En route from Seattle to D.C. today, I’ve had the rare pleasure of a day-time transcontinental flight, with a window seat on a largely cloudless day. From the moment we lifted off over the intricate estuaries and islands of Puget Sound, and floated over the complex ridgelines and glacial valleys of the Cascades, I’ve been entranced. Our route took us over the fantastical Channeled Scablands of eastern Washingon, where I spotted Grand Coulee and DryFalls, and the ultimate prize, a patch of giant current ripples. We flew over the Idaho Panhandle, over LakeCouer d’Alene, where natural levees marked the routes of tributaries well out into the lake. (Aha, google just taught me that there is a dam resulting in the natural lake level being artificially raised.) The mountaintops in Idaho and Montana were frosted with snow and the broad valleys had tightly meandering streams winding through them.I caught a glimpse of FlatheadLake to our north, with the distinct line of the MinaretMountains on its east flank. Our pilot helpfully told us that FlatheadLake is the largest U.S. freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River.As we moved into eastern Montana and North Dakota the landscape became more barren, with stream networks slowly inching their way headward in the flattened landscapes.We crossed the dammed Missouri River at the North Dakota-South Dakota border, just as I happened to look up from the presentation on which I was working. Into Iowa and Illinois, what caught my eye was the regular geometry of the irrigated fields superimposed on the deranged drainage left behind by the glaciers. I looked up again as we crossed the Mississippi River, with its elaborate pattern of islands created and drowned by the dam we flew over. I saw the suburban wasteland of Chicago meld into the high rises of downtown, only to be abruptly stopped by the vast blue expanse of Lake Michigan.Now as we fly over Indiana or Ohio, stringers of puffy cumulus clouds are becoming more dense, building in height, and threatening to cut off my personal theater.But I still haven’t seen the Appalachians!Oh well, there is always the flight home. I hope I’ve got a window seat.