Pictured above is the Astoria column as it appeared on a soggy morning in May. The “column” as it’s commonly known stands proudly atop Coxcomb Hill, the highest point within the city of Astoria. From its base, the column soars 125 feet into the sky and its observation deck is reached by climbing 164 steps. So what does all of this have to do with flying a plane you may ask?
I recently learned from a group of fifth grade students that the column’s observation deck is the ideal place from which to launch a wooden glider. After living in Astoria for thirty plus years, the thought never occurred to me that such an activity was possible not to mention legal. As it turns out, the visitor’s center offers the gliders to future pilots for a small fee. So in the interest of “lets see what this is all about”, I set out one morning at 6:30 AM to fly a glider.
So in no particular order, I offer my observations on my latest experience.
- I was reminded that it’s a long hike to the top of the column! It’s probably been 25 years since I last climbed the 164 steps to reach the top. While making the accent, I wondered if the force of gravity had not somehow increased in the immediate vicinity.
- If you intend to photograph yourself doing anything, bring along an assistant! If for no other reason, they can pack the camera and tripod.
3. Read all the instructions before hand! Assembling a toy plane in the fog and drizzle is not as easy as one might think! A far better plan might be to have a competent assistant do all necessary assembly for you.
4. Always bring along a pair of gloves when venturing to great heights on a cold and foggy morning.
5. Once your plane is assembled, there is little more to do than launching it and hope you will not lose sight of it as it slowly descends.
6. That which is great fun for a 5th grader may not be so for someone over the age of fifty. Maybe I should have brought along some 5th graders to cheer me on.
In case you are wondering, I launched two planes. One slowly spiraled to the ground and landed safely atop of the bushes. The other quickly entered into a steep nose dive and crashed into the base of the column. All was not lost however because I took time to savor the view and believe me, that alone was well worth the climb!
Looking to the northwest is the city of Astoria and the Columbia River
Looking to the southwest, one will see Young's River and Saddle Mountain
If you ever want to fly a plane from atop of the column, let me know because I still have one unopened glider and will gladly part with it!! I may ever come along and help pack your camera equipment.