OneSeed loves the mountains! Hopefully you do too. OneSeed staffer Cat shares the reasons for her love of the mountains, how they have influenced her life, and why she feels at home among them.
The beach or the mountains? It’s a question that seems to be asked in nearly every awkward social situation, ice breakers at new jobs, school orientations, first dates, etc…, as if the answer tells you everything you need to know about a person. They can make you feel insignificantly small, they could be your life’s calling, or they may be something you go your entire life and never see. I grew up in northeastern Massachusetts on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and close to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, so I didn’t really have to choose. It was the best of both worlds, but I’ve never felt a calling to the ocean the way I do for the mountains. It’s been over eight years now since I lived near the ocean, but I’ll never be able to live too far from the mountains.
My family hiked a lot in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine when I was a kid. Occasionally such activities were called F3, Forced Family Fun, when we kids squabbled or weren’t loving nature that day. One prominent memory I have was when we were snowshoeing in Vermont. I was probably seven or so and was having a very difficult time with the snowshoes, tripping over them and continuously face planting into the snow. I get extremely frustrated when I don’t pick up things easily, and I can be quite grumpy when I am freezing cold and wet, so needless to say, it was not my day. Sadly I haven’t snowshoed since. On the trails though, I was always trotting along and scrambling up the mountains trying to keep up with my dad who hiked the Appalachian Trail when he graduated high school and is fast hiker. On both the happy and frustrating days, the mountains were a playground. A place of growth, family, learning, and love.
During my eight years in North Carolina, the Appalachians were never far away and weekend trips to the mountains with friends were frequent. I can’t explain exactly why, as I’ve never lived directly in the mountains, but they have always felt like home to me. My appreciation for the mountains grew when I started whitewater kayaking and headed to the mountains to paddle the rivers rather than hike the mountains. I’ve never really been a fan of water. In fact, I was secretly terrified of it for years, fearing the strength of an element I didn’t understand. I have been shocked to discover over the past few years that I actually love kayaking. The river offers a similar, but different, kind of peace than the mountains as I am completely focused on what is in front of me, allowing me to take mind off everything else and escape the outside world. The mountains I loved had opened up and offered me something new beyond trails to hike, run and bike. Something I never imagined I could enjoy let alone fall in love with. I was excited for my move to Denver, and it wasn’t until I saw the last of the lush rolling hills of the Appalachians disappearing in the rear view mirror that I started crying, realizing I was really leaving and already feeling an ache for them and the amazing memories they keep.
While the mountains have always been a fun weekend escape with friends, this past year they took on a much more supportive role for me. I spent quite a bit of time in various mountains the past few months between the Appalachians, the Rockies, at Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite. Each has been different. Each has offered me something new. I took to the Appalachians as I struggled with convincing myself to leave a job that left me unfulfilled and when my relationship unexpectedly ended the day after I quit leaving me devastated. I explored Yosemite with my brother who is in the military and I hadn’t seen in 18 months, and Lake Tahoe with my mom who I don’t get to see nearly enough either. In Denver, I have taken every opportunity to get to the Rockies which have been a critical respite to explore while trying to adjust to life in a new city. There has been a lot of difficult and unsettling change in my life in the past year, but mountains have always been the one constant, a source of calm, fun, restoration and self-healing.
The Rockies are a backbone of life here. It is amazing how everyone seems to find a way to enjoy them. Among the first questions I get from nearly everyone here when they find out I’m a newcomer are 1) if I have bought a ski pass and 2) if I have summited a 14er yet (mountain with a summit over 14,000 feet). It’s almost expected that you love the mountains if you live here. It is ski territory and home of most 14ers after all. It is not difficult to find people to head to the mountains with, in fact it’s hard to stay out of the mountains with how often everyone goes to visit them! Whether tackling a 14er, paddling the rivers, taking to the slopes or simply holing up in a cabin for a few days, it seems everyone finds passion in these jagged peaks.
The past few weekends, the aspen leaves have turned a brilliant shade of yellow gold, occasionally orange, and groves of trees litter the mountains, strewn between the dark green conifers on the mountain sides. Aspen leaves are different than the maples I grew up with in Massachusetts. They flutter gently, silently when the wind blows causing a ripple effect among the trees different from the rustling I remember from home when the trees looked like they were ablaze in various shades of red, orange and yellow. The leaves that have fallen cover the trails like coins, creating a yellow path reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz’syellow brick road. I can’t get enough! It’s like this every fall when the leaves begin to change, creating an ache for home and the vibrant New England falls I grew up with. This year though, I follow the yellow brick road of aspen leaves deeper into the mountains, for there is no place like home and no matter where I am, mountains have been, and always will be, a part of my home.