Hang Glider Cliff at Thacher State Park is a pretty amazing spot. It's where many local hang gliders and paragliders take off from, and was once the starting point for a 71-mile flight all the way to Walton, New York (a record for the cliff).
There's a bit of a mystery atop Hang Glider Cliff, a plaque that reads "Fly Forever Dad" with the initials "ECS Jr" and the dates 1919-1992. It's embedded in the cement of the small runway. So who is ECS, and who laid that plaque?
Was it the site of a hang glider takeoff gone wrong? Is it a memorial for a man who loved flying, but died of other causes?
No one seemed to know, so I started asking around...
Scroll to the top for a panorama photo.
We found Hang Glider Cliff by accident while hiking along the Long Path and a few things immediately struck me as special about the site.
The view is great: You can see the Albany skyline and miles and miles of farmland from the cliff. Not far from the drop there's a house with acres of land and a pond.
There's a lot of wildlife: hawks, wild turkeys and turkey vultures. On our latest trip there the vultures were soaring above the cliff, catching rides in the rising thermals (much like the hang gliders and paragliders that take off from the site do).
Hang Glider Cliff is secluded, but exposed -- and if you're leery of heights, just a little bit scary.
The cliff itself has a rounded drop and is 1330 feet above sea level.
There's an old tattered American flag that hangs with zip ties from a tree -- and that iron plaque.
The plaque that's been in the back of my mind for months.
I contacted the Thacher Park manager, Chris Fallon, to see if he knew the story behind the plaque. He didn't, but gave me the name of the president and treasurer of the Hudson Valley Soarers, a local hang gliding and paragliding club that uses the site.
The club's president, Bo Soiffer, told me about the site and about hang gliding and paragliding -- but Bo didn't know the story behind the plaque either, so he shared with me another name: John Sillero.
John's the hang glider who holds the record for longest flight from Hang Glider Cliff -- that record 71 mile trip (that's him in the photo). He's been gliding since the mid-70s, and at Hang Glider Cliff specifically since the fall of 1975.
John knew about the plaque, but didn't know its history. Neither did any of the other gliders he asked. It was a mystery to them, too.
A quick conversation with a former park manager and an unreturned phone call to an individual who owns land on the cliff left the plaque question unanswered. And it remains a mystery.
But what is known is that the family, or the "Dad," who's memorialized there must have fallen in love with the place. And so have I.
Getting there: You can access the cliff a few different ways. This park map shows you where the Hang Glider Road is (it's the magenta colored trail) and you can access that from the parking lot on Carrick Road. The cliff is the "scenic site" next to "Town of Guilderland."
My usual way to get there is to follow the Long Path from its entrance near the park office in Thacher. If you go that way, you'll likely come across the sign to Hang Glider Cliff an hour and fifteen minutes or so into the hike (at a leisurely pace). I'd recommend bringing the map and looking out for signs on the way back.
(If you continue along the Long Path, be sure to visit the other scenic outlook in the area -- the Fred Schroeder Memorial, named after a friend to Thacher Park and the outdoor community.)
Thacher State Park
1 Hailes Cave Road
Voorheesville, NY 12186
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