Above Infinity

Now that the heat has returned to Chattanooga, it seems like the perfect time to re-live part of our trip to Glacier National Park a couple years ago, where it was cool enough that it even snowed.

We started in Portland, visiting my dad, jumped on a train to Seattle where we met some friends.  Then, we went on across the continent (or so it seemed) overnight until we arrived at the tiny West Glacier train station.

Deposited at the depot so early in the morning that it wasn’t open yet, we stood on the asphalt area that served as a platform. surrounded by our rolling luggage.  We looked around in wonder.

By the time we discovered our rental car hadn’t been dropped off for us, got picked up by the rental company, and were outfitted with a four-wheel drive vehicle that was twice as big as anything I’d ever driven, we’d seen enough to be reminded why we love the Rockies.

But these Rockies seemed . . . rockier.  More rugged, bigger, bolder somehow than the Rockies of Colorado or Alberta.  But then again, I think I feel that way every time I return to the Rockies, no matter which part.

Our friends were only staying a couple of nights and then they were heading back without us.  Since they weren’t hikers, we took advantage of having a couple of non-hiking days to adjust to the altitude by doing things like driving to overlooks and walking on gentle paths around lakes.  There was an amazing amount of beauty to take in without pulling any muscles.

When we drove past a helicopter tour place, we girls were determined to get the guys on the copter.  I have often skipped helicopter tours opting to spend my money on a nice dinner with a decent bottle of wine instead.   But I always regretted skipping the helicopter tour in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  This time, I wasn’t about to miss it.

I laugh as I remember how hesitant the guys were to join us.  I really think they wanted to save the money.  I don’t think either one regretted having spent it by the time we landed.

There is something so spectacular about mountains.  To see them from above, with clouds nestling below their peaks . . . I imagine scenes from Greek mythology of the gods having a meeting or perhaps playing chess.  If I were immortal, this is definitely where I would hang out.

I cannot logically explain the effect mountains have on me, but I think it’s a common experience.  That sense of awe, grandeur, amazement.  The sudden stillness that follows the feeling of inspiration.  Feeling part of something bigger than my imagination. Perhaps a sense of being part of something infinite–the world seems so endless from a mountain top.

I wish these few photos contained that feeling.  Unfortunately, these are very low resolution versions of the originals (which, I hope, are stored away in an archive somewhere).

Come Sail Away

I once worked with a man who told me about an airport North of Columbus where they have a sailplane club. He told me that in exchange for paying the $10 cost for the tow plane, you could fly as a guest with a member. I immediately put this on my list of things I wanted to do.

Over the years, I periodically drove by the club location. It was far enough out of the way that I probably went by it only a couple of times a year. But each time, I was always in too much of a hurry to stop and see if I could get a ride.

The years went by.

A few years ago, I learned my husband was enthusiastic about flying in a sailplane, too. After a couple of years of occasionally talking about it, we finally decided we were going to stop at the club to see if we could ride.

Nearly 20 years had passed since I had originally heard about the club. Yet, the website indicated it was still possible to take a guest ride. We took our road trip and arrived at the field, excited that at last, we were going to have this adventure.

Unfortunately, there was no one else around to participate. By this, I mean the tiny airport was so abandoned looking, I expected tumbleweeds to go blowing by. We got out, walked around, and peered through windows trying to find someone. Either the weather was bad for gliding or there was some kind of event that had taken them elsewhere. We found evidence that the airport was still active, but no sign of current activity.

It was such a let down after taking so many years to get around to stopping.

But, last June, while out in Portland, OR, I took Pat to the Mt. Hood area to go for a flight. It wasn’t quite the same as flying with a club, but it was a far grander view than a flight in Marion, Ohio would have been.

Having planned poorly, I didn’t have enough cash to pay for the ride. Poor Pat ended up paying for his own birthday present.

When it was my turn to go up, I climbed into the cockpit armed with my camera and watched as the guys rolled the sailplane out to the runway and hooked it up to the tow plane. The pilot climbed into the cockpit, sealed us up inside a plastic bubble that immediately made me feel claustrophobic, and gave the signal.

There was nothing to but take pictures. It’s not that easy to shoot from inside a plastic bubble. Although the rapidly moving air blowing through the cockpit prevented suffocation, the mid-day light bounced back at me, ruining most of my shots. A polarizer might have been helpful.

Soaring over the farmers fields below with Mt. Hood looming in the background and the Columbia River rolling by underneath made the two decade wait worth it.