John & Anne Wiley

2016/09/30

Catching Whitefish

We did more than wonder about Whitefish. We decided to launch out of Cut Bank into the 40mph headwind toward the stormy looking Rockies for a closer look. As we got closer the wind lessened and it was clear we had three excellent choices: turn and ride the wind back to Cut Bank; weave through the wide valleys along a highway and turn back if we didn’t like how it looked at some point; or, climb over most of the clouds. After some dialog we chose curtain #3, because climbing gave us the most options. We could still descend through any of the countless holes in the clouds or turn back, but we could better see and avoid any of the few tall clouds with potential for rain below. Quickly the wind all but stopped and in mere minutes we neared the valley where KGPI awaits. With a clear path and few clouds ahead we descended between the scattered clouds into the more smoky and humidity-hazed air over Hungry Horse Reservoir.

2427 Hungry Horse

2427 Hungry Horse

By this time we were hungry too. Not just for a gourmet dinner and colorful nightlife, but also for the welcoming cool and green we were nestling down into.

2434 Green

2434 Green

Even with logged, burned and dead patches of forest, this was a refreshing change from the prairie. Ahead we could see Flathead Lake and several towns just beyond the last peaks below us.

2436 Flathead Lake

2436 Flathead Lake

One last alpine lake (Strawberry I think) slipped close beneath our wings in the still air, evoking memories of the arduous hikes and rustic camping of youth.

2453 Strawberry Lake

2453 Strawberry Lake

Now all that remained was to follow the river toward KGPI and enjoy the sunset scenery.

2471 Flathead River Eve

2471 Flathead River Eve

That night we wandered the streets of Whitefish and caught a great dinner, completing an especially glorious day that began with family and ended with a toast to precious memories.

Tupelo Grille Toast

Tupelo Grille Toast

Advertisements

2016/09/29

Cut Bank Temptation

After great times with family in Okotoks we took off from High River and were soon winging over interesting prairie features like this dry salt pond.

2308 Prairie Salt Lick

2308 Prairie Salt Lick

We were headed SSE to avoid the hassle we’d once had clearing U.S. Customs at KGPI Kalispell near Glacier Park, MT. That’s a nice town and great airport, and maybe the CBP guy we encountered there has mellowed or been promoted. The mountain weather is notorious so rather than dodge thunderstorms in the air (and upon landing at CBP), we stayed East of the Rockies. Crossing the prairie by car or from an airliner can be tedious, but from our vantage point or just Being there on the ground it’s lovely.

2321 Prairie Vista

2321 Prairie Vista

I guess this is what people would see if there were a nearby hill to climb. Gentle undulations of ground level, and winding creeks interrupting the agricultural geometry, make it fascinating from a quarter mile up.

2326 GeoShapes

2326 GeoShapes

One of our fav old movies is 12 O’Clock High that relives memories of an abandoned WWII bomber base, so we imagined the transition of this spot from airfield to farm.

2355 RCAF Station Pearce

2355 RCAF Station Pearce

It was a training base, as I learned on the wiki, where I added a larger version of this pic you can click on to see the texture of frost-crushed concrete and the footprints of long-gone roads and buildings. Farther along was this farm with weathering barn, partly in shadow from some broken clouds like we saw off to the East earlier. Somehow the foreboding cloud shadow seems to portend the end of small farms.

2376 Farm on Shadow's Edge

2376 Farm on Shadow’s Edge

After this too-brief prairie tour we’d crossed the border and checked out the Cut Bank International Airport from high overhead, where we got this view of the town.

2408 Cut Bank, MT

2408 Cut Bank, MT

The name clearly comes from that deep cut the river has made, leaving tall banks cut on both sides. The highway (and rail line at far left) cross it on bridges, and the town is close enough to the airport that we considered walking after the quick and easy clearance by a very friendly and helpful CBP agent. We also considered taking advantage of the free room and shower apparently on offer in the terminal building.

2418 KCTB International Airport Terminal

2418 KCTB International Airport Terminal

Unlike the RCAF airport above that housed training in small to medium-sized WWII aircraft, this one heard the rumble of B-17 heavy bombers. After the war it hosted Western Airlines DC-3 flights, and is now a great place to clear CBP with less chance of adverse weather delaying the arrival from Canada. But like this post, the day was growing long and we wondered how night life in this friendly prairie town would compare with the lively Kalispell / Whitefish so near across the Rockies.

2016/09/26

About Okotoks

We’re settling back into our happy life as Santa Barbarians after the flying trips to Canada and then a week after returning, back North to San Francisco. Enchanting times, and colorful dreams with some restful days, so now back to where we left off: Flying from Grants Pass to Okotoks, AB.

1973 Seattle & Bellevue

1973 Seattle & Bellevue

The first leg, from Grants Pass to Renton on the Seattle outskirts was so smoky we only have one pic from the flight. So instead I offer the above pic on a clearer (tho still smoky) day, when we took off for the last leg North. We’d had days of delights with friends and family, and the lure of special times with more dear family helped get us moving again. Anne once lived out in the woods near Snoqualmie, where now housing developments and shopping malls are taking over but there’s still the familiar view of noble Mt. Si.

1987 Mount Si

1987 Mount Si

By now you’ve noticed that the colors are so tweaked as to be a bit weird, but my hope is that the foreground is a little less the drab camera view than the beauty our eyes beheld. Farther along I-90 wasn’t much better, but still so majestic I had to share this view typical of what we see above and beyond highway vistas that are themselves beautiful.

2048 Above Highways

2048 Above Highways

We turned North at Coeur d’Alene and stopped at Cranbrook to clear Canadian Customs. Then winding along within sight of the highway (but in a much straighter line) we passed views like this East through the Rockies.

2194 Canadian Rockies

2194 Canadian Rockies

As we approached the Prairie this last butte saluted our journey.

2210 Butte Salute

2210 Butte Salute

We collected countless precious memories in Okotoks, and one of my favorites was this visit to the Erratic.

2242 Family Rock

2242 Family Rock

2016/09/23

More SJC->SBA

Here are a few more pix I like from our San Jose to Santa Barbara flight. First up, this smoky but still (to me) interesting look at the dotted clouds and dappled shadows somewhere near the tiny town of Marina, looking toward Salinas.

3734 Marina to Salinas

3734 Marina to Salinas

Then another angle on the so far unbeatable Soberanes Fire showing how smoke clinging to valleys accents the different hills and mountains.

3735 Smoke Variations

3735 Smoke Variations

Meanwhile the main plume charges off across the valley to darken the day of people in that direction. Note the pattern at the bottom-right corner, and then ponder with me what created this apparently man-made feature.

3739 Sand Barcode

3739 Sand Barcode

Later down the Big Sur Coast we got this view of Nepenthe showing how the fire was stopped before crossing the first high ridge up from the beach. We’re glad to know one of our favorite stops along that enchanting drive will be awaiting our return.

3783 Nepenthe Spared

3783 Nepenthe Spared

Soon we’d all but passed Big Sur, reaching the San Simeon area with this rock outcrop that somehow invites climbing and exploration.

3822 Caves In Rock

3822 Caves In Rock

As for Hearst Castle itself, here’s another angle showing the still empty iconic swimming pool and you might be able to make out some of the tourists wandering the grounds.

3854 Hearst Castle Reopened

3854 Hearst Castle Reopened

Do you share my fascination with the patterns of kelp created by currents in the waters off Cayucos?

3882 Kelp Art

3882 Kelp Art

Speaking of which, here’s a look at the town and nearby reservoir again revealing the smoky valley beyond the now dwindling Santa Lucia mountains.

3885 Cayucos

3885 Cayucos

Last for today a zoom pic of Morro Rock, where native peoples have long climbed up to hold sacred events amid the Peregrine nests.

3896 Morro Rock

3896 Morro Rock

2016/09/22

Beauty & Beast

The beauty of the Big Sur Coast greeted our Wednesday flight from SJC to SBA. But look at the mountains just above the coast and you see the ashen scars of the beast named the Soberanes Fire, still pumping smoke all over the lower half of CA. According to the LA Times it’s the most expensive firefighting effort in U.S. history, and it’s still going strong as you can see.

3767 The Soberanes Beast

3767 The Soberanes Beast

We decided to try the coast, since at takeoff from SJC it looked like the thickest smoke was over Salinas Valley. Bingo! Though both fuzzy with coastal humidity dotted by clinging clouds, and hazy with the lingering smoke that spews in one direction and then another, views like this at Point Sur were refreshing after so many smoky months.

3769 Hwy.1 Spared

3769 Hwy.1 Spared

Unlike prior Big Sur fires we didn’t notice any places where fire had reached the road, though it’s been closed sometimes for firefighter access. Traffic was relatively light, but plenty of people were touring this enchanted coast. Not far South another monster named the Chimney Fire got this close to the popular Hearst Castle.

3861 Hearst Castle Saved

3861 Hearst Castle Saved

That’s the “castle” at the bottom-left, and the red along that grassy ridge is where they stopped the flames. Thanks to valiant efforts by fire crews, there were able to save the landmark and we saw tour buses carrying visitors on the road from San Simeon. A few minutes later we started seeing thicker smoke from the Canyon Fire at VAFB, cloaking the feet of the Sisters range from Morro Bay to SLO.

3889 Shrouded Sisters

3889 Shrouded Sisters

We were happy that the plume had been knocked down so that we could fly in relatively clear air across the Santa Ynez range (peeking above the distant smoke) and glide into SBA and the gentle greeting of Our Town.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: