The Jura Mountains featured in my early fantasies not too long after coming to Europe. When viewing the Alps on Google Earth, one notes a secondary mountain range to the north, which straddles France and Switzerland. It looks like something out of Appalachia, with long ridges similar to what one would find in Pennsylvania. Oddly, I grew up not far from Pennsylvania, thought the place was a dump, and never went there. Then I did finally fly there, over one of those Allegheny ridges that seemed so curious, and the airplane blew most of the oil out of the engine, so I limped into Maryland and that was that.
Well, its Europe. So, the same thing that exists in redneck Appalachia is now suddenly laced with mystique, culture, and intrigue. At any rate, my first chance to go near the Jura Mountains failed spectacularly when I was escaping Germany in 2016. A low-pressure system was stacked up against the range, so I had to weasel my way toward the Rhône River while gazing in wonder at a pile of clouds that came all the way to the ground, wondering about this Appalachian promised land that I wasn’t able to see. For some reason I blocked the Alps out of my mind. I might admit that I am capable of fear.
Fast forward a few years, with added evening sessions staring at Google Earth, and I grew ever more convinced that I would fly this range at some point, especially “when I am in the Alps.” Perhaps I was bamboozled by a drive through Switzerland from Chamonix in 2016, where I saw a decent snowpack on the range, in early April, despite a rather warm winter. What appeared to be potentially insipid from a distance now had a seemingly subtle erotic appeal, as though the range was rugged as well as Appalachian.
Did I fly to it? Of course not! What reasoning person, when presented with a choice to spend the same time, money, and fuel, would choose the Jura Mountains over the Jungfrau, Mont Blanc, or the Matterhorn? It would be idiocy to think that such a trip would make sense, my sessions of cartographical musings aside.
It is not to say that one can ever get enough of Mont Blanc. It is to say that I drove to Spain and stared at the Jura Mountains from the car, for the umpteenth time, and said to myself: “Enough! You must fly to that damn mountain range!” If anything, I get a certain perverse pride pointing out from the car that “I flew to that mountain” to which my wife says [proportionally as repeated as I say it]: “I know.” That, and there was still some snow, which would soon disappear. Time to get it over with. It is no irony, by the way, that I can see the Jura Mountains almost every time I go flying in the Alps. They sit on the horizon, which, unsurprisingly, means that the Alps sit on the horizon from the perspective of the Jura. How novel.
So, I did it. It was a mildly flat light midday April day. Haze was a tad more than I like but not bad. It was explicitly not an artistic flight, which I seem to be doing nothing but these days; it was a flight to actually, you know, go somewhere…. the main reason people seem to have airplanes.
It turned out to be quite a pleasure. It reminded me of the first reasons I started authoring photography books back in 2013 in Colorado: it is the joy of seeing a new place and sharing it, of crossing over the horizon, of exploring what I have never seen before. Not everything is National Geographic, nor is a glacier exploding in overwhelming beauty. Not every photograph needs to be illustrious artwork either. Sometimes it is just interesting, and that is delightful enough.
Of course, I have set myself to visit the Jura next winter, when the Swiss Plateau usually is fogged over. That should make quite some artistic images of the two ranges with fog in between.
Jura Mountains, Mont Blanc on the horizon, Geneva in the middle, with a dense forest of scrubby pines. Pinus mugo uncinata, how I miss you. They are the dominant tree in the Pyrenees which, at the time, I deemed as too “scrubby” and wished the trees looked like “normal” pines, of which proliferate the Alps, for which I am now bored and get excited every time I see a single pinus mugo uncinata (which is admittedly rare).
Looking the other way, into French Appalachia. One difference is that this is mostly coniferous, whereas Appalachia is mostly deciduous. This scene is more likely to be viewed in the timberlands of Montana than Pennsylvania, but I digress. It is a very wet area, which is why is does not burst into flames annually.