The blue skies offered clear views for 40 miles. Speeding towards the horizon of Baylands ahead of us, our four-seater lightly jumped across the runway until we took flight. Up into the sky and out over the SanFrancisco Bay we slipped as the foothills receded behind us. The towers of the city to the north sandwiched between the Golden Gate Bridge above the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra mountains to the east. Looking down at the commuters in traffic and the sailboats on the Bay, we were with the birds of prey.
Banking out and over the ocean, below we could see the cliffs of the California coastline as they crash into the sea. Swells from storms far away slowly wrapped their arms around the headlands before depositing white foam waves on the shore. Banking right, we headed towards the snowcapped peaks and the famous Lake Tahoe, the size of Singapore. Emerald green and phthalo blue waters so deep the bottom of the lake has hardly every been reached by humans. Scratchy shorelines of rock and sand create a thin line between the water and surrounding mountains.
And then it was time for the glorious Yosemite National Park area with its Half Dome Mountain. Like an enormous ball of granite that has been split in half, this 4000-foot high face shoots straight up from the valley towards the sky, veiled with pine trees. Its spectacular from any angle but rarely do we enjoy these fleeting views from the clouds, looking down on a landscape that takes days and weeks to traverse by foot.
And then we are off to Columbia, the old gold mining town famous in the 1800’s as the frontier town that absorbed all the gold and dreams of the Forty-Niner’s and countless souls in search of their mountain of gold. The wood and brick buildings still wear the patina of history and it is easy to slip back 150 years into a time of lawlessness in the Wild Wild West. After a lunch of sandwiches and sarsaparilla, we hike back to the tiny airport and head home A magical day spent in the heavens with birds of prey.
Text by Gregory Burns, Photographs by Angie Tan Burns, All Rights Reserved.