A love letter to the mountains

Spike hike on a relatively warm winter day. (Photo courtesy of Gayle Roodman/NCC staff)

Spike hike on a relatively warm winter day. (Photo courtesy of Gayle Roodman/NCC staff)

Dear 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. The first thing I did after graduating was take the train to Lake Louise in Alberta to work there for the summer.

Gayle Roodman and the mountains (Illustration by Jacqui Oakley)

Gayle Roodman and the mountains (Illustration by Jacqui Oakley)

I will never forget my reaction to seeing your Rockies for the first time. I was gobsmacked. Seeing your grey spires and blue-white glaciers in person left me speechless. Between shifts, I spent most of my spare time exploring you. I even took a mountaineering course so I could become closer to you.

In winter, I’d return to Ottawa to work. I did this for a few years, until your call was too strong to pass up. You got under my skin, so I moved myself west. Being new to the area, I joined outdoors groups filled with like-minded people. I made lifelong friends on your trails. You also opened a world of possibilities. I’ve explored 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.

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 on you. I will always remember that it is a privilege to experience the awe of your vistas. And I’ll do my best to ensure that others treat you well and with the care and respect you deserve.

Thank you, and keep up the good work.

Gayle

This story originally appeared in the summer 2022 issue of the Nature Conservancy of Canada Magazine. To learn more about how you can receive the magazine, click here.

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