, bushes and cacti! It wasnt until the hoe removed the base of the brush that it became apparent that over all these years, the desert had reclaimed a significant portion of the front of the launch! So significant, that in the last 5 years, pilots were actually launching from the flat-top portion of the launch, unable to layout or align themselves on the lower portion!
With the debris now cleared, it is quite obvious how wonderful South Launch is again! Ultimately it really was not a tremendous amount of foliage that needed to be removed. In fact, it took Enrique less than an hour to reform South
Launch into an incredibly useful launch area, for N, NW and W flying days! Its also an ideal tandem launch area as well!
DAY 3: By the time BB reached launch, 4 loads of dirt had already been dumped on the lunar landscape. Miguel had come w/ BB that morning and began a 6 hour process of pitching smaller boulders over the ridge edge from both launches. The wind was HOWLING between 25-30 knots! No flyovers today!
Upon the arrival of the 7th load of dirt, Enrique rolled up on the hoe and began spreading the earth around north launch. Within an hour the surface transformed into a stable foundation projecting outward and over the front of the ridge. it evolved miraculously into beautiful platform with a slight slope dovetailing sweetly into the carpeted status quo launch.
BB decided to invest in 3 more truckloads–2 to cover east top of north launch, so there would be no more rocks to trip on while walking up to launch. The third load would be used to smooth over any rock debris to the east of South Launch where Bullwinkle would launch his PPG, conditions permitting.
After the dirt was expertly maneuvered, BB set his sights on the Super South Launch, at the ultimate south end of the main ridge; a launch used only on S or SW days. Once again Enrique wiped clean the debris/brush surrounding the launch area. And once again, what was revealed was a much more “user-friendly” launch pad! Again the brush, over the years, had reclaimed much of the launch, as hand laborers simply could not hack back the growth as quickly as it returned. Enrique and his hoe, changed the progress in less than 20 minutes, and with very minor environmental impact: a win-win situation for everything!
At long last, the project winded down, BB marveled at the accomplishments. North launch had been ridden of the nasty boulders, transformed into a mega-launch for multiple glider types. A place to launch into NW, W or even SW winds without the fear of tripping over boulders, or having lines ripped across volcanic edges. No more velcro grabbing brush to entangle one’s wing! Or perhaps just a place to sit and gaze out across the desert valley and over the beaches to the great pacific horizon: the jewel had been polished!
South launches likewise ridden of entangling brush, and debris, expanding their aprons for all pilots to enjoy. Mission accomplished!
As the rehab crew departed that day, BB directed Enrique to minimize or repair any areas along the roadway where soil had been cannibalized to repair the roadway potholes.
Touch-up in some roadbed was necessary to minimize future problems.
This included the burying of a dead cow who had been ravaged by disease and perished in the previous 2 days. An hour and a half later the gate at the free road was closed on another successful day repairing the launch and roadway at FlyLaSalina.com.
AS SET FORTH ABOVE: In consideration of the generosity of the Ejido La Mision, some old policies, and new policies are being set forth for pilots to abide by, for use of the La Salina Flying Ridge, which includes any access or use.
The old policy: $5/pilot/day. or $20/carload. Many/most pilots ignored this over the last several years. Those days are over. ALL the property used for use/access to the La Salina launches, LZ, switchback path, etc. (15,000 acres) is ALL private property belonging to the Ejido La Mision. You either need to stop at the Ejido office, beside the La Mision police station and pay; or stop at Oscar’s Market (across the street); or find BajaBrent and make payment. Otherwise you may be considered a trespasser on private property. Upon payment you should have a receipt demonstrating the same in case requested by enforcement officials.
Beginning May 1: new policy $10/day; $30/week; There will be an annual registration/use fee soon to be announced.
Pilot registration: There will be a short registration form for pilots when paying the fee. Name, rank, serial number type of stuff. Not to heavy, just so folks know whose on the property.
liability waiver: This will be implemented @ May 1 at the demand of the Ejido. All pilots will need to execute a waiver of liability in Spanish before being permitted to fly at La Salina Flying Ridge. If you do not speak/read spanish, you will also execute an English version. This not an “elective” request. This will be REQUIRED, failure to do so could result in arrest for trespass.
Although La Salina has been somewhat “lax” over the years about fee/access to the ridge, with all the site repairs, events, and publicity, it became apparent that more and more pilots will visit the flying site. Accordingly, its only fair to the host/owners to provide something to their benefit for providing the same, and likewise protect them from liability for accidents. If it was your private property, you would probably request the same.
Lets do the right thing, and abide by the Ejido’s simple request.