Two weeks ago I got to fly to Yosemite to work on our race promo video. With every race we usually make a promo video, and then a race day highlight video. The intent of the promo video is to capture the spirit of what we are trying to do with our races. In it, I hope to communicate the feelings of running: the struggle, the triumph, the comradery, the peace, etc. I also try to capture the beauty of the area – a bit of the course and a bit of the park. I had a concept for the video I was excited about and couldn’t wait to get out to Yosemite to shoot. The only problem was making our promo videos is about 1% of what I do for work at Vacation Races, so it unfortunately usually takes a back seat or is at the mercy of demanding schedules and time restraints. I was already into October and was trying to line up a runner to come shoot with me. I hadn’t made travel plans yet. Plane tickets were getting expensive.
I was talking about this with my dad who had recently gotten his pilot’s license. “I could fly you there” he said. “Should only take about three and a half hours.”
Bingo. My dad rented a little Cessna 172 and we set out. The miracle of flight is often overlooked when I fly on a commercial airliner what with all the noise and people and TSA. Flying into Merced airport we approached the Sierra Nevada mountain range. We climbed to about 12,500 feet and flew past a mountain peek out the window overlooking Mammoth Mountain. We continued over the Sierras, and off to our left in the distance I could make out the Yosemite Valley with Half Dome peeking out. It was exhilarating. They should’ve sent a poet ;) because I can’t describe the experience outside of shallow cliche and hyperbole.
I felt like a bird soaring over the mountains. It was unreal, until my dad said “Uh-oh, we’re in trouble.” My heart sank into my stomach, and I began looking for a place to land. “We’re going to have to put this bird down!” I thought. Then I looked, and there was NOWHERE TO PUT IT DOWN! We were in the mountains for crying out loud. So I start looking for the parachutes. Nothing. Apparently, all he meant to say was “Crap, there is fog and haze in Merced, I hope it doesn’t give us trouble when we land.” But that is not what he said. Word of advice to all you new pilots out there, “Uh-oh, we’re in trouble” are not words that should ever escape your lips.
So we landed in Merced, made the drive up to Oakhurst and spent the next two days exploring the area and shooting some video. I haven’t been back to Yosemite since high school. I started on the east side near Lee Vining and hiked 50 miles through the park ending down in the valley. You didn’t need a permit to hike half dome back then so I got to do that too, which was amazing. I was excited to be back. We got up early, filmed some sunset at Glacier Point, hung out in Mariposa Grove, took the obligatory photo at the Tunnel View lookout, drove and walked around the valley floor, then headed back to Glacier Point for sunset (which was a good choice). The weather was perfect, the crowds were small, and the park was beautiful. I also took a look at the course a bit which is also a very pretty course. Race weekend is going to be such a great even I can’t stand it.
The real main event though was the flight home. We took off from Merced around sunset, which meant we flew over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in a blaze of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and blue. The sunset consumed the sky, 360° by 180° – all around us. The lakes below reflected the sky, the snow capped mountains lit up pink and yellow. It was the most majestic thing I have ever seen. I won’t get mushy, but flying 12,000 feet above the earth with the entire color pallet surrounding me alone with my dad, it was a pretty great few hours.
I hope the promo video captures just a glimpse of what is in store for our runners on race weekend in 2015. I can’t wait to get back. Here are just a few still shots from the video until we put out the finished thing tomorrow.
Unfortunately, my Soarin’ Over California experience wasn’t quite like this… but close. :)