Showing posts with label New Ri ver. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Ri ver. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bridge Day 2014

Landing on a small LZ
Small landing zone

Bridge Day is always the third Saturday of October.  Don’t let that fixation on date fool you.  Every Bridge Day is unique in its own way.

Start with the river.  The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world.  Yeah, it’s up there with the Finke and Rhine. The Nile is a youngster compared to the New.  It also runs south to north, so you should expect a few idiosyncrasies.  The water level is affected largely by the weather conditions in North Carolina and release rates at the Bluestone dam at the bottom of the state.

The weather has a big part of any Bridge Day.  Winds at the bridge are often different than at the landing zone.  The boundary between the wind conditions creates a zone of shear at tug the jumper one way and the chute another.  Sometimes this problem  is hardly noticeable, but other times it wrenches the jumpers sideways and threatens the stability of their chute.  Bridge days have been rainy, cold, sunny, as well as blue skies with white cottony clouds.

This year it was cloudy, cool, and misty with gusts of wind.  Yuck!  The river was high and fast running.  The high water made the landing zone tiny.  

Landing Zone (LZ)

The wind gusts made landings interesting, at least to the observers.  I’m sure it makes the jumpers very nervous, if not frightened.  None of which makes for a good Bridge Day.

How high was the water?  Here’s a photo of a Rock I often climb out onto to take pictures of water landings.  It’s a little island by itself.

normally a walk to rock
High Water
During the briefing we were told that the water rescue people were anticipating difficulty in retrieving all the water landings because of the fast current and this may slow the jumping down.

Early morning getting set to put out into the New river
Water rescue boats
I happened to notice the rescue knives carried by the water rescue teams.
Spyderco rescue knives
Older Spydercos
That’s right; they are orange-handled Spyderco rescue knives.  That’s what the professionals use, but I’ve got tell you, most jumpers would rather lose an arm then have their rig cut up.  

water landing
Nothing like an early morning dip to wake up, or jumping off a bridge!

The water rescue guys did a great job, most of the time.  Rushing to get to a jumper still selecting his landing point, one boat got too close and a gust of wind, a spin of the boat’s steering wheel and a collusion of man and machine occurred.  It sounded like someone hit a bowling ball with an axe.  He went to the hospital.  I’m not sure if the aluminum hulled boat needed to have a dent pounded out or not.

Early morning ambulances arrive
Ambulances arrive, good thing, they are going to get used.
If events like Bridge Day could have themes, some would be “Drifting on Clouds” and “Splendor of the Leaves.”  This one would be “Wood.” 

There is a chute under those tree branches

The small landing zone also affected the support people at the LZ.  The ambulances were moved to a new location to make room, but not everyone picked up on that lesson.  At least not right away.

Jumper bounces off roof of  rescue vehicle parked in secondary handing zone

Help on the way

Learning:  Let's move the golf cart out of the landing zone!

The National Park Service is charged with preserving the uniqueness of each of our National Parks.  It’s not an easy job.  Ham-fisted clods, like myself want to walk off trail, climb down river beds, and in general disturb the pristine wonderfulness they preserve.  They aren’t entirely wrong about it.  But I’ve got to say, I can’t see any problem with chopping down one tree at the landing zone.  

That particular tree was quickly decorated by parachutes which still there when I left at the end of the day.  Several jumpers made attempts to tear that tree down limb by limb by landing on it.  Most got their chutes back, but other jumpers made a more permanent donation to its winter ornamentation.  It wasn’t the only tree catching jumpers.

First decoration --More to come!

Same tree as above but with a second decoration!

Not having enough soaring time, one jumper rented a plane and jumped with an American flag.  Very Cool!  It brought cheers from the crowd in the landing zone which quickly turned to a gasp when he got snagged by a tree.  The tree dropped him like a fashionista with last year’s shoes. Fortunately he was all right and we treated him to a free ride to the hospital.

Flying the flag, Bridge Day style

Rough landing, caught in a tree and dropped like a rock.

The trick was to land low on the beach and avoid the trees.  
Like this guy

Or just short of the beach

Some missed the beach by accident or design.  Others chose the softer and safer water landing.  In front of the landing zone an area or relatively calm water allowed jumpers to land and safely wait for boat pick-up.  But considering the air temp, I was wondering about hypothermia.  You can get hypothermia standing wet in the cold windy air after being pulled from the river.  There isn’t a shelter where wet jumpers can warm up or get out of wet clothes.  

Still quite a few people had nice rides and made the local birds jealous.  
Gliding in
It was a bad Bridge Day.  No sun, cold, high water, tricky winds, but still wonderful to watch.  Even a bad Bridge Day is better than day at home.

Sail On!

Post script:
I get asked about security.

It’s a complex subject.  The jumpers are profiled by police as are staff.  No question about it.  We all need picture IDs which we have to wear, jumpers get background checks, they and their packs are checked with sniffing dogs.  It’s never been explained what the police and dogs are looking for. While missing this year, in the last two previous years the FBI placed a 360 degree camera at the landing zone.  Beats the hell out of me what they were looking for.  The WV state police want to run fingerprints next year.  

None of these conditions apply to the vendors or visitors.

In the landing zone I saw WV state troopers, Park Service Police, US Marshals, local police and TSA and it was rumored the FBI had undercover agents present.  I’m not exactly sure who or what they expect to find.  I will say a police presence is welcome. One never knows what can happen in crowds and with over stimulated people.  I’m just not sure we need so many in the landing zone.