I just love a good view – from the higher up the better!
Earlier this year when I flew from LA to New York, I took advantage of the opportunity to grab a few high elevation shots along the way!
Afterwards, I was inspired to take a stroll through my photo collection in search of other aerial views! I sometimes have a hard time being sure of my bearings from some of these great heights – and with certain shots, I can’t get my bearings at all…
But other photos are of places I’ve gotten to know very well. And even while I’m taking in these “big picture” pics, it’s often charming smaller details that come to mind!
Like when I study this view of a section of California’s Stanislaus National Forest! If my bearings are correct (never a good assumption…), it’s Beardsley Lake with its damn dam visible at the bottom:
As touched on in my last post, the Emigrant Wilderness (part of the Stanislaus National Forest) was one of the areas I had the joy of getting to know while backpacking with my dad!
When I used to jet pretty regularly over this open country, I liked trying to spot familiar landmarks. I also enjoyed figuring I was the only person onboard who knew that somewhere beneath was a particularly beautiful and secluded little meadow along Cherry Creek Canyon. On one of my backpack rambles with Dad, we lunched by a minivan-sized granite boulder at the edge of an unspoiled meadow. On inspection (part of the fun of being out in nature is inspecting things I don’t see every day!), we found several fairly deep and unnatural looking holes in the top of the stone and tons of bright little obsidian chips around its base.
As Dad and I dined on our usual trail fare (baguette, cheese and salami followed by a Big Hunk candy bar because it didn’t melt all over the place), we couldn’t help imagining that this had once been a Native American camp – a spot where maybe people sat on top of that boulder to grind acorns or pine nuts for their own lunch, and to fashion arrowheads for the hunt.
I doubt I could find that lovely meadow again on foot – and I certainly couldn’t pick it out from thousands of feet above. But how I do love knowing it’s there!
As far as overhead landmark spotting goes, I’ve always felt on firmer ground with Southern Oregon’s crystal blue Crater Lake:
I flew over this volcanic remnant of former Mt. Mazama each summer en route to the Shakespeare Festival in nearby Ashland, but it was years before I finally got a close-up look one May while it was still blanketed with snow. At last, the spot I’d only gotten a kind of flat impression of from far above now took on dimension and depth – the deepest depth for a lake in the US as a matter of fact!
I’m always dazzled by the extraordinary landscapes of America’s West! And when I see Crater Lake from the air, with Wizard Island’s breaching the surface there at one end, I like to think of it as a painter’s palette complete with a hole for the thumb of some giant artist who left it behind after crafting such incredible scenes!
Farther up north, I’ve caught views of the Canadian portion of the Rocky Mountains while on my way to the gorgeous provinces of British Columbia and Alberta:
I cringe a little to remember that during one wintertime flight to Calgary, a gentleman next to me who often traveled the route suddenly gripped the shared arms of his middle seat and proved to me that tense knuckles actually do turn white! He nervously declared we’d just experienced wind shear while flying over the massive and formidable Rockies. I hadn’t identified the sensation of rapid altitude loss – but I could believe it had happened when our plane abruptly assumed an unsettlingly steep angle in a hurry to gain it back…
The experience was one of those reminders that as beautiful as nature can be, its forces can be unpredictable – and I got more such reminders when I got to the hotel in Banff. The hotel tv channel offered the periodic warning that since we weren’t in an amusement park, we mustn’t treat the wild elk that wander into town like puppies with super-big horns, but should definitely use our heads and put – the selfie sticks – down.
While having its perils, nature in glorious places like the Canadian Rockies offers up intriguing and delightful surprises too! While on a bus tour around Banff and Lake Louise, I sure didn’t expect to be directed to look way up a mountainside to the Burgess Shale site where fossilized remnants of marine life from over 500 million years ago were found. 500 million! That’s also about how many times I’ve now fact-checked that staggering figure…
But of all the natural wonders I’ve had the privilege to view both from above and close up, maybe the easiest to spot – and the dearest to me – is the Yosemite Valley!
Having grown up and gone to college in the Bay Area, lots of roads in my youthful life led to Yosemite. Dad was a UC Berkeley professor in Plant Pathology whose work often took him around the Sierra Nevada mountains and, as often as he could, he took the family along. Also one year, my Girl Scout troop used its cookie sale profits for a camping adventure to the Yosemite Valley. While a student at Cal and member of the Glee Club, I took part in a couple of inspiring (not to say massively fun!) retreats there. And I’ve gone with friends and family over the years to visit for the day to show them just what a big glacier with a little time can do!
Yup – flying over Yosemite brings back all sorts of warm memories! I recall following Dad around with a note pad to help record details about the health of the Valley’s trees. And I vividly remember learning firsthand that it’s not a good idea to open your door to feed crackers to raccoons because they take it as an invitation to come on inside…
But among many special moments – and even though the day was freezing cold – one memory remains just a little warmer than the rest. It happened when I was a kid sitting in a Yosemite cafeteria with Mum one winter’s eve.
After playing a spirited round of Double Solitaire while Dad was off doing work stuff, Mum and I went for a meal in a pointy-ceilinged building constructed largely of glass. As we sat eating and chatting away, outdoor lights began catching and illuminating the biggest snowflakes I’d ever seen! The thing was I hadn’t witnessed much in the way of snowfall during my temperate Bay Area childhood – so this was quite the event! But even to this day, I’ve not seen snowflakes as large and as perfect as these were, taking their sweet time in the still air as they drifted serenely down to earth.
What a wonder they were to a young and inexperienced eye!
Even after decades of air travel, I still love feeling a sense of wonder when I get the chance to press my nose to a window and take in the view!
Yeah, sometimes the glass (or whatever substance it is) can be dirty. Sometimes cloud cover obscures the landscape. And on red-eye flights it’s – well, you know – it’s dark outside.
But every once in a while, I’ve had the good fortune to capture lasting high-altitude images either with a camera or just in my mind! Images of parts as yet unknown to me where perhaps my own ground-level memories will one day be made. Or of places where even from such a great distance, wonderful memories can reach me still.