As announced last week, the transatlantic diablog now presents a loose series of personal notes and aerial photos by author, adventurer and economic innovator Garrett Fisher.
In part 1, entitled “Hopeless Drive / 58 Mountains in Colorado,” Fisher tells the story of how he came to experience “a multi-year story of flying an airplane from the 1940s to some of the craziest terrain in America.“
Read his report below.
Hopeless drive. That is the best way to succinctly explain a multi-year story of flying an airplane from the 1940s to some of the craziest terrain in America, then sending the airplane to Europe to start all over on the other side of the Atlantic.
I will never know whether I would have attracted to this kind of airplane on my own, as I grew up with them on the property in upstate New York. My grandfather, born in the early 1930s, is an old-school self-driven man who tackles anything he sets his mind to, toiling for hours in his barn on a hill in the country restoring airplanes that date from the 1930s to the 1950s. He restored this airplane, picking it from his pantheon of familiar models, choosing something unique, functional, rare, and highly desirable.
Unceremoniously, I was told my lessons would be in this plane at age 16, graduating from a newer and more comfortable airplane to one that was intentionally rebuilt to be exactly like they were back in the 40s when Grandpa got his license. Well, he added brakes to this model, and a bigger engine. Otherwise, it’s like flying a kite with a motor on it. There is simply nothing in the way of modernism or convenience.
The airplane wound in and out of life like a double helix, becoming the object of my recreational fantasies, oscillating out of use, roaring back into life when I inherited it, and nearly being sold when I moved to the high Rockies in Colorado. It was a fateful flight on August 28, 2013 that changed everything, the pendulum of life changing direction and hurling itself at full speed.
I took a flight to the Gore Range in Colorado. Compared to the many peaks over 14,000 feet, nobody thought about this little range with mountains topping about at 13,600 feet. I decided to be daring and break my personal altitude record, and in so doing, I discovered a whole new world: the Rockies from the air. The airplane isn’t getting sold.
Two months later, I moved the airplane to the highest airport in North America: Leadville, Colorado, with a field elevation just shy of 10,000 feet. Standing in front of the hangar, I gazed upon Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado, and thought to myself: “It can’t be hard to fly to them all.”
And so I did, photographing all 58 mountains over 14,000 feet along with the entirety of the upper Colorado River basin, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 40 peaks over 6,000 feet in the Southeast USA, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and one summer flying 25,000 miles in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Utah, covering just about every major terrain and park feature that one can think of in those states. Nine books have been published, and more are on the way.
The next stop in life was Germany, and the plane came with us. With the wings off, she fits in a shipping container, along with all of our stuff, and so the voyage was made in the winter of 2015-2016, the airplane now back together and flying in Germany.
My initial obsessions were the totality of regions and areas that could make it into a book, subjects like I mentioned above: mountains over 14,000 feet in Colorado, Outer Banks, Blue Ridge Parkway, and the like. I found that, the more I think I know what projects will make it into print, the more likely I am to be wrong. Now I fly to chase down beauty, to create art, and to show things that people are unaware exist. Some of my work ends up in art galleries, in books, magazine articles, and online photo essays. Most importantly, I have no clue what is going to happen until it does, and in the mean time, I keep flying and taking photographs.
Garrett Fisher has published 9 books, such as “Above the Summit: An Antique Airplane Conquers Colorado’s Fourteeners” and “Flying the Star Valley,” and a blog about his flights in Europe – more at garrettfisher.me.