“You’re going to shoot your eye out!!!” It’s a famous line from the Christmas classic ‘A Christmas Story’. It’s also the line that kept running through my mind as I looked down the dangerously steep water drainage ditch running parallel to the four story tall bridge that I’m standing next to.
‘Do I risk sliding down this way, and having to climb back up? Or should I figure out a way to drive down to what appears to be a remote ranger station service road down there and then work my way back.’
These are the two garbage options I’m facing now that I’ve proven my Older Sister to be a clairvoyant psychic, for I have proven her right once again.
I’ve lost my brand new, more expensive than I feel comfortable mentioning, flying camera drone.
Where have I lost it? Along a ridge of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Not like one of the REALLY big ones. But lets just say I stood at the edge of the ridge for a good ten minutes debating other options before making the plunge down the hill in the vain hope of trying to retrieve my brand new drone.
You Drone Say
The past four weeks have been a blast. From the three-day silent retreat at the Buddhist Monastery, to swimming in Thoreau’s Walden Pond, to eating lobster rolls in Maine; this has been a trip of firsts for me.
While in Washington to visit the National Cathedral I had a chance to review how the trip was going and review how I felt the blog was doing as well as my social media efforts. It was through talking about the trip with my Pops that the topic of Camera Drones came up. Because what else is a boy and his father suppose to talk about other than aerial unmanned camera drones? Am I right?
Additionally, whenever I talk to friends about putting this blog together for fun, they always seem to send me Facebook clips of actual Professional Bloggers who have professional aerial drones that follow them around for their GoPro Powered over the top shenanigans.
So clearly…I had to get one as well. 🙂
Before taking said drone into the unforgiving and unmercilessness Blue Ridge Mountains, I did have the common sense to to at least test the drone out in a ‘safe space’ while hanging out with my Uncle in Wilmington Delaware.
Though a lot of my planned trip events to Wilmington turned out to be busts, I really did enjoy my time there. But that was mainly because I got to spend time with my East Coast family and got to go test fly this drone with my Uncle. With having grown up in the Midwest my family didn’t get to see our East Coast relatives as often as I would have liked to, but this trip has been hopefully a first step in changing that history.
The big difference though between test flying a drone in the safe confines of a park in Wilmington Delaware, and vista view of a the Blue Ridge Parkway, is wind currents.
When I write those words, and I say them out loud, the difference seems pretty obvious.
But when you give a kid a BB gun for Christmas, he’s going to want to go shoot it.
Second Test Flight
It’s 8am and I’m on Roanoke Mountain. The morning mist is still on the mountain. And I’ve driven up the one way narrow side road to the top of Roanoke Mountain to get the shot I want.
I figure, ‘go big, or go home’.
I pull out the carrying case for the drone. Put on the perpellers. Load the battery into the back of the drone.
And after a few techno-phonic blips and beeps, the drone has confirmed that it’s ready to fly. Not just that it’s ready to fly… it WANTS to fly. The second part may have been more of my projecting human emotions on an inanimate object, but I like to image that it WANTS to fly.
And away it flew! I even cut a short Instagram video with some generic Dubstep music to it.
Success! I am master of the sky! Nothing can stop me now!
Annnnnnd the Crash…..
Delaware was no problem. I’ve conquered Roanoke Mountain! Let’s do this! Time for flight number three.
That’s right. I got exactly three flights in before crashing my brand new hi-tech camera drone into the wilderness that is the Blue Ridge Mountain range…. And I was doing so well….
In my defense, let me say that the videos that I would have captured IF successful would have been amazing. Mountain vistas for miles and miles. Shot from an angle you literally can’t capture any other way.
The memories of the previews I saw on my handheld drone control still make me smile, as well make we cringe with remorse.
My new little friend had fulfilled his deepest desire and had taken flight to the sky. He had flown higher than he’d ever dreamed, and with combined elevation was somewhere about a mile above sea level.
And with all the joy in his heart, my little drone fly began to drift…. And drift… and…. Oh shit….
I believe the exact words that I said out loud to myself were along the lines of “oh no… oh no… oh no… oh dear god no… oooooooooooh shiiiiiiiiiiiit……’
One of the things that makes drones possible is the fact that their so light weight. One of the problems with that, as I would discover on this sunny afternoon, that’s also makes them vulnerable to sudden gusts of wind.
This isn’t such an issue when in flat terrain. Retrospectively this is a extremely problematic for flying around mountains which have their own air currents and very sudden and very strong gusts of wind.
I fought the good fight. I steered it left and right, and further right, and was bringing my little buddy back to the safe of home. He was so close, just another few hundred yards. He was drifting back and forth, and I kept bringing him back in line.
But at the last minute. Suddenly and extremely forcefully. A gust of wind clearly sideswiped the heck out of my drone, and carried him down, down, down…. Into a tree line down below my viewing ledge.
The video screen had gone black. My friend was no longer sending a signal. What had moments before shown a mountain vista of fall leaves turning all sorts of reds and yellows and various shades in between, was now black.
I stood at the edge of that drainage ditch and had to make a decision. Is it worth it to go down after this thing? Or do I leave it for a random park ranger to find at some point down the road?
After much thought, debate and consideration. I grabbed my emergency hiking ‘call for help’ whistle, tucked my pants into my hiking socks, and slathered myself in Deep Woods Off Bug Spray.
I figured I could get down and back at least…