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February 11, 2012

The Man Who Can Fly; Random Shots of Beauty

After a full week of fantastically sunny California weather, this weekend on the Monterey Peninsula decided to turn gray and drizzly, which made for a nice excuse to sleep in and make it a lazy Saturday.

So in the spirit of sloth, today’s post will be a quick one - but don’t worry, there’s a healthy dose of mojo waiting at the end. First, however, is the Random Shot of Beauty – this one taken from a recent morning on a trail along the Big Sur coastline:

It’s a bird of some sort. A rather large bird. And it looks kind of brown. Obviously I’m not much of a bird watcher, but if anyone out there wants to take a stab at an ID on this one, here’s a fuzzy-cropped closeup of the same pic, which was the only one I got before this guy bailed out and flew away:

Have at it, birders.

As for your inspiration: if you happen to receive the National Geographic channel, set your recorder for Sunday at 8PM EST to check out a documentary on the incomparable Dean Potter, who has become a living legend in three different adventure sports. Whether it’s rock climbing, slacklining (yes, I’ve got this on the brain lately), or BASE jumping, Potter is one of the people consistently pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

The National Geographic feature is called The Man Who Can Fly, and it centers on a record-setting free climb and base jump from Canada’s Mt Bute. However, it also provides a nice overview to many other Potter exploits, including a somewhat controversial “first free solo” on El Capitan in Yosemite.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to check whether I even get the National Geographic channel, and I'll look forward to watching the show. Maybe I can manage to find an inspiring end to an otherwise lazy weekend.

“The Man Who Can Fly” by National Geographic (click to play):

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Chris G.,  2/11/12, 3:53 PM  

Looks like a dark morph of the red tailed hawk.

Tess 2/12/12, 6:14 AM  

The birder in my house says it's either a golden eagle or a marsh hawk.

Anonymous,  2/12/12, 6:41 AM  

Another vote for dark morph red-tailed hawk.

Cherylrunner 2/12/12, 7:36 AM  

Hey slacker! looks like a hawk to me! nice clip of Dean - will catch that one tonight! enjoy your weekend..

Eric 2/12/12, 9:38 AM  

It definitely looks like a red-tailed hawk to me.

Donald 2/12/12, 10:09 AM  

@Tess: golden eagle was my guess too, but we appear to be in the minority here.

RD Jim 2/12/12, 11:20 AM  

This reminds me of the currently hospitalized base jumper Jeb Corliss who recently crashed into Table Mountain in Cape Town during an HBO shoot. He's got some seriously messed up legs but says he's eager to get back to what people keep paying him to do - risk his life performing stupid stunts in his wing suit. I'm all for risky fun but guys like this and free solo climber Alex Honnold take things too far. If they were drug addicts about to OD people would be encouraging them to get help. Yet for some reason it's OK to pay them to maybe die in front of our cameras. Statistics show it's just a matter of time. I'm sure HBO has mixed feelings about this amateur video of Jeb's crash being released prior to their show - which no doubt will have a large audience because we want to see the footage from the guy right behind Jeb when he bounced off that cliff ledge and tumbled through the air only to throw his reserve in the nick of time.

Anonymous,  2/12/12, 4:31 PM  

another vote for golden eagle. compared to the fence post, the size just seems too great to be a hawk. Golden's are 30 to 50% bigger than hawks. Is that a metal band on its left leg?

Donald 2/12/12, 9:54 PM  

@RD Jim: It's a tricky subject for sure. I don't think of these guys like drug addicts - in many ways, Potter and Honnold aren't that different than Chuck Yeager and Alan Shepherd or any Richard Branson when it comes to pushing boundaries. Yes, sometimes those pioneers die (like Steve Fossett), but that's the price of being at the pointy edge of high performance. Or think of an Olympic downhill skier or luger who is constantly going for speed at any cost - sometimes to the point of serious injury or even death. There's danger at the elite end of countless activities.

I don't have a problem with companies like The North Face sponsoring extreme athletes, but I do think there could be a risk in glamorizing their accomplishments so much that some less-talented 20-year-old somewhere will try to free solo El Cap simply in hopes of making a name for himself. Personal responsibility has to play a role as well, though. People also die due to stupidity from time to time.

Thanks for the thought-provoking comment, though - I may expand this for a regular post sometime.

RD Jim 2/13/12, 12:54 PM  

Thanks for the reply. My earlier comment was a free rant of sorts. Looking back on it I probably would not have referred to their stunts as stupid. I actually believe they take an enormous amount of skill and practice. Jeb's mishap proved that at least one aspect of his backup worked - that is his being able to reach for his reserve. But he was lucky. Free soloists have no such reserve. We can debate what motivates these guys - money, fame, or just personal enrichment. I say this as a guy who used to own a hanglider and who's just this month started working on my paragliding certification. So I'm sure there's lots of room to call me a hypocrite. There is no clear line on what's too risky, but like obscenity, I know it when I see it. I'd really look forward to hearing your analysis of these issues and try to logically formulate what factors other people think go into our opinions on where to draw the line. For example, I sold my glider when I had children and now 25 years later many factors are different. I'm an empty nester now but I'm also 52 and may not be as fit to take a spill into the trees.

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