Birds-eye view of Truckee |

Birds-eye view of Truckee

In the few short weeks I’ve worked in this community, I’ve been constantly in awe of its beauty.

Just the vistas that surround the Sierra Sun office at the west end of town are enough to take anyone’s breath away. It provides a stark contrast to the desolate – but beautiful in its own way – landscape outside my former office window at the Nevada Appeal in Carson City.

If I’m not staring out the window, I’m thinking about the environment, biding my time for chances to explore. When pilot Tom Meadows called me up last week to offer a bird’s-eye scenic tour of the region and Lake Tahoe, my chance came.

On Friday, photographer Doug Slater and I met Tom at the airport and boarded the 172 Cessna he uses as a training plane at Todd Aero flight school where he is an instructor.

Despite its small size, I was reassured that the plane flies well “most of the time,” and that Tom has logged plenty of hours behind her wheel. Doug and I exchanged brave glances, and crammed ourselves into the cabin. He sat in back where the best shots could be taken, while I slithered my 6-foot-4-inch frame into the front, where the bulk of the impact could be absorbed.

After taxiing down the runway, and making all the safety checks that are necessary at an unsupervised airport, we were off, and slowly climbing at 100 MPH. The high elevation, Tom explained, inhibits the airplane’s power, necessitating long-range ascents. With my flying experience limited to fast transit in jet and turbo-prop airplanes, slow air travel feels a little bit like jogging in mud. “This is the speed,” I thought, “I do a lot of my driving at. If my car had wings… Could I fly?”

Luckily I didn’t wind myself up too badly before I was distracted by a hot air balloon to starboard, and landmarks passing beneath.

Tom showed us Prosser Creek Reservoir, and then Boca and Stampede. Memorial weekend warriors were already crowding the water, within casting distance of each. This must be the modern day version of “getting away from it all,” I said. We flew on, unencumbered by the morning fog that had been sitting in those valleys the day before.

Next we took a right turn at Glenshire, looking down at the houses and homeowners association clubhouse, with its pool and tennis courts. We were heading west and nearing the 89 turnoff to Lake Tahoe, which we followed as if we were driving the road.

Here, the mountains get real steep, and on a day as crystal clear as Friday, you can see the cutout trails at just about all the local ski resorts. It was obvious that the slopes are quickly succumbing to summer sun. Dirt patches shone through the blanket of white. All of the towering pines are snow-free.

Climbing farther in altitude, a waveless Lake Tahoe opened before us, and the mid-morning sun lighted the shoreline, showering the transparent water with a hue of green. All three of us uttered exclamations while Doug’s camera buzzed with activity. We were seeing one of the world’s perfect places on a perfect day from the air. Magnificent!

After lingering over the water for awhile, we shot back over towards Truckee, where Tom made a circle of Northstar and Lahontan. He showed Doug and me a couple of the areas where new development could be expected. Many of the neighborhoods have roads cut and prepared for pavement. The scope of it blew us away.

It’s one thing to hear that thousands of houses and commercial projects are expected in the next decade. It’s another thing to see how big an area those plans encompass. My first thought was “How are we going to deliver all those newspapers?”

Lahontan is as stunning as the pictures would have you believe, and from what I hear, a thousand feet above is about the only vantage point the security guards will allow. Copper-roofed, multi-million dollar houses that must be close to 10,000 square feet dot the perimeter of the golf course like a bunch of ski lodges right next to each other. They are that big.

The course is big too. With out flight coming to an end, we were closing in on 9:30 a.m., and just about every hole, it seemed, was alive with greens keepers raking the bunkers or watering the fairways, preparing for the day ahead. If there were any golfers on the course at that time, I didn’t see them.

After passing some of Truckee’s more modest areas, we made the necessary safety checks and dove toward the tarmac, landing safely.

This time Doug and I grinned at each other. It’s easy to take for granted a place that is this good every day.

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