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A Scary Descent into Pike County on Day 59
Excerpt from Field Journal Entry by Brooke Pennypacker

Pilot Brooke Pennypacker
Photo Mark Chenoweth

At 8 miles out we begin our descent into what we know will be an awaiting interface of turbulence and chaos; where the fates lie waiting to taunt us, push and shove us, wrestle us for control of the ultralight as we battle them on the slow return to earth. This is where we pay the price for the great tail wind and the too much of a good thing exacts its fare.

Wrestling the Wind
The birds, no lovers of chaos, follow tentatively. As our control of the ultralights wavers so does our control of the birds. As we drop, the trees grow in wind driven animation and the gnomes try to wrest the control bar from our steely grip. At such times, one envies the rodeo bull rider for he only has to stay on the bull for 8 seconds. We’re not so lucky.

Thermal Threat
Richard is just ahead and below and in the chaos his birds catch a thermal as I fight to maneuver over to collect them. Joe radios his throttle cable is frozen and he may have to cut power and “dead stick” it in to land….a less than desirable choice in these conditions. Then as I line up to land, the birds leave me, catch another thermal and soon are above at Joe’s altitude. If they chose the thermal over the trike, they will soon be gone and in these conditions we will be unable to pursue them. It would be to Jack and John in the cover plane to shadow them probably until late in the day when the thermals cease and release their grip on our little flock. Then ground crew would have to carry the day and hopefully retrieve them and we would have to…………

A Helicopter to the Rescue!

Just then a helicopter appeared low and behind us, or it may have been two. There was too much happening to tell, but its effect was that it so frightened the birds that they rejoined Joe’s wing, glomming onto it like velcro just as the warmer temperatures of near earth thawed his throttle cable and he could set up for a controlled landing.

Safe on the Ground
In they came, trike and birds and made a perfect landing on the violently pitching deck of earth. We had dodged a bullet, but we were down and safe, and in those moments lay more than a little emotion. It’s like Confucius used to say, “It is better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground.”

Journal or Discussion Questions

  • In the section called "A Helicopter to the Rescue, what simile does Brooke use to describe how the cranes followed Joe's wing? What other simile, or comparison, can you think of to describe the same thing?
  • How do you think Brooke felt during events described in the last paragraph? In this paragraph, where was Brooke using humor? Do you think Confucius really said the words Brooke quoted? Explain.

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in cooperation with the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).