Close Call

June 28 – my birthday – since my family is currently traveling abroad, I had the day to myself and one of my favorite things to do, is hiking the Laguna Mountains. While at 6,000 feet elevation, it’s only a 30 minute drive from my home, but with temperatures above 90 degrees and uncommonly high humidity, it would only be a short hike.

Julian, a historic gold rush mountain town, in the mirror, I was driving south on California State Route S1, also knows as the Sunrise Highway, and finally stopped at the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area.

This is probably one the most panoramic viewing areas of the Laguna Mountain National Recreation Area and Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
I started hiking north on the Pacific Crest Trail with an incredible view down Cottonwood Canyon, the original migration route of the Kwaaymii Indians, not long before arriving at Kwaaymii Point.

Kwaaymii Point is a strange place; a popular area for death markers. I don’t think the markers are actual graves, maybe tokens of remembrances to the people that have passed.

It’s only the second time that I have been to this place, but for any place in the Laguna Mountains, it seemed uncommonly crowded.

When I arrived at Kwaaymii Point, it was very windy and the cloud cover was thick; there were two Hang Gliders ready to go. What a perfect timing, I thought. I didn’t have to wait long and the older guy, (he looked even older than me), was helped by what looked like his wife and daughter-in-law. He took off in a swift, almost angelic move. He quickly gained distance and hight, silently floating away.

Now the second guy prepared his glider. He was helped by the same two women, but looked much younger, maybe the son of the other flyer. A cute little girl, three, maybe four years old, with blond curly hair, waved her daddy good-bye.

Both hang gliders were equipped with 2-way radios. There are strong wires going from the tips of the wings down to the landing gear. One of those wires must have touched one of the many small shrubs in the launching area and the glider didn’t gain much distance from the cliff, before making a right turn and crashing hard about 20 feet below.

After a very long moment of uncertainty – his wife was already climbing down and a bystander was calling 911 – I finally heard the crashed pilot uttering that he’s OK.

Close call – a narrow escape from danger or disaster. Spooky, but when I saw the little curly blond hair girl wave, I already knew …