Flight: Spain: Western Pyrenees, Sierra de Guara

One of my many projects under development is a book containing photographs of the “3000ers” of the Pyrenees, which are 129 peaks over 3000 meters (9,840 feet) in height. Yes, it is an arbitrary list; however, it is one endorsed by other people who spend time browsing the internet (and maybe even climbing some of them). The Appalachians feature the “Southern Sixers” (peaks over 6,000’), Colorado has its 14ers (peaks over 14,000’) – both of which I have done books on – the Adirondacks have the 46ers (46 peaks traditionally viewed as over 4,000’). For some reason, I like this sort of thing.

The problem is that I am on the eastern side of the Pyrenees, and most of these peaks are in the central and western side. To make matters worse, I got pretty close to the western ones in my first flight over there in February 2017, though I had no clue I was going for this list, so I missed about 10 of them, near Vignemale (10,820’), which is the highest peak in the French Pyrenees.

I opted to get them in summer as I have enough of the big peaks in winter. This year it is quite green, so the tones were nice.

On the way back, I went a bit south to the Sierra de Guara, north of Huesca, a section of terrain that has demanded some push pins on the map. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the explosive flowers and severity of terrain.

So now I have photographed all of them – just need to write a book.

Flight path. Blue pins are the 3000ers.

Serrat de la Mainera

Northwest of Cabdella.

North of Sin, literally.

Rio Bellos. One may note that I am avoiding showing too many mountains. Its not like they haven’t been seen before on this blog, so I am showing the view away from the Pyrenees.

Ok, some mountains. Monte Perdido, viewed from the northwest outside of the fascist restricted area. Note the yellow flowers in the foreground. These flowers will make an appearance later on in the flight.

Rock patterns to the west of the Rio Ara.

Vignemale, from the Spanish side.

Google Maps says Balaïtous (10,315′ / 3.144m), which is the French name. Spanish is Balaitús. Apparently there is a language called Aragonese for which it is named Pico Os Moros and while we’re at it, there is Occitan, where it is named Vathleitosa. It is on the border with France (Spain left, France right), and both obviously have regional languages in this neck of the woods, though unlike Basque Country to the north and Catalunya to the south, everyone seems to get along here.

I am unsure exactly where this is.

Somewhere near Astún.

Astún ski area.

Pico Aspe.

Climbout from Aerodromo de Santa Cilia, after refueling.

Anzánigo.

Pico Peiró.

Flowergasm north of Arguis.

Looking the other way, Embalse de Arguis.

Gabardiella.

Tozal d’O Borón, among other things.

Tozal d’O Fraxineto.

Unnamed hill.

Cañones de Guara.

Tozal d’As Forcas

Castellazo.

Embalse de Mediano.

I have no clue what to name this, as there are a bunch of tiny village names all over the place. Shove Lascorz in there if you’re hell bent on finding this on Google Maps.

Something else that defies nomenclature. Near Bacamorta.

Turbón, with more yellow flowers.

Pantà d’Escales if you live on the left side (Catalunya). Embalse de Escales if you live on the right side (Spain). 

Magnum Opus: #16: Glaciers of the Rockies

In keeping with my procrastinatory tradition of waiting a few months to announce the publication of a book on the blog, my magnum opus arrived in May: Glaciers of the Rockies. Borne of a deluded fixation to photograph an impossible list of things wedged into a brief summer melt season (which got choked with smoke for half of it), I viciously attacked a massive geographic expanse in late 2015 before packing the plane up and running to Germany. In fact, I was fatigued under my own fanaticism and was considering getting the Montana glaciers in 2016 until the Germany “opportunity” presented itself in the middle of the glacier project, which caused a domino effect where I realized the glaciers would all melt by the time I got back with the Cub when I would be fat[ter?] and middle aged, so no time like the present.

I can finally state that I am current with blog announcements of books. #16 is the latest release, though more are in progress. I have four projects swirling in my head derived of my Western USA flying (still, three years later). As for Europe……this is hard to put into words. The 16 + 4 books are derived of 30% of my photography stock. The remaining 70% has been taken here in Europe, and each time I sit down to work on something, I look out the window, the sun is shining, and I hop in the plane instead…….

I will put a sneak preview in here of some flying last week, demonstrating that the glacier theme is not done.

Glacier du Tour, Argentière, French Alps 

Click below for book page.

 

Flight: Spain: 2 of 2: Madrid to Cerdanya

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Push Pins. Episode IV. Stereotypical Delusions

In my previous rantings against the Social Media-Travel-Industrial Complex, the subject of Europe vs America was featured as a differential comparison to rail against vain and simplistic perspectives on traveling here. While that is most certainly true, it belies a deeper philosophy that is applicable irrespective of location.

When I chat with Americans about life over here, their eyes glaze over, heads tilt a bit, and they gaze off toward the horizon, akin to nun in a moment of religious ecstasy. It is as though I am describing the Promised Land, when I am merely referring to an interesting experience that involves a dirt road, a sheep, and a redneck Catalan farmer. How is this such a transcendent experience compared to wandering how a rural road in Appalachian Ohio? Something is seriously off about these spiritual elevations that I am capable of bestowing upon happenstance individuals that I talk [brag] with about living here.

One has to ask if the person finds the dusty Catalan sheep enviable, or if said person wants something new and different from their dull and pedestrian existence. I would venture to guess the latter, that the state of being while exploring something new is that which people wax poetically over, while getting confused and fixating on the location.

This supposition is confirmed by a spatial reality: move somewhere “exotic” and after a while, the exotic place becomes normal, which leaves the person living in an exotic place looking to go out and explore, as the new normal gets boring. Uh oh. Nobody bragging on Instagram talks about this curiosity. Wait. I should stay quiet and keep feeding carefully curated pieces of marketing meat to my blog readers instead….

Photos are the second half of getting the plane from Portugal back to Cerdanya.

Prior evening flight to Toledo, beginning with some glorious Spanish housing near the town of El Álamo. This is not an Alamo that I would suggest remembering.

Holy Toledo! This was a phrase oft-used by a rather crass semi-Polish woman that lurked in my childhood. For those that don’t get the double entendre, the photo is a church in Toledo, Spain.

Toledo, the not as holy part.

On the way back to Casarrubios. Someone educated me that the clouds on the horizon are “real clouds” and that the cirrus clouds above are chemtrails, though I was not educated on the particular agenda of these “chemtrails.” I adroitly noted that such clouds would represent an astronomical quantity of chemicals to have been slipped into the upper atmosphere without anyone noticing, and his reply was “now you’re getting it.”

The next morning, on the way to Cerdanya. Poppy field.

We could do this two ways: “Some fields in Spain” or “near Colmenar de Oreja.”

West of Huete.

East of Huete.

Further east of Huete.

Sheep. Not Catalan though.

Somewhere near Valdemoro-Sierra. It looks sexier from the satellite.

Near Teruel.

East of Teruel.

West of Cirujeda. Looks like wood grain though its just dirt.

Almost to the Monegros Desert.

Monegros Desert. It went from about 55F (13C) to 82F (28C) in 15 minutes of flying.

Mequinenza Reservoir.

Boat.

Mequinenza Reservoir, in a section without silt from recent rains.

Peach trees in Aitona, Catalunya. Visca la revolució!

Nefarious section of Catalunya that has an inversion for half the year.

Approaching the Pre-Pyrenees. It feels good to be back!

Flight: Portugal, Spain: 1 of 2: Atlantic Ocean to Madrid

It was roughly as complicated to get the airplane from the Atlantic Ocean back to the Pyrenees as it was to get to Portugal in the first place, such that it was broken up into two totally separate trips, with the plane stuck in Madrid for a week. I wrote extensively about the story for AOPA on the following post; therefore, I will offer extra images here and go light on words.

Crossing the Tagus River, Portugal. A bit of fog below.

Not too far from the Spanish border, still in Portugal.

Cattle grazing amongst flowers, with an interesting cloud shadow.

Dark red soils southeast of Badajoz, Spain.

Watershed east of Aeródromo El Moral.

I believe these are cork oak trees, with spring flowers beneath.

Near Don Benito.

Rice patties east of Don Benito. The rice has not grown yet. When it does in the summer, it will be a powerful green. Right now its just flooded with water.

El Campillo de la Jara.

Field textures.

About 30 miles west of Madrid.

Quismondo, with the Extremadura Highway. We would drive this very road 5 days later, and the weather was exactly the same in each respective place.

Almost to Casarrubios for the night after just over 5 hours in the air. Too bad weather wasn’t as nice for the eastern half of Spain.

Flight: Portugal, Spain: 2 of 2: Andalucía

I suppose I could write about the flight(s) in question every now and then. This I did for AOPA, enumerated in this linked post, which also talks about my continued vain attempts to fly to Morocco. Below are many additional photos about this amazing section of Iberia.

Somewhere near Isla Mayor.

Somewhere else near Isla Mayor.

Greenhouses near Mazagón.

Isla de Saltes.

Shrine to Christopher Columbus, Huelva. Something makes me think he set off for America from here. Oh, if he only knew the Pandora’s Box he’d open, or that 525 years later, Garrett Fisher would discover Spain from America in a Piper Cub.

Rio Pedras.

Salt marshes near Huelva.

Rio Tinto.

Salt evaporation ponds.

Rio Tinto again.

North of Lebrija.

North of Jédula.

Between Chiclana de la Frontera and Medina Sidonia.

Medina Sidonia.

North of Los Naveros.

Cabo Roche.

Conil de la Frontera.

Faro de Trafalgar. Morocco on the horizon, over the Strait of Gibraltar.

NW of Cantarranas.

Charco Dulce.

Field of yellow flowers.

Field of purple flowers.

Somewhere west of Arcos de la Frontera.

East of urbanization “Kuwait Dos” of El Cuervo de Sevilla.

River on the way to Portugal.

Downpour over the Portuguese Outback.

Wildflowers under oak trees.

Tagus River, Portugal.

Back to the Atlantic Coast. Note the well timed rainbow, a sign of the nonsense weather I had to fly around with a sore ass from too much flying.

 

Flight: Portugal, Spain: 1 of 2: Andalucía

One may wonder why I write the Spanish version of Andalucía, instead of Andalusia, as written in English. I fall back on a movie scene, Mask of Zorro or something like that, which takes place in Mexico during the Spanish Empire. Katherine Zeta-Jones has a line where she says, “In Andalucía, I would ride my horse on a full moon night…” As one would expect, it was said in full accent, with loads of sensuality and flare endemic to most Spanish interactions. That is about the only takeaway from the movie, such that I when I finally did fly to Andalucía, I kept hearing her voice in my head, even while in the cockpit on a sunny day. When I was standing on a balcony with a 50-something year old male friend of mine, literally on a full moon night, in Andalusia, it was “a full moon night in Andalucía.” He’s not as attractive as Ms. Zeta-Jones, unfortunately.

Be that as it may, Catalans do not have such a sensual perspective of Andalucía. Whatever negative that occurs in Catalunya (that usually happens all over Spain to some varying intensity), Catalans are the first to brush off anything I say about it with a “Well, in Andalucía…..” In other words, “you haven’t seen anything yet.” Well, I went to Andalucía and found the people to be the most generous, kind, and laidback subculture of Spain yet. Go figure. And nothing I was told would happen down there did end up happening; really, it was the opposite.

As for aviation, I was trying to fly to Morocco again. It didn’t work, though I did get a bunch of local flying done in that neck of the woods.

The Portuguese Outback – Much of it looks like this.

Évora

My first view of flowers in bloom in the Portuguese Alentejo.

Zoomed out perspective of some of these flower fields. Also a bit hazy on the way down south…

Near Alqueva, Portugal.

And the 590nm infrared version…

Aqueduct just over the border in Spain, near El Granado.

Deer.

Closeup on a river.

Just east of Mafé Aerodrome, Spain.

Rio Tinto.

Tilled field near Trebujena.

Solar installation at Sanlucar de Mayor.

And the death ray…

Somewhere in vicinity of Jerez.

Wheat fields.

The significance of this could go a few ways. I find the flowers rather intriguing.

Salt ponds near Cádiz.

“Salinas” & marshes near Cádiz.

Caño de Sancti-Petri, with Atlantic Ocean on the horizon.

Punta del Boquerón.

This looks like a painting to me. Canal water mixes with various tide cycles to create such different colors. I have seen variations like this, though not as intense, in Portugal and North Carolina.

Avenida Via Augusta Julia, Cádiz.

Cádiz, Spain.

Puente de la Constitución de 1812.

Wheat fields en route toward Trebujena from Cádiz.



Book #15: Field of Dreams: American Agriculture From the Sky

Long before I had a blog, considered publishing a book, or had moved to Colorado, I stuck my camera straight down out of the window in the middle of the boonies in North Carolina, and photographed some agricultural patterns under full zoom. They seemed interesting at the time, so went home and downloaded them, shocked at their artistic value. Since I was merely taking incidental photographs from the airplane, sharing them with friends here and there, I didn’t think too much of it, other than to keep an eye out for the occasional texture or pattern that I happened to see.

If I had any clue that I was about to fling myself off a mental cliff and start wandering planet earth like a confused and overpriced hobo, I do not think I would have believed it. Over the next few years, the airplane would cross America three times, visit 22 states, fly the highest peaks of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and view coastlines from the Outer Banks to the Great Salt Lake. In all of those hundreds of hours, I kept an eye out for the occasional texture, pattern, or interesting farm field, taking pictures and forgetting about them.

Some months ago, I announced the publication of “American Texture: Canvas From the Sky,” which is a collection of my non-agrarian textures and patterns. In reverse order, I have now released book #15, “Field of Dreams: American Agriculture From the Sky,” which contains the best of that original inspiration: agricultural textures and patterns from the good old USA.

At some point, I will make sense of my European wanderings, as this agricultural and texture odyssey continues in the Old World. From the first flight in the Rhine Valley of Germany in 2016 to the tulip fields north of Amsterdam down to the wheat fields along the Straits of Gibraltar in Spain and the port vineyards along the Atlantic in Portugal, I have been amassing an asphyxiating amount of artwork. One of these days, I’ll make some sense of all of it, and more books will show up. Until then, I keep flying!

Flights: Portugal: Inland

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Photographs. Episode III. On the Merits of Cracking

My earliest cognitive memory of exposure to the inevitability of cracking was in the 1990s. I was about 17 years of age and was in the process of paying for some photos I had developed at CVS, a low end national drugstore chain that was anything but exciting. The clerks behind the counter looked all of my age, presumably working part time for $6 per hour, and didn’t seem by any means admirable. Instead of handling my payment, they were chuckling amongst themselves as one quipped: “She’s outta the game!” I followed their line of sight to a now ex-employee stomping out of the store, her late 80s perm bouncing up and down as a reflection of her indignation at being fired. I remember thinking to myself about a recent movie, The Saint, where the main character, a devious spy/hitman/freelancer/whatever you want to call it, logs into his Swiss bank account from his charming English cottage, notes the balance at fifty million dollars and says out loud: “Fifty million. I am out of the game.” How could part-time work at CVS compare to having outsmarted Russians who were attempting a coup?

Fast forward a few years, and I began a rather esoteric employment engagement for an amusingly reclusive attorney. There had been some turnover in the firm, and the lawyer continuously explained it away with some bit of background, followed by “well, I guess she finally cracked.” Cracking took an exceptionally nuanced form of self-destruction, where one’s employment equally ended as did the CVS clerk with the bitchin’ haircut, however this time, it had style. To crack was to do what “everyone” wanted to do, and to do it with a statement. It was where unemployment met going out in a blaze of glory, lack of income bedamned.

Now this contrasted with a version of cracking that I was raised with: running afoul of “the rules.” An extension of childhood, America in a cloistered northeastern post-immigrant, racially homogeneous, socially conservative town was one of a defined set of binary rules. Follow them, and the joys and blessings of middle class America awaited. Run afoul of them, and the path goes something like this: unemployed –> criminal –> felon –> homeless –> eternal, unrecoverable social damnation. I knew plenty of those who went down this road, and society treated them like losers. The “rules” were not optional. Cracking, as long as it was done in style, somehow was.

My grandfather enters into the picture somewhere in the midst of all of this nonsense. Not only did a version of ‘Beverly Hillbillies meets Piper Cubs’ feature as my family childhood experience, I also was in a radius of four other private airports. One was apparently running a chop shop for stolen cars (how’s that for bucolic rural New York?). Another was a maniac that did aerobatics every other day for two decades straight. The rest had airplanes and flew them. Mix males, criminals, and airplanes together long enough, and somebody was going to crash. My grandfather gave these instances, no matter who they were ascribed to, a brief honorific: “Well, he cracked up.” Yes, “cracked up” meant the inevitable, glorious, sad, tragic yet distinctly tasteful and individual blaze of glory that ended in death in an airplane.

Recently, a 12-year-old boy in Australia took cracking by the horns, stealing his mother’s credit card, nicking his passport from his grandmother, and flew the coop….to Indonesia on vacation. A columnist in the UK wrote a splendid piece saying, more or less, that he did it “so we don’t have to.” The writer even said he was tempted to give his credit card to his kid, police and wife notwithstanding, set him loose, and yell “Run, Forrest, Run!” Funny, as it is, what is he running from?

I’d say he’s running from this life we have defined for ourselves. Remember that middle America binary nonsense? To some extent, we all agree with it. We get up, go to work, pay the bills, avoid committing crimes, and generally enjoy a sense of societal order. We contribute to it, and generally it reciprocates to some reasonable extent…until it doesn’t. When does this static, unforgiving, and hellaciously boring construct cause people to snap in a non-diagnosable way? I’d venture to guess that is the process of cracking, and we’re all in it in one way or another. Or maybe cracking does come with a diagnosis, and the oft-mentioned Looney Bin awaits. Perhaps the long-running joke is instead of the Grim Reaper lurking, many in society are closer to checking into an asylum that we would all like to believe…?

As for me, I have probably been cracking since the moment I was squeezed through the birth canal without my prior consultation. How else does someone end up with an old airplane flung off the ends of the earth for no logical reason?

Inland Coastal areas, with Serra de Montejunto in the background.

Formation flight photographs of my airplane, taken by Jerome Chevalley over the Alentejo.

Field of flowers, somewhere near Serpa.

Barragem do Alqueva

Piper Cub Photo Shoot. L-4, PA-11, PA-18, PA-18, registered to Switzerland, USA, and Germany.

Portuguese Outback, south of Pavia.

Monsieur Chevalley’s airplane.

Hills ascending east of the Tagus River.

Tagus River Plain flooded with water.

Tagus River sand patterns.

Tagus River Plain. Apparently it is common for thunderstorms to form here in May.

Eastern side of the coastal ridge. A bit less chaotic and dense than the coast.

Serra de Montejunto. Despite its rugged appearance, it is only about 2,000 feet tall.

Coastal windmills.

On the coastal side of the hills. More populated and a bit more chaotic.

Marble quarry near Codaçal.

Chão Das Pias

Fátima. Apparently the Portuguese decided they wanted their own Vatican.

How and why would a farmer do this?

Casias da Foroana. Ie, coastal hills.

 

 

Flights: Portugal: Portuguese Eccentricities

The coast is an active place. Temperatures are consistent, population is higher, and people tend to be outside when near the water. That creates an interesting paradigm where these same humans tend to do odd and interesting things, and it so happens that Portugal is full of it. While I found some of the images amusing, I didn’t think they made “great photos” until I jokingly sent one to a friend of sheep grazing around piles of garbage, and she thought it was very interesting. Upon further examination, there was quite a question as to why someone would put such things in the grass in such a way, and the sheep were a nice touch to the whole thing. So, for today, we’re going to toss natural beauty to the wind and take a look at eccentric humanity.

I also have solved the conundrum of what to do with the blog. It got started in 2014 with a post for each flight, which made sense until 2017, the year when I took 178 flights. I have now decided to group them by subject, so multiple flights will feed into one post for the most part, until that breaks down and collapses.

Sheep with a shepherd.

“Lords of Santa.” Note the graffiti and the weird tower.

Fishing.

Sintra.

Western edge of the Sintra hill.

Why swim in the ocean, when there is a filthy pool instead?

I have heard that surfing is an active sport.

One with the sea?

Under construction.

At least they’re getting wet.

Note the shape of the cylinder in the center right. Why do people build phalli the world over?

“Ticky tacky houses all the same.”

Voluntary prison camp.

Pumpkins. It appears that they have no intention of smashing them.

I have heard that surfing is a great sport to have solitude in the water.

In the process of a wipe out.

That is a human. Lagoa de Óbidos.

I think the romance would be lost if one of them fell in.

Not quite raising the white flag.

The image that inspired it all: sheep grazing around Portuguese trash.

Coastal flowers.

Kite surfers.

Unusual roof tiles.

You can lead a horse to water…

There is someone standing in the center of this image.

Three seagulls.

Hobo on the beach.

A dog taking a crap on the beach.

Why get wet in the ocean when you can share contaminated water with other humans, right next to the ocean?

Death.

Coach class.

Appears to be a Portuguese bullfighting ring.

Alluvial fan.

Birds. I almost flew into a flock like this along the coast of North Carolina. It was like a video game to get out of it.

No beach walk for you!

No clue what this is….

Crates.

Dilapidated shed in a field of flowers, with a power line.

Sculpture garden.

Guy on a horse with a sword.

New age cross.

Some gold statue at a rather magnitudinous installation called “Fátima.”

Portuguese windmills, old style, in various stages of repair.

“Italian marble” from a Portuguese quarry. So I am told some of it is shipped to Italy to be polished and marketed as genuine Italian marble.

Shepherd leaning on his staff.

Flight: Portugal: Wandering Around the Silver Coast

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Photographs – Episode II

I have finally been asphyxiated by my own creativity. There are months of glorious flights back in Catalunya that I haven’t blogged about, and in the spirit of all things Iberian, I have decided I don’t care. I’ll eventually publish something. In the meantime, I am compulsively flying around Portugal whenever the sun comes out, so below are some photos.

As for the much promised second installation of mania, this one features whimsical musings over regional differences in geospatially-influenced travel and lifestyle decisions. The whole idea started with this maniacal quest that seems to surround my photography these days. There is this looming cloud of black doom hanging overhead. No, it is not the resigned pessimism of engine failure (that’s just a gray cloud); rather, it relates to the idea that “it is unlikely I will be here again in the Cub, so I may as well seize the day and go flying.” One would ask, “Where is here?” and the answer is that “here” is anywhere I am in Europe. Is it logical to assume that I will set foot again in Portugal with the Cub, or anywhere else I go? Probably not. Enter Germanic heritage with its associated nonsense about thrift, work, and value maximization, and now we have a recipe for a fanatical obsession.

That got me musing on the fact that I did not feel that way in Wyoming, where I did my highest concentration of flying in one year. Granted, once the decision was made to move to Germany, there was some hysteria to finish a long list of projects; however, the existentialism of Wyoming is not a deluded hysteria by any means: not for me, not for those who live there, and not for those who visit briefly. Wyoming and the West is about nature and exploration and the process of it. Few are in a mad rush to bucket list their way through natural monuments; they are usually so enchanted that they stop in the middle of the road and gaze at their surroundings, without any cognizance of the other humans around them.

Contrast that to Europe. Americans that visit Europe on vacation specifically do bucket list their way through overtly common lists of tourist hellholes, traveling at absurd speeds, trying to see it all. Why? Probably it has something to do with the idea that they won’t be there again, so why not see it?

It is strange to think of Spaniards being carefree in Spain, Americans being enraptured by nature in the West, and Americans acting like lunatics in Europe. Do Europeans scurry around the USA on vacation? Possibly. They often report seeing more sights than Americans have seen in America while on a mere three-week vacation.

What’s the lesson here? I don’t know; this is a blog, so I just ramble. I thought the lesson was to slowly massage the minds of my eager readers into buying my books.

North of Ferrel

Lagoa de Óbidos

Out to sea…

Miradouro do Facho

Nazaré, home of some of the biggest waves in the world (up to 100 feet). Obviously not happening today.

Praia da Gralha

São Martinho do Porto

Salt spray. It comes all the way up to my airplane at 800 feet above sea level and coats it in flight. 

Wave at Nazaré

Rainbow, south of Peniche

Border of Leiria and Lisbon District. Districts are the closest thing to provinces in Portugal. In my opinion, it looks like Ireland this time of year.

Same place looking toward Peniche.

Consolação. 

Baleal, a renowned surfing destination.

Out to sea again. Truth-in-blogging: I actually am near the beach, just pointing the camera out to sea. There is no way in hell I would fly out of glide range. I don’t like flying over water.

Splash. Baleal.

Cabo Carvoeiro. Waves broke the windows at the restaurant 20 feet above the water a few weeks ago. 

Peniche.

West of Boavista.

Praia do Porto Barril.

Porto Novo.