We are on the edge of Yosemite National Park, fighting a fire near Half Dome. The lucky pilots get to see the Yosemite valley every time they launch with water bucket in tow. Since they are not allowed to carry passengers, i.e. me, this is what I see:
This is okay though. It is cool in the mornings, and there are 6 other helicopters coming and going. Currently I am gazing at a hill with the name of the nearby town on it, spelled out in white rocks, trying to figure out the best way to get up there. Tarantulas come out at night, to our horrified fascination. The town is cute and looks to have some running possibilities.
One of the best parts of this job is the places we get to go, places where people save up for months to visit. I've spent nights on wilderness fires in Yellowstone and Glacier, hiking past hidden hot springs and hearing wolves howl across a quiet lake. I've seen backcountry Anasazi ruins in the southwest and muskox on the north slope of Alaska. I've landed on the shores of alpine lakes that would ordinarily take climbing equipment to visit. Even the most desolate, windswept places have given me good stories.
The pilots will fly several hours today, and tie down the aircraft in the darkness. We will look for spiders and watch the Supermoon rise. Tomorrow we will be here again, or we won't. Either way, if we see each other again, we will talk about it, remembering some things and forgetting others.