In August 2016, Sean’s firm sent him to Los Angeles and San Francisco for a week. On Sunday afternoon, August 7, we were treated to spectacular aerial views of southern Utah and northern Arizona. In particular, we were able to see Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, and Grand Canyon National Park, all from the comfortable cruising altitude of American Airlines Flight 2220 from Chicago O’Hare to LAX.
Our flight path was taking us just south and east of the Colorado River, and I was sitting on the right side of the plane, which was the side with the views.
After Lake Powell, the Colorado carved its way down Marble Canyon beneath the Vermillion Cliffs. At this point, Grand Canyon National Park encompassed only the interior of the canyon.
As we progressed, the full grandeur and awesome scale of the the Grand Canyon opened up. I’d once before seen parts of it from the air (decades earlier as a child), but the view had been nothing like this.
Sometimes a pilot will come on the intercom and make an announcement that the plane was passing over something noteworthy, but not this time. Regardless, there was a stir on the plane as passengers realized the special treat of a view. A British couple sitting behind me had thought that Marble Canyon was the entirety of Grand Canyon, until they saw the real thing. The young man sitting next to me (Sean and I weren’t sitting together since we’d booked our flights separately) was just about as excited as I was. A native of rural Illinois, he was on his first trip to the American West.
In little more than a month, Sean and I would be standing on the rim of the Canyon on our journey down the Grand Staircase in September 2016.
All too soon, we had reached the edge of the Colorado Plateau and began our descent across the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and into the Los Angeles Basin.
These were not the first National Park Service units I’d spotted from the air. I’d seen Joshua Tree National Park multiple times and Shenandoah National Park only a couple weeks earlier. But from here on out, it was going to be a game to collect Parks from the air.