Stephens Pass, Washington

I only got serious about packing and leaving on this road trip yesterday. A two week road trip through the American West in the depths of winter. It somehow makes sense, if only because it’s both easier and cheaper than buying a ticket to someplace warm and sunny.

In an afternoon, I managed to get it all packed up and left today at the crack of…noon.

But still, I’m out the door. Which is an ever bigger part of the battle it seems.

The VW is very tidily packed, and seems quite organized. On Day One, anyway. On the drive out of Seattle and up I-5, I struggled to retrain my eyes to start looking for pictures, as opposed to just driving and making miles. It used to seem so easy, the world was full of photographs I hadn’t taken yet. After 30+ years…not so much. And images that might pay? Even fewer.

Driving north then east, I climbed the Cascades to Stephens Pass, still covered in snow from the New Year’s storms. I pulled an illegal U-Turn across four lanes of traffic to find a narrow pullout, plowed through five feet of snow, and unloaded my little Phantom drone. It’s always a strange feeling setting that little thing up, pulling down on the controls and sending it into the sky. Like tossing a thousand bucks into the wind and hoping it will find its way back.

I flew it across the headwaters of the Skykomish River and right up against the opposite mountain range, dodging fog and mist until the setting sun emerged to set the clouds alight. It didn’t seem like such a fool’s errand after all. I stood shivering and jangling along the side of the highway as traffic whizzed past, utterly absorbed in the world on my iPhone screen.

In the physical world, I was freezing my ass off in the cold wind, but on the screen I was flying, hovering above the snow a mile away, soaring through the mist, past the snow-covered spruce, alive to the possibility of magic, of novelty, of beauty in the world.

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