I grew up in a central Minnesota town that really had little geographical features to gaze at. Looking west, out of town, it was prairie as far as the eye could see. As a young man I always wondered what was beyond the prairie? I knew from books that for the most part the prairie continued across the vast stretches of the Dakotas, Montana and then slowly but surely the foothills of the Rockies’ to the majestic Rockies’ themselves. I knew there was life on the other side of the mountains but it didn’t matter then, my heart would not want to go any farther.
As life has gone on I have traveled extensively and especially in the west. But always my pulse quickened when I got to the mountains. I have crossed them in Colorado, Montana and Arizona. Watched the Canadian Rockies from a ship and traversed Alaska where you never run out of Mountains and always, I never tired of them. I have traveled through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee and Georgia and the Cascades of Washington State and flown over the Alps. I was once asked why didn’t you live in the Mountains? My answer was; if it had been up to only me I would have, but I had a family that didn’t share in my obsession.
My bookshelves are filled with Mountain stories and Mountain climbing stories. Had I grown up in the mountains I would have loved to climb but now just coming up the basement stairs leaves me short of breath. But I never tire of hearing of the exploits of climber’s the world over. I wrote a fictional book called the “Last Trip down the Mountain” that took place on Denali and it was so fun to write. When I think of my favorite Mountain it’s always been Rainer in Washington State and I have been there at its base. It is to our country what Mount Fugi is to Japan, a symbol that is revered.
I read once about a person who had climbed to the top of a high mountain-- in fact it was Rainer. He looked around and he saw valleys and ridges, glaciers and rivers all flowing out from the mountain like the spokes in a wheel. But what amazed him the most was he realized he was standing at the very spot where they all emanated from. He was in effect standing on creation. That mountain, for him that day, was the link between heaven and earth. Maybe that’s why people like me are so enamored with mountains. Here on this majestic piece of ground you are physically closer to God then you have ever been before. Even when the mountain is shrouded with clouds and you can’t even see the peak, you know that it’s there. Just like we feel the presence of God where ever we are, even though we can’t always see him.
I don’t mean to minimize the beauty of Minnesota and Arizona and other places I have lived. Beauty truly is everywhere you want it to be. But in Arizona at night Pat and I look down the street from our house and we say, “look how pretty the mountain is tonight.” Down there they talk too about the beauty of the valley but there would never be a valley without the mountains. Back in the seventies I used to like to listen to the music of John Denver and I cried when he was killed. “Yes John, I think we were both on a Rocky Mountain High.”