erched high above the North Cascades Highway, I hold the paraglider
of my friend Mark Dale as he launches from the mountainside. The
lines of his pink canopy whistle faintly as he glides away from the
slope where I am standing. Quietly, I watch Mark’s wing shrink
to insignificance above the road winding through the forest. Alone
now, I struggle to untangle my lines on the steep talus slope.
Without a friend to hold my canopy in place, as I did for Mark, I
anchor its leading edge using a few clothes pins and some string.
With butterflies swirling in my stomach, I clip into the glider and
make a final wind check. With a deep breath, a few powerful steps,
and a glance at my wing overhead, I forgo my last chance to call the
whole thing off. In an instant, I am flying.