Perspectives from altitude

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    Perspective, it’s a trait some of us share to greater or lesser extent. The ability to look beyond the mundane and see the world from another vantage point is innate in some, and a carefully crafted skill in others. It’s not easy to do, no matter how attuned you are to it.

    Last Tuesday I was deep in thought as I did one of my favorite activities, building a shed from raw lumber. The boards were getting a bit old, cut from house logs I purchased back in 2008 at my friend Orville Steven’s sawmill.


    These were real 2x6s and 2x8s, not the modern milled lumber that claims to be those dimensions are really 1 ½ by 5 ¼ and 1 ½ by 7 ¼.

    As I calculated an angle for one of the trusses, I caught the image of a man coming up the driveway to the east of our house. I put down the square and turned to see what he wanted.

    To my surprise, it was my nephew Mark Smith of Denver. Mark is building flying hours in a Cessna 182 in a flight program with Sky West. He’s a talented kid, well not a kid at 49, but still a kid to me. He holds a mechanical engineering degree with an emphasis in electronics, is a licensed master electrician and a certified aircraft engine mechanic.

    Mark is a renaissance man in every way, never content to stay in one place when there are other opportunities to pursue. One of those lasting dreams was to become an airline pilot. In a year, with 1500 hours flying in a single-engine aircraft he will become one.


    A dozen or so years ago, Mark flew me and his uncle on the other side of the family, Leroy Sinner (Yes, that Leroy Sinner) on a quick night flight over Tonkin Stadium.

    Riverton was playing Lander that night and my perspective from a thousand feet above the venerable stadium was unique. So was hanging outside an aircraft in the prop wash getting clear images with a telephoto lens.

    Mark had flowing in at 1:30 am and was out for a morning run to our place from the motel he stayed at.


    He had an intriguing offer. “How about flying to Salmon, Idaho, touching down in Eastern Washington and Oregon then flying home,” he asked.

    I thought about it for at least three seconds, “Sure, why not,” I said.

    We set off at about 2 pm from Riverton with Dubois our first target. We gained altitude slowly but at about 8,000 feet we were over Ocean Lake.


    I asked Mark to circle around my parent’s farm between Kinnear and Pavillion just a couple miles west of Ocean Lake on Summerhill Road.

    He dipped the Cessna’s overhead wing to the right and I snapped away from the north of the place. He kept the tight turn and I captured a few more images from the south. Seeing the farm from that vantage point was sobering. It was huge on the ground, especially when I was irrigating, plowing or stacking hay, but just not that big from the air.

    A few minutes later and I pointed out the new dam at Bull Lake. Mark skirted the lake on the south shore and I told a few stories about the adventures my late brother-in-law Matt Conilogue and I shared as young men on that fabulous lake.

    In what seemed just a few seconds, we were over the National Museum of Military Vehicles and just a minute or so later I spotted both football fields in Dubois, the old one I played on and the new one near the school on the northeast corner of the little town.

    The weather over Yellowstone was changing, and not for the best. Another front was settling in over Salt Lake City.

    Mark has a goal of landing in all 48 contiguous states, but Salmon was out that day, and so was a brief stop in Washington and Oregon.

    As we debated what to do through the headsets, I suggested we fly up Union Pass, then follow the Green River to Pinedale and reevaluated our flight path there.

    Union Pass provided many of the adventures of my youth, and a few more with Matt and my dad hunting elk and deer on its magnificent slopes.

    We spotted the homes in Warm Springs and whatever the Line Shack is called these days, but my favorite photographs were the images I caught of Fish Creek as it passed under the bridge on the Union Pass Road. Stringers of brook trout, a few dancing rainbows and heavy cutthroats were all memories from the slow moving bend near the bridge to the whitewater a few miles downstream.

    It’s an area we don’t fish any longer since the grizzlies now call it home.

    The Green River came into sight, but it wasn’t the wide, smooth water you find west of Farson. It undulated like a giant snake through willows, grazing cattle and cut banks until Pinedale came into sight on the horizon.

    We landed at Pinedale for a break, talked with the FBO at the airfield and decided to hit Idaho and Utah before returning home.

    Bear Lake was familiar to me since I listen to Cokeville football on KSVI, the local sports station in Bear Lake that also covers the Panthers.

    The Bear Lake Airport has two runways, a long east west strip and a shorter north south runway at a right angle to it. The skies were clear, no other aircraft were anywhere near us. Mark spoke into the mic, announcing our intentions for a touch and go. We dropped briefly to the ground, the wheels hit, he gunned the engine and we soared into the air.

    Just 12 minutes later, we were approaching a much busier airport in Logan, Utah.

    We got into a flight pattern, landed and spotted dozens of identical training Cessna’s owned by Utah State University.

    A walk to the private terminal and we returned for our final leg of the flight back home.

    Crossing north of Logan we entered Wyoming from Idaho again, and I told Mark of all the games we lost at Death Valley, (OK, it was Cokeville and Dayton-Nate Stadium but Death Valley sounds better.)

    Heading into the final leg towards South Pass we judiciously decided to follow the highway at just 9000 or so feet rather than risk the peaks of the Wind River Range.

    Farson is just a spot on the highway from 12,400 feet, and the South Pass rest stop is even smaller.

    We finished the flight circling our home on Gasser Road in a full 360 degree pattern. I shot the “Ponderosa” as I call it from every angle.

    We landed and met the family at Ichibon for dinner. A perfect day of new perspectives on Fremont County and the Western part of Wyoming. A place I’ve proudly called home for almost half-a-century.


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