In southern Oregon, the 2,500-foot-tall, 22-mile-long Abert Rim is one of the highest and longest cliffs in the U.S. – making it the summer's top paragliding destination. "On a really good day, we can fly 9,000 feet on a rising thermal, all the way up to the clouds," says paraglider Steve Roti, who drives down from Bend twice a year. "We fly with red-tailed hawks, wingtip-to-wingtip – I imagine they're curious."
At the slope-side launch zone just north of Valley Falls, off Highway 395, pilots can wait for hours for the wind to reach 10 mph, the optimal speed required for liftoff. When the wind hits, pilots rocket upward, where they fly north and south along the range for as long as they want – a paraglider recently set a state distance record by flying uninterrupted for 136 miles in a single day.
"Have you ever watched a bird circling over a field on its way up?" Roti asks. "That's exactly what we do. We circle to the base of a cloud and then glide off to the next." When finished, pilots land along the lake. "It's this wonderful experience of having the wind in your face, and the clear air," Roti says. "Paragliding is as close to being a bird as a human can get."