I learned a pretty cool trick a few weeks ago. If you have the time and 10$ laying around order some of those chinese floating candles. There basically mini hot air balloons that are cool as an ice cube to play with! Light them off in the evening (after dark) and you will be able to get a bit of a visual. Granted thermals are for the most part invisible. Watching something float straight up into the sky and then start hooking right or left out of nowhere gives you something to name- persay. The basics of thermals have been covered but (not sure this is the proper term)-> "thermal pockets" are the trickiest! There has been times while hiking or riding I can feel the temp in just a few feet will change +/- 10 degree and the wind will be going complete opposite direction. After a few yards the temps return to normal and the wind changes right back to the original direction. Ive always wanted to take a course at a cc to get a better understanding.
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This blew my mind last year. I was really trying to control my wind. The closer I got to the top of a ridge(bench), I couldn't tell which way the wind was going. I think I was right at that point where the afternoon thermals were swirling with the winds coming over the top of the ridge in front of me. I kept side hilling from one side to the other until I realized what was going on. Not a perfect science. Just need to do the best you can do and be ready to adapt if the winds change as you approach a ridge top.