Early European explorers, passers-through and pioneers had no great love for the young & tall mountains in the West. Mountains, sandstone canyons and mesas were barriers and impediments through unfamiliar landscape. A hard and sometimes cruel land that looked grey and barren to their eyes. The names they gave on maps reflect this, bearing innumerable hellish descriptors or names like “starvation.”
Mountains in their old homelands carried strange stories or were home to vengeful gods and spirits. Even some of those who recognized the great beauty of these vistas emphasized their danger and separation from people.
For us, our mountains are incredibly important. My great aunt once told us that the end of a flight home when the well-known peaks came into view, it felt like being wrapped up in a warm blanket. These mountains are home itself in a very powerful way.
And it isn’t that they’re loved because the ranges are beautiful and majestic. It’s not their draw for skiing tourism or an easy connection to nature & recreation. It’s not because it makes navigation easier because you never lose your sense of direction. All this is true, but there is a more powerful force at work.
Without these mountains, we could not live. This place would be more open space, sparsely populated by unfortunate tribes confined to too little land on reservations while the rest would most likely be more land on which the military drops weapons. Our Western sagebrush ocean has always been seen as useless but for its financial utility by the federal government that owns the majority of our state.
It is our mountains that let people thrive in this wild and arid place; we rely on mountains for water. Every drop of rain and (especially) flake of snow that falls in our mountains near reservoirs becomes part of the next year’s water supply. Because we need them, mountains become precious not just for beauty and wilderness. They mean home.
Family outings and picnics up the many canyons are a childhood staple. When I’m tired or stressed, a short trip up the canyons provides incredible refreshment and joy. The landscape with rushing water and the reminder of life with greenery and the animal sounds all around me are euphoric and transcendental.
The dogs seem to have a good time too. Although I think in the future, I’ll avoid trying to shoot video while tethered to exploring, happy canines.