What a sentence: "We flew." For the entire length of history, until the past 100 years, all humans had only viewed the earth from one perspective: with feet on the ground. Flying is something we all dream of doing (my flight dreams always involve a swimming kick-board and I breaststroke through the air) but we already have the means... planes (and helicopters and gliders and jetpacks, etc.)! In just over a century we have become so used to flying that we'll casually say, "I gotta take two flights to ______" next week. We board the plane hoping the passenger sharing our armrest will let us sleep so the time will fly while we do too. It's an elevated bus ride. I do not get excited about flying in commercial jets, partially, I think, because the flight is at such high altitudes the beauty of the ground below is often unseen or obscured by clouds. Small plane flying is a whole 'nother deal. While buckled into a metal machine the size of a minivan, hurling through the air twice as quickly as you might on the highway, it becomes difficult to check-out and forget you're flying. Flying lower to the ground than in jets, one spots bear, mountain sheep and goats below, and finds familiar trails; these are constant reminders that there's nothing between you and the earth but thousands of feet of air. Mountains that appear large from the ground are revealed as the breathtaking masses they truly are. You learn that rainbows can form a full circle when spotted from great heights.
Married to Austin, I've ridden along on flights over the past few years observing scenery that has astounded me; some of my favorites have been this summer.
Austin's folks came for a visit and he took us up for a 90 minute "flight-see" to an area of the park where I had never visited. First, we travelled up the valley to where the Erie mine still clings to the mountainside. Many hikers eager to see what was left behind when the copper mine closed in 1938 turn around well before they arrive at this bunkhouse, though some brave hikers (including Austin with my cousin last summer) make it all the way and are not disappointed in the relics they find.
Below us, as we travelled north through the valley were cracks, crevices, blue pools of water on the white ice of the Root Glacier. We then came to the Stairway Icefalls, almost vertical portion of the glacier from which huge chunks (think bus sized) sometimes calve. I've heard that these are the tallest icefalls, outside of the Himalayas.
We swung around toward the west and headed for our local monster mountain, Blackburn. Some of our guides summited this beast in May which blows my mind. It stands at 16,390' (5th highest peak in the US) and was first summited by a woman, Dora Keen, in 1912 and her route has never been successfully repeated. From here, Austin took us around the backside and this is where it really got wild. I'd never been on this side of the park and boy did it deepen my love for this place...
Bluebird skies, snow, and rock as far I could see. I really have no words to describe this beauty and my pictures are in no way comparable to the real deal. You'd just have to come see this for yourself. Next up... Mount Wrangell! She tops out at 14,163' but has a mass of 560 square miles. I've heard that's 10 Mt. Rainiers!
As we approached, we could see steam billowing out from a crater and ash covering the snow. This is the park's only active volcano. You may be able to detect icicles in the opening.
After this portion, we wound our way back home enjoying jagged peaks coated in overhanging snow, more abandoned mine sites, tundra-like vegetation where snow had melted but trees and shrubs do not dare grow (the latter two not pictured - at this point I gave up attempting to represent well what I was seeing with photos).
What a gift it is to fly. To dream to soar, fashion a machine that actually ascends (and descends!), and brave the skies. When my feet leave the ground and I see snowy peaks cast in rose gold light, my soul is grounded in the apparent love of my Maker.