Thursday, October 21, 2010

Travel: Looking Down

The town of Verdi, Nevada, not far west of Reno, was viewed from the air on 21-October-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Over the years, I have often been surprised at what I have managed to recognize as I looked down from the window of a commercial airplane. While I have experienced a fair portion of the western United States, especially, on the ground, my mind doesn't seem to have much difficulty realizing that scenes that I had seen only from the ground before were appearing outside a window five miles above them.

The first time I really surprised myself was on a flight from Denver, Colorado to Seattle, Washington. The plane had gone above the clouds shortly after departing Denver. When the clouds cleared and I looked down, I immediately recognized the location as being Baker City, Oregon, not exactly a common destination in my life, in the middle of the Blue Mountains crossing of Interstate 84. As the flight path would essentially follow that freeway to the Columbia River, it was pretty straight-forward to verify that, indeed, I had correctly recognized Baker City, as LaGrande, Pendleton, and Herimston followed.

On another occasion, I had been engaged in reading something interesting when the descent toward Sea-Tac Airport south of Seattle, Washington caused me to look out the window. Within seconds, I realized that I was looking at Index, Washington, with its railway loop away from US Highway 2 along the Skykomish River. As Gold Bar, Monroe, and Everett soon followed, it became clear that I once more had been correct.

It hasn't only happened on the west coast, but just about anywhere I've been on the ground. On a flight back to the United States from Europe, I once looked down to recognize Acadia National Park in Maine, picking out Cadillac Mountain and thinking that I was glad I had not noticed the planes above when I had been there.

Downtown Sacramento and West Sacramento, California (note the Capitol building in the lower left) were viewed from a flight on 21-October-2010

So, it should not have been terribly surprising to see some familiar scenes from a window seat today. Leaving San Francisco, the plane entered a cloud bank, but it cleared in time for a view of Sacramento, then I started to read after Roseville, throwing a glance out the window to recognize that I was looking at Verdi, Nevada. It would have been nice to visit Cabela's or shoot pictures of trains crossing the Truckee River, but the plane had long since reached cruising altitude, so I went back to reading.

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