We connect through Salt Lake City, amidst throngs of families, and board for Vancouver. It is a Friday, and it is the start of Canada Day weekend, the equivalent of our Fourth of July. We turn left over the Great Salt Lake, shimmering white and blue in the early summer morning, and bank over the building Rockies. There are small seeds of clouds, presaging an afternoon of thunderstorms. I watch the endless march of mountainsides that scroll under our wing, and I think of explorers.
Two hundred years ago, a man from Virginia who wanted to see the west would have had nothing to prepare him for this landscape. He would have started out from a pastoral, green, rolling countryside that was friendly to horses and humans alike. True, he would have had the challenge of crossing the Appalachians, but those mountains are ancient and round compared to these. He would have floated downriver to St Louis, and then embarked west up the Missouri, or across the boundless plains. And eventually he would have come face to face with these rugged sheer peaks.
There was probably no shame in approaching that massive range at Denver or Bozeman, and thinking, this is a perfectly good place to stop. Those folks who ventured that far had already proven that they were made of stern stuff, after all. And the Front Range of Colorado is not such a bad place. I think of the mindset it must have taken to say instead, I wonder what’s on the other side?
All we endure this day, in one of the precious front seats in our flying metal tube, is that the only food served on our flight is Sun Chips, and the biggest question we ask ourselves is, should we have another Bloody Mary? So…. No matter the strange dance that air travel has become at this point in history, we have a great deal to be thankful for, watching this tableau of lake and desert, mountain and plain, from thirty thousand feet.