LAKE PEPIN (WCCO) — There’s no denying the beauty that lines the shores of Lake Pepin. However, some of its most majestic sights can only be seen from a distance.
“You can’t get a better backdrop than this. It’s just magnificent,” said Dave Dybsand. “It’s a main habitat for bald eagles.”
Dave Dybsand wanted to change that by bringing people closer to the eagles. He realized his experience as a hang gliding pilot could make that possible.
“It’s a dream of mine I’ve had for years. I’ve been flying for just about 30 years now,” Dybsand said. “I realized I wanted to make difference in this world and I looked at all the different ways I could make a difference and really matter. It kept coming back to hang gliding. How can I take people up and share this experience of flying with eagles.”
Last spring he created Eagle Hang Gliding giving people like Jen Cobb the opportunity to experience the thrill of flying.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the views from up there. It’s supposed to be amazing,” Cobb said.
Dybsand’s operation is an undertaking of ingenuity. Lake Pepin makes landing a standard glider impossible. Dybsand’s solution was to use the water for both the beginning and end of each flight.
He built floats to the bottom of his tandem glider for landing. For lift-off, he relies on a boat tow similar to parasailing.
“The difference is we have a much bigger spool of line,” Dybsand said. “There’s over a mile worth of line in that boat. It’s tucked under that hood so the when glider is launched off the boat it’s towed up to 2-3 thousand feet. The difference is we release from the tow line and we fly away unrestricted.”
Dybsand gets help from fellow hang gliding pilot, Beau Buck.
“I think it’s unique because you don’t normally get to fly over water. Normally, if you launch off a mountain you land back on the land but here it’s safe to land back on the water,” Buck said.
Cobb’s 20-minute hang gliding trip gave her a whole new perspective on a region she’s lived in for nearly two years.
“I think just getting to see everything, getting to be up high and see everything and coming down, that was awesome,” Cobb said
Dybsand wants everyone to experience this unique adventure and take in the overlooks of Lake City like they never have before.
“Everyone is awed by it, being able to be in the air,” Dybsand said.
Along the bluffs, wind off the lake hits land creating an uplift in air. It allows the hang glider to stay aloft. This area also happens to be a main habitat for bald eagles and other raptors.
“Eagles spend 90 percent of the time perched and there’s lots of times when we’ll go to a ridge and soar and there won’t be eagles. As soon as the glider comes up on the ridge they come up and want to fly with us,” Dybsand said.
Soaring through the sky is thrilling in its own right but, for Dave, the company joining the flight makes for an unforgettable experience..
“There’s times where we’re surrounded by dozens of eagles. It’s amazing,” Dybsand said.
In Lake City, flying is no longer just for the birds it’s open to anyone willing to let Dybsand to them under his wing.
“That’s what makes it exciting is we get people here that normally would never hang glide,” Dybsand said.
The hang gliding season is coming to an end but there may be more opportunities to fly this fall, if the weather holds out. Otherwise, the gliding season will start again next spring. Flight packages start at $160.
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