Arrived at Ellenville launch yesterday about 2pm, found it blasting NW. Dave and Stan (?) were already on their XC adventure. It being too strong to launch, I decided to hike up to check out Bear Cliff and the new SW launch; in retrospect not a long walk but I wouldn't want to drag a glider up there without a lot more conditioning. Talked to some locals on the rock and had to sit down because of the strong surface wind. Saw a hawk hovering about 50 feet away.
Got back to launch around 3:30, Tom Galvin and Chad were set up and getting ready to go. Chad launched about 4 and shot up like a rocket, Tom not long thereafter.
Stepped in some pilot's dog poop which I wasn't too happy about, but I kept my mouth shut and focused on setting up. (got home later with yellow socks, not sure what that's about)
I launched around 5 when it was still somewhat strong but had calmed down (direction was very consistent). Good launch; went up immediately, textured air but nothing too nasty. Hopped on a couple of express elevators to 4400 feet msl. Felt a bit of vertigo on the first turn in the core but shook it off and was fine (it's been a while since I've been in a nice strong thermal). The airport by the prison was probably doable. Whizzed by a bald eagle (I think) at my level, going the other way. Strong lift wasn't hard to find, and it wasn't crazy-crowded like it sometimes gets. Came in to land at sunset. Some bubbles around 600ft agl. Bled off altitude over the pumpkin patch, had a nice 2-step landing about 20 feet from the bullseye without doing anything stupid down low. Flight time: 2 hours 46 minutes; felt like 30 minutes. I think I've finally fixed my launch and approach problems, just need to repeat it a few times for consistency. Feeling pretty good this will be my first year for XC.