The snow-capped peaks stretch as far as the eye can see as my plane swings low over the high Sierra Nevada before heading for the azure waters of the Pacific. Gazing out of the window on a mild morning in late Fall, valleys cut with the blue ribbons of rivers recall those epic 19th-century Bierstadt oil paintings. Closer to the ocean, the round-topped, lower-lying mountains flanked by majestic Californian greenery flash yellow in the sunlight offering the incoming...

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