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  • 4:50 AM--Cloudless on this July morning, the sky announces the approaching sun long before it actually rises. Dad picked me up a few minutes ago and I can't believe this day has actually come. I had checked my phone as soon as I woke up at 4, and people had already started posting pictures on Twitter and Facebook, right from the stroke of midnight. I felt a thrill surge through me, and quickly got dressed.

    Now we're on the freeway. Specifically, I-205 South, approaching the I-84 East interchange that will take us to Troutdale, where our airplane awaits. Dad follows the curve the road makes, a curve that follows the contour of Rocky Butte. The Butte is 2.7 million years old, give or take. I-205 was finished in 1983, a year we happen to be celebrating on this day in 2013. From Butte, to freeway, to car traveling along that freeway, the curve we follow mirrors an arc rippling across time.
  • 6:20 AM--Despite my sunglasses, I still need to squint to see forward through the Plexiglass windscreen of the Cessna 172, as our nose is pointed almost directly into the rising sun.

    We have just taken off from the Troutdale Airport and headed east up the Columbia River Gorge. My friend Jill is to my right, and Dad is in the back seat.

    I slow the airplane slightly and gingerly rotate the silver window latch on my side. I feel the slipstream catch the underside of the window, which is hinged along its top edge. The air tries to rip the window out of my fingers. The sudden blast of cold morning air hitting my arm and face at over 100 MPH catches my breath for a moment. Hanging on tightly to the latch, I allow the window to open slowly until it's resting under the wing.

    I cautiously stick part of my head out the window and look straight down at the navy blue surface of the Columbia. It's a strange feeling having nothing between me and the earth from this height.

    "Your airplane," I say to Jill. We are both pilots, she much more than I, and she takes control of the yoke on her side. Turning to look over my right shoulder, I see Dad aiming his camera out his window. The morning light is gradually finding its way down the twists and turns of the Gorge, and he is snapping away. I raise my cell phone to take a shot of him, knowing that this is a unique moment in our lives together. "This is really happening," I think to myself.
  • Here's what Dad is shooting at that moment . . .
  • 6:30 AM--When we get to Hood River, we turn south and head for our first fuel stop, in Bend. Passing over the little airport, I can see orchards and the town's eponymous river.
  • 6:28 AM--Mount Hood looms large in the windscreen. The air is so calm I have no trepidation about flying close to the mountain. One has to be careful of high winds and turbulence around large mountains.

    Hood is the tallest point in Oregon. I know that, if all went according to plan, Peter Marbach is at or near the summit at this very moment. We look closely but don't see him.
  • 8:51 AM--After a fuel stop in Bend, we're flying south again. The geological forces that shape the surface of Oregon read like a three-dimensional novel across millennia. Dad captures a beautiful image of volcanic Newberry Crater, which contains two lakes within its bowl.

    Flying as we are down the spine of the Cascades, I think of how it's so amazing how lush and green the land is on the right side of the airplane . . .
  • . . . while looking to the left, the land is considerably more arid. Dad catches this one of Lake Billy Chinook.
  • I turn the camera around to catch myself in pilot mode . . .
  • 10:00 AM--We touch down in Lakeview, already near the California border. It has only been a few hours since we left Portland, but it feels like we're a world away.

    Walking through the small downtown, I meet Ray Stacey, who takes care of a cattle ranch on the south side of Goose Lake and has come into town with his wife for groceries. "July 15th is payday," he says. "Now I'm waiting on my other half."

    As if sensing the differences between us, Stacey resorts to the universal conversational topic of weather: "We need some rain," he says. "I hope we have a heavy snowfall this year. It's been a while."
  • To be continued . . .
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