Cloud Mountains in the River of No Return
During the summer of 2012 forest and brush fires raged throughout the western U.S. It was a perfect storm wherever hot, dry August met thunderstorms and lightning strikes. Midday on August 12th I flew our Husky east across Idaho toward a noontime sunrise just peaking over 10,000′ mountains in the Bitterroot range; somewhere below us was expansive Frank Church “River of No Return” Wilderness.
Pilots see things others may not, like sunrise at high noon
Lodgepole pine beetles in Salmon-Challis National Forest had been busy killing forests of trees providing fuel for multiple fires. The Halstead Fire west of Salmon, the Mustang Complex of five fires to the north of us, and the Trinity Ridge Fire engulfed hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land, the air-quality index reached a choking purple, while we were treated to this spectacular sight.
Yellow-stained smoke settled into the valleys and sun-filtered toward rosy pinks on the higher slopes. I like the way the Salmon River valleys carve diagonal slashes through this wild, rugged land. Faint in the far distant background one can see the highest peaks on the Idaho-Wyoming border with 10,620′ Homer Youngs Peak in Montana center stage for the noonday sun.
A pilot embraces many things: the physics of flight, living geography, flowing along with the column of air and weather–and for me there is always the next photograph!