The view from 8,000 feet

Anyone who has flown in a small plane knows how amazing the views are from a lower altitude.  It’s a whole new world – an entirely fresh viewpoint!  For those who haven’t yet experienced this, I can only say that I hope you will some day.

Now of course taking off and landing in a small aircraft give you an up close and personal view similar to that of a commercial jet. But, with the exception of those few minutes, it’s a totally different ballgame.  The big boys fly at 25,000 to 40,000 feet, where you see lots of clouds but not much of what’s on the ground. In a smaller aircraft, like our Piper Cherokee 180, we usually cruise at 10,000 to 12,000 feet, especially over the mountains.

It’s really fun to see animals – cattle and horses, primarily. I keep looking for elk (when I’m not flying the plane) but haven’t spotted any yet. From these lower altitudes, we can see the water level of the lakes, (which is noticeable higher after our recent rains). Dams are visible and we can see houseboats and even spot the white streak of wakes behind the powerboats.

Traveling between California and Oregon, we frequently fly near Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta, sometimes going right by the dramatic and famous Crater Lake, the deepest lake in America. You can literally see where the top of the mountain blew off, leaving a huge crater which is now filled with brilliant blue water. In this region there are large areas where the volcanic activity of the past is quite visible. Some of my favorites are places with black, craggy lava where there are few or no trees. In places you can see the lava’s curvy lip, where millions of years ago, it ceased to flow.

Snow covered peaks are very dramatic, especially when you are flying only a few thousand feet above them.  I feel as if I could just reach out and touch the pristine, freezing surface. Seeing rivers from 8,000 to 12,000 feet can be fascinating! Some are carved deep into the earth and you can even see the white of the rapids. Others remind me of a snake or a ribbon that squiggles its way along the countryside, twisting and turning to make amazing designs on the earth.

Sunsets, casting shadows on the mountains and illuminating the clouds, are often breathtaking! This blog post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that we’ve also flown over 8 lane, congested highways near LA.  I just smile and think how glad I am to be up at 8,000 feet and not down there in that mess.

In a flying car, one can go directly from point A to point B. The way I look at it, this means fewer delays and more time in the sky, enjoying the gorgeous views.

–  Virginia Hall

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