Thursday, March 1, 2012
Primal Wilderness Rambling From Three Sisters
A January day in Bend Oregon - the kind of day when the sky is white with pregnant snow clouds and the Deschutes River rushes its ice-cold water forward with big angry leaps. The bush pilot (a gangly guy called Blake) hand-cranked the propeller and hopped in. I was already buckled into my seat, naive and excited. He told me we were just taking the "old girl" out for a spin. We took off from Bend Municipal Airport and headed West. Flying over central Oregon at low altitude was fun, but my heart started pounding as we made our approach to the Three Sisters.
The siblings under discussion are three volcanic peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range. Approaching at a relatively low altitude, I got a breathtaking view of Deschutes National Forest. The tops of thousands of Douglas-fir trees formed a solid blanket of blue-green. I wondered what would happen to us if the plane were to give out right then and there. No place to land. Blake kept flying us toward the Three Sisters.
I started to really wonder. Blake’s words blurted through my headset, “Are you ready?” That’s when the mountain peaks started to get bigger and bigger. We began to climb in altitude up the side of the northernmost peak. The air became thick and misty. The Cessna’s engine sounded rough but steady, a small comfort. Inside the cabin, I shivered from the cold but barely noticed.
Once we cleared the mountains, Blake stalled the airplane and we nose-dived, plunging toward the forest. I felt a mixture of exhilaration and fear. With my stomach sufficiently relocated to my mouth, Blake pulled the plane out of its stall and flew over the Deschutes National Forest, mere feet above the tree tops. For a final thrill, he pushed the Cessna to climb out of a canyon and up a small hillside to the North. As we rose in elevation again, the engine sputtered a little. Blake didn’t seem to worry, so I didn’t either.
Aimee Conner crawled out of a cave in a remote part of central Oregon. She can play the old-time fiddle and work the ancient magic of baking. She has now joined "civilized" society in Los Angeles, where you can't shoot the animals, but the animals sometimes shoot at you. She's the author of the psychological thriller Scrapbook.