I have always been hesitant about putting my flights online, or anything else personal for that matter. This site for instance, started much later than my vol bivouac activities. Looking at the overwhelming amount of flight logs that have been put on the web by now, I cannot avoid the impression that a substantial number of these are just there to show off. The comical side effect however, is that nearly all of them achieve the opposite. They reveal the limits, rather than the greatness of the pilot involved. Nature is the major player in cross-country, not the pilot. You can do almost anything on a brilliant day, impressing your friends and possibly the rest of the world with the corresponding GPS track, but there is nothing to show off on a rainy day. I am unlikely to be impressed by a long flights on a good day, but my curiosity is almost certainly aroused when I hear about an 'average' flight on a day with lousy or (very) difficult conditions. It is great to hear how a pilot has solved key transitions on a day with a low cloud base for example, flying a distance that is likely to be ignored by the online flying community and possibly laughed at. Hearing how pilots got from here to eternity without ever having descended below 3000 m altitude, tends to be boring for everyone except the pilots involved.
Of the two words that make up free flight, I like free the best. Anyone can do as he or she pleases. There is a wide variety of activities and styles within our flying community and I love to see pilots enjoying their game. Whether it is a top-to-bottom flight, a cross-country competition, dazzling aerobatics, or hiking up a mountain for hours with an ultralight wing in order to be down in the valley again in just a few minutes. Feel free to do what you like and let others be free. But when flying becomes part of a 'look at me' or 'I am better than you' culture, I am out of there. The only real competition is with nature, especially your own nature. You can't win a competition against nature, so you'd better enjoy the game.
I started this site in order to convey the beauty of vol bivouac. To show the dance with nature. To reveal the battle with and within yourself, rather than the one with other pilots. To show the freedom of going wherever the wind takes you. Without the stress imposed by other pilots, friends, family, convention or society. To find what most people have lost by know, filled and programmed as they are by the consumer creed. To (re)discover nature. To discover your own way and follow it. Posting flight tracks or similar route descriptions of my trips, seems contrary to the latter. Sentiments aside, I fly without one. I have never taken one along and there must be a very good reason for me to do so. Showing my flights to others, is not.
Still, I felt that something was lacking as the site grew. What does a trip look like? What makes it so special? I could write stories about that of course, but a picture is worth a thousand words. I have tried to paint the vol bivouac feeling with images, each with a few words to put them in perspective. Often a bit more than that. By connecting the dots in between the images and the words, you will be able to reconstruct the route I took. There remains a considerable amount of homework to be done however, if you want to follow this route yourself. I think it is a nice compromise between posting GPS tracks and not posting anything at all.
<<< Added on 2012-03-21 >>>
The above trips were made in 2011, a very mediocre year from a flying perspective. It gave me only half the usual flying hours, requiring a much larger effort than usual. Most of the hours have been gathered from occasions that were far from optimal for flying. Occasions that I almost certainly would have given a miss in a better, more regular year. Dreaming of this season during winter, I had plenty of long trips prepared in my mind. I achieved none of them, but I enjoyed all my trips nonetheless. Even though the rain was the major attraction on some of them. There is only one thing better about being high, and that is having been low first. Sometimes very low. This season was definitely a low considering the flying conditions, but a considerable high on the mental part. It has been a season that made me grow, again. There is nothing that beats being out there with nature as a friend, and me as my only enemy. At least that is what I hoped to show you with the trips above. I think I have achieved my purpose. If not, then more of the it won't make a difference. I won't be posting any further trips for the moment. It is time for you to find your own stories and to share them with others. Don't let gurus guide you, follow your dreams instead. Be your life, be your story. Settle for nothing less.