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The Delights of Air Travel

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The Delights of Air Travel

Postby balzaccom » Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:19 am

No, I’m not a great fan of the airlines. Admittedly, I travel so much that I get special treatment at the gate...but like everyone else, I am still stuck on a plane with hundreds of people every time I fly. It's not exactly backpacking.

But a recent flight out of SFO sure had its charms. Choosing a window seat allowed me to get the ultimate bird's eye view of the Sierra, and since I was headed for IAD, we went right over the top of Sonora Pass. I could trace at least four of our recent pack trips into the Emigrant Wilderness--although they were under a heavy snowpack. It was pretty great entertainment--way better than the video on board!

Crabtree Trailhead was clearly visible, as was the topography to get to Camp, Bear, and Granite Lakes. And I could easily make out the route to Grouse Lake, up Louse Canyon, and on to Woods Lake. The huge granite gorge of Cherry Creek really stood out, and Yellowhammer Lake's location was obvious, down in the canyon. From there I could follow the creek all the way down to Cherry Lake. Every lake I could see was frozen over except for Cherry Lake.

And higher up, closer to the crest, I could Emigrant and Huckleberry Lake. And south of that was Matterhorn Canyon and Kerrick Canyon; another great trip we took just this last summer. In the distance Half Dome and Cloud's Rest were good markers; and from there I could see Tuolumne Meadows, Cathedral Peak, and Mount Conness.

It was as much fun as any map, and I was glued to the window for the entire time. And yes. I wish I had carried my camera on board.

There were clouds hanging just over the crest, so the east side was pretty much covered up. I couldn't see Leavitt Meadows or our long hike up the West Walker River. But I could see Bishop and the road that leads up to Twin Lakes and the trailhead for the Matterhorn Canyon trip. It disappeared in to the fog just as it hit the hills on the east side.

The whole show put a smile on my face for most of the rest of the flight...until I realized how long it would be before I was going to walk those mountains again. sigh.

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Re: The Delights of Air Travel

Postby sirlight » Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:39 am

Being "above it" is never as much fun as being "in it", but it can come in as a close second. Sure beats looking at a map or google earth. I have flown over the Sierra a number of times on my way home from PDX or SJC. Always makes me wish I was down in it.

This reminds of the time I was hiking the Na Pali coast on Kauai. There must have been a helicopter fly over every 10 minutes. I was thinking to myself how jealous those people must be up there seeing me hiking on those cliffs.
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Re: The Delights of Air Travel

Postby sparky » Sat Mar 12, 2011 1:59 am

Had that same scenario for two days a little south of where lake meade and grand canyon national park meet. Choppers constantly flying from Vegas I presume. Our route was pretty rugged, on a few fly bys they flew over to us, checking progress.... we were not amused. I mean other than the constant sound of helocopters, there were no signs of human passage heh

Reminds me of another time I was minding my own business hiking up the kern, when a fighter jet swooped inside the canyon, a few hundred feet above my head. I jumped out of my skin....I contemplated aliens, the end of the world, decided it was the sound of the canyon collapsing, to have the sound vanish as quick as it came as I watched a black streak veer a 90 degree turn. This 90 degree is followed by a few more, this was as I was hiking up river from forks of the kern.

I have never flown over the sierra, but have flown east from lax and Ontario a number of times. Grand canyon is pretty spectacular from above.
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Re: The Delights of Air Travel

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:37 am

On a connecting flight last fall, I flew from Ontario up to Sacramento. I made sure to grab a window seat on the front right of the plane in hopes our flight would be right over the foothills giving me a close-up view of the Sierra. The flight path was further west than I had hoped (basically following the 99) but was able to pick out some landmarks and see some great views of the river drainages. I was treated to a tour of almost the entire range.

Years ago, I went on a helicopter ride that took me over Mineral King, across the junction of the Big Arroyo and Kern, up the Kern River Valley, circled over Wallace and Wales Lakes, continued north over the Kern Divide, circled in Paradise Valley, and then out through Kings Canyon. That ride was amazing and only strengthened my desire to explore the high Sierra.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: The Delights of Air Travel

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:59 am

I've have taken several wonderful flights over the Sierra in recent years. Last spring it was Fresno to Las Vegas--the route goes over some of my favorite areas: Dinkey/Woodchuck, then just north of Mt. Goddard, thence over Pinnacles Creek, Royce Lakes and Mt Tom, with an amazing view of Evolution, French Canyon, Humphreys Basin (all cloaked in snow).

The year before (2009) I had an even better route in fall to Portland. This one went more or less parallel to the Sierra the entire way and featured really great views from Ansel Adams Wilderness northward along the range.

In summer of 1995, my wife took a flight over the Sierra from SFO or Oakland on a business trip. The flight just happened to go over the area of an intended long backpacking trip (Red and White Mtn and vicinity) and her photos from the plane showed all of our target lakes to be frozen over. This allowed us to change our plans to a lower elevation target area.

In addition to commercial flights I have been fortunate enough to go up in a helicopter in the course of various engineering geologic investigations. One of these was an amazing overflight of the entire North Fork Mokelumne canyon from downstream of Tiger Creek afterbay (this itself is well downstream of Salt Springs Res) up past Salt Springs Res.through the magnificent canyon upstream of Salt Springs Res and finally to the crest in the Blue Lakes area. I went up in several flights in the North Fork Feather River canyon area that were also spectacular.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: The Delights of Air Travel

Postby markskor » Sat Mar 12, 2011 11:18 am

Sparky wrote:
"Reminds me of another time I was minding my own business hiking up the kern, when a fighter jet swooped inside the canyon, a few hundred feet above my head."

Back when I was a dirt-bag wall climber, ages ago now,
we were doing Snake Dyke on the Dome.

Couple of hot-shoe, F-4 Phantom jocks came blasting up Little Yosemite Valley - some sort of un-sanctioned, dog fighting practice I guess...pretty cool.
Closest one was maybe 500 feet below us and seemingly near enough to reach out and touch...
Other one rolled over, chasing his buddy, blasting/ full burners - heading up canyon in the direction of Merced Lake. The walls roared.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: The Delights of Air Travel

Postby Timberline » Sat Mar 12, 2011 3:25 pm

Seeing the Sierra from the air has to be one of life's special treats indeed. Most delightful for me (and my crew partner I presume as well) was the experience of being deposited by helicopter, with a full backpack, at a remote destination in the high country. First, on the flight in, you got to see a lot of wonderful country from above and pick out all the landmarks you could name. Then it was hop out, shoulder into your pack, and start hikin'. Both times that happened was on the Kern Plateau; each time was followed by 10 days of off-trail wilderness wandering. Oh, and we did some work, too. :D
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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Re: The Delights of Air Travel

Postby rlown » Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:14 pm

It is delightful to look down on the Sierra, when flying over. I used to fly from SJ to Ft Collins and back on business a lot, and it took us right over Yose. Yes, I'd grab a window seat unless on the corp jet which was always a window seat.

As much as I liked looking down and identifying my favorite spots, lake by lake, I still dislike all the commercial traffic flying overhead when I'm actually up there hiking.
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