A love letter to the mountains
You don’t know me personally, but you might recognize me by my feet. I’ve skied, hiked, snowshoed and biked your contours for the past several decades.
You see, you changed the course of my life.
When I finished high school in Ontario, I was nowhere near deciding what to do with my life, so I took a few years off to figure it out.
The first thing I did after graduating was take the train to Lake Louise to work there for the summer. I will never forget my reaction to seeing your Rockies for the first time. I was gobsmacked. I knew about the Rockies, of course, but seeing your grey spires and blue-white glaciers in person left me speechless. Between shifts, I spent most of my spare time exploring your paths. I even took a mountaineering course so I could become closer to you — literally and figuratively.
In winter, I’d return to Ottawa to work while I continued to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I did this Ontario/Alberta back-and-forth thing for three summers and, after completing college and getting a couple years’ career experience under my belt, your call was too strong to pass up. You got under my skin, and so I moved myself west.
Tatra mountains (Photo by Piotr J., CC BY-SA 3.0)
Being new to the area, I joined outdoors groups filled with like-minded people. I made life-long friends on your trails. You also opened up a world of vacation and travelling possibilities. I’ve trekked and biked and wandered through your Adirondack, Himalaya, Tatra and Andes “cousins.” Each mountain range looks different, but despite the continental divides, you share something in common: the power to lift my mood, rejuvenate me, challenge me and deepen my connection to the natural world.
South face of Annapurna Mountain, Himalaya (Photo by PrajwalMohan, CC BY-SA 4.0)
But you haven’t had it easy. You provide so much — clean air, water, leisure, refuge for species, spiritual benefits, just as a start — yet I sometimes forget that despite being massive and strong, you’re still vulnerable to development and the effects of climate change.
For all that you’ve given me, here’s what I promise to give back to you: You’ll never become “wallpaper” to my eyes. I’ll always marvel at the light that plays upon your ridgetops. I’ll fiercely defend my belief that you look prettier with snow, and more formidable without. I’ll continue to seek you out when I need to clear my head and raise my heart rate. I’ll respect your temperaments and your weather. I’ll give space to the animals that live among your rocks and trees and flowers and snow. I will always remember that it is a privilege to be able to experience the awe of your vistas. And I’ll do my best to ensure others treat you well and with the care and respect you deserve.
On this, International Mountain Day, I say “Thank you, and keep up the good work.”
Mountains are part of the habitat adoptions featured in the Nature Conservancy of Canada's gift giving campaign: Gifts of Canadian Nature. To learn more and to give the gift of conservation this holiday season, click here.