My son pointed me to a blog containing the most wonderful photos of Alaska. They were taken by a young man called Sean Lunt, who spent three months there, flying over mountains and glaciers, lakes and islands. Some of his landings (in a supercub) must have been breathtaking, if not terrifying, but the results are beautiful and inspiring.
My stepfather flew (illicitly, I think) over the glaciers of British Columbia when he was sent to train pilots in Canada during the war; he talks wistfully of the landscapes he saw. My own experience is puny compared to these daring aviators, cocooned in the comfort of a ViaRail coach, as we snaked through the Rockies. We were served canapes while the conducter congratulated us on our good fortune; this was one of the very few days every year when the summit of Mount Robson was not shrouded by cloud. The snow cap of Canada's tallest mountain was flushed a delicate rose pink in the early November sunset, and I could not take my eyes from it.
The journey from Toronto to Vancouver took three days and one of the most magical moments was sitting curled up in my couchette the first night, curtains drawn to hide me from the others in the carriage, nose pressed to the window watching our engine up ahead forging its way through the falling snow, its lights illuminating a narrow path ahead of us. The next day, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, we made a request stop, and two people climbed down from the train to stand in the snow. I watched as they dwindled into the distance, two tiny figures in a snowfield, with no sign of civilisation.
Because it was some time ago, and I was - as ever - travelling alone, I spent my days in the observation car writing a diary to send home, around the long gaps while I watched the world pass. Nowadays, I would have had my laptop with me, and a digital camera. My photos of the mountains are mostly a blur, since we crossed the highest part of the Rockies in the late evening. But I did have my portable CD player and, as we crossed the Prairies one night, I watched the vast expanse of sky and stars unfold overhead to the sound of Tallis and Purcell.