Julia and David left Glacier International Airport bright and early on Saturday, July 12th to ensure they caught the cold morning air and bright blue skies. David was a little worried about this flight as it was over very high terrain, but they had perfect weather to fly so it was the right time to go. To avoid the high ground he plotted a course via all the valleys and low terrain he could find. They flew due south from Glacier via a valley that separates the Swan and Mission Mountain Ranges; this kept them relatively low at 9,500 feet for most of the flight. The scenery between Glacier and Yellowstone is truly gorgeous and more majestic than they had imagined. The USA has to have the most beautiful countryside in the whole world. Every continent has something to offer, but North America has it all, from deserts to snowcapped mountains, and almost everything in between. It is really hard to compete with the natural beauty of North America.
As they flew past the Scapegoat Wilderness the high valley opened up to elevated plains. On either side of them were snowcapped mountain peaks. They wiggled their way past the Highland Mountains where they saw national forests in every direction. David climbed Matilda up to 11,500 feet to ensure they had lots of separation from the ground, and to lessen the dominance of the mountains towering around them. They passed the Tobacco Root Mountains where the high plains closed back up to a high valley. The Gravelly Mountains were to the west of them and the Madison Mountain Range to their east.
From the air it is very clear that Yellowstone is surrounded by a ring of mountains. What is not so obvious is that these mountains are the rim of a crater left by an explosion of a super-volcano that formed Yellowstone. They flew all the way down the valley to Henrys Lake, which is in Idaho, to avoid the towering mountains before turning west and flying back into Montana. As they turned the corner before them lay the Madison Valley, the town of West Yellowstone, and the Yellowstone National Park beyond it. The landing at West Yellowstone Airport was simple and without incident.
Yellowstone National Park was the first of its kind worldwide to be created back in 1872. There is both beauty and danger for visitors at Yellowstone. Julia and David figured that if the super-volcano was going to go off during the next few days they would be annihilated instantly, making it a very good place to be. The alternative would be a slow painful death as the earth plunged into another ice age after the explosion. They figured that if it did not go off then exploring it would be a fascinating endeavor. A few years ago there was a BBC TV show all about the volcano. Julia was living in San Francisco and she remembered her mum phoned from England in a panic, because she was living so near to the monstrous thing. Her mom felt it would be advisable for Julia to pack up her life, say goodbye to America, and return home to the safety of good old England. The potential super-volcanic eruption did seem scary to her too, but she decided to stay in the US and continue her life rather than flee back to the relative safety of the old blighty. Her mum did not seem to totally understand Julia’s decision and to this day she occasionally says, “Darling, are you sure about America, don’t forget there’s a big earthquake coming to the Bay Area and Yellowstone is overdue.”
Video of the flight Yellowstone
Continue the adventure, in my next excerpt from Flying the Edge of America.
David Millett Publications