Auburn State Recreation Area
Slope Soaring Site
Auburn, California

Description:  At 1000 feet above the confluence of the north and middle fork of the American River, this is a spectacular site, and the lift is usually good with a west or south-west wind.  The site looks south-west, down the American River canyon toward Auburn, and provides a nice view of the bridge over the north fork canyon.

Location:   About 30 miles east of Sacramento on Interstate 80 is the city of Auburn. Drive about 2 miles further north-east of Auburn on 80, and turn off on the Auburn Ravine/Forest Hill Road exit.  Go east on Forest Hill Road. The hill you see south of the road on the far side of the bridge is the slope.  As you go up the hill beyond the bridge, pull off into the tiny turn-out surrounded by boulders just beyond  the cut in the hill, about 1.4 miles from I-80.  Gather up your stuff, and hike up the steep hill on the west side of the turn-out.  As the trail levels out, at the first trail fork, go left.  At the second trail fork, go right to the top of the hill for the main site.  The hike seems further because I'm usually carrying a transmitter and several planes, but it's only about 200 yards.  As you crest the hill, fly to the west, over the north end of the shallow bowl.

Flying the site and cautions:  Best time to fly this site is in the winter and spring with a west (best) or south-west wind.  Any measurable wind will float a hand-launch or floaty two meter glider thanks to the huge size of this slope, but look for 10 mph winds or above at local NWS stations to fly combat ships or Sparrow style ships with any authority.  Lift seems to pick up around 11:00 and taper off in the late afternoon.  As with most inland slope sites, the lift here is punctuated with thermals when the sun is on the slope.   Your plane can ride a thermal to ridiculous heights behind the hill at this site, and you will see buzzards doing the same.  However, you should plan in advance for a total loss of lift or even heavy sink suddenly appearing and lasting for the 30 seconds it takes for the thermal to make it's way up the slope.  Divide the slope into thirds and fly a different third, land abruptly, or risk it all by flying out into the void to find the thermal--in light lift conditions, you will need to make a choice quickly.  This slope was burned off about 10 years ago, but is getting overgrown with bushes now, so consider an audio-beacon/plane-finder type gizmo on your ship if at all possible. 

The best landing area is on the top of the hill behind you as you fly, and is fairly smooth with little rotor.  Try to land on the top parallel to the slope top, and perpendicular to the wind, or you will discover lift just as your plane is ready to touch down--fast landings!  Check out a landing area before you fly though, because there are a few rocks lurking in the weeds.  If your plane gets low, try to fly to a spot you can see, and take a hard and long look at where you put it in.  People have flown gliders all the way to the bottom of the hill and landed on the dirt road across the north fork, but that is about as difficult a landing as you could possibly do (ask me how I know), and I can hardly recommend it.  If, for some reason, you wanted to go to the confluence of the rivers (surely not to collect your plane), drive further up Forest Hill Road about a mile and turn right on Old Forest Hill Road.  This road is the one you see crossing the north fork, and it then joins Highway 49 (the other road you see at the bottom of the canyon that crosses the river just to the west).  Watch out for poison oak and wear pants to protect you from the star thistle.

Dynamic soaring is not only possible here, but seems to work really well with a west or even south-west wind.   Walk about 50 yards south from the peak to the saddle area.  Make a little altitude on the front west side, then dive to the east and work the gradient.  The wind actually comes around the south point and up the back side, generating a little lift in its own right and increasing the gradient.

Good luck,
Rob Crockett

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