As long as I can remember, I’ve been a big fan of elevation, mainly because of the views.

When I was a little kid living in Anaheim, Calif., I was always excited about going camping with my family in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I loved the cool nights, campfires, and incredible views as we spent time hanging out by lakes at around 7,000 feet.

When I was a young man living in western Washington, I loved going fly-fishing with my friends in the Cascade Mountains. We would drive to trail heads at about the 4,100-foot level, hike up to pristine lakes and streams at about 6,700-feet, and catch native trout by the bushel, all the while being surrounded by jagged, snow-covered peaks (looking back, I can’t believe I was able to do stuff like that, but as is said, “youth is wasted on the young”).

When my wife, two daughters and I lived in northeast Georgia from 1999 to 2006, I always like going high into the nearby Blue Ridge section of the Appalachian Mountains and just being amongst the evergreen trees, rushing rivers and wildlife. I believe taking in the phenomenal, 360-degree view from Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s highest mountain, at more than 4,800 feet) should be on everyone’s bucket list. You can literally see hundreds of miles, and peaks or high ground in five states.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

But as I was reminded last week, there are no better views than those seen from the window seat of an airliner.

I flew out of Lambert Airport in St. Louis on the morning of Feb. 28 to visit my mom in the San Diego area. After Transportation Security Administration officers determined I wasn’t an Al-Qaeda spy and had no sharp objects in my carry-on bags, I made my way to Gate E24 at about 9:15 a.m. to wait for my 10:10 Southwest Airlines flight to board.

The place was crowded, and people were doing what people do, as some were drinking beer and colorful cocktails at an adjacent libation facility, and most of the rest were seated in the waiting area with their faces tiled downward in the direction of a laptop, tablet, or smart phone screen.

Southwest no longer does seat reservation, but rather loads people in groups based on the order they checked in. I had checked in online the day before, and was in the middle of the B Group (the second of three groups), meaning I had checked in before half the passengers and after half the passengers.

When I walked onto the blue and green Boeing 737, the front portion was almost full, but the back end had lots of remaining seats. That worked for me, because I would have headed for the back even if I had boarded first (for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact I was in no hurry because I had to change planes in San Antonio, and sit around there for a while before boarding another plane to my final destination).

Once the big metal flying machine got off the ground on the cold east Missouri day, it didn’t take long for me to be whisked away by the scenery visible through my little high-tech plastic porthole at an elevation of 38,000 feet.

For the first hour or so, the plane soared along over a sea of thousands of square miles of puffy clouds with a deep blue backdrop created by the upper atmosphere, and I couldn’t help but imagine all the lives that were taking place underneath. But the weather broke about half way to “Military City USA” (a.k.a. San Antonio), and I was treated to a series of creeks and buildings shining brightly like silver coins and ribbons in the noonday sun, and a handful of large lakes resembling giant reflection pools.

After my layover in San Antone, I boarded another 737 under similar circumstances and ended up in a window seat only a row removed from where I had been earlier. Moments after takeoff, the elevation again provided an amazing view.

As we flew over western Texas, I came to realize that there are one heck of a lot of oil wells in the Lone Star State, as thousands of little marks were visible in the desolate landscape, each and every one connected by an intricate network of dirt roadways.

As the plane continued west over the desert landscapes of New Mexico, Arizona, and California, I was completely enthralled by an ongoing panorama of everything from snow-capped mountains, uninviting-looking dry hills, and half-mile wide dry washes (many of which were no doubt of the ancient variety), to remote, oasis-like areas where unidentifiable crops were growing in beautiful patterns, including squares, rectangles, and even perfect circles because of similarly shaped sprinkler systems developed several decades ago at Washington State University (I had to get that in there – once a Cougar, always a Cougar).

Since I had been dealing with a cold, my ears plugged up big-time as we descended into San Diego, and for a while I almost totally lost the ability to hear. But I didn’t care, because I was thankful that God had given me the ability to see for a few special hours.

If I’m at a window seat, I’ll have the same opportunity again this week as I head back home to the Ozarks. I might opt for an aisle seat, though, because an old basketball injury makes my left knee flare up when it can’t straighten out for lengthy periods.

But no pain, no gain, and the view is probably worth it.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Past versions of his column are posted on the blog page at http://www.houstonherald.com. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

A huge band of sand dunes stretches for dozens of miles in Imperial County, Calif.

A huge band of sand dunes stretches for dozens of miles in Imperial County, Calif.

A barren southern New Mexico landscape on Feb. 28 is visible far below the wing of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737.

A barren southern New Mexico landscape on Feb. 28 is visible far below the wing of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737.

 

 

 

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