Saturday, May 27, 2017

You Can Take a Girl Out of the Mountains

You never really know how much you love a place, until you leave it, and return. At least, that has been true for me. I grew up in Virginia, raised my family in Utah, and moved to Illinois to marry my handsome prince. I've done a lot of leaving in my life, and returning to the places I love always brings me so much joy.

Cove Mountain, Utah

While Chuck worked from home in his office, I worked on getting ready for our road trip to Utah. The grass had to be cut, the car needed to be packed, and the cooler needed to be filled with food to sustain us for our 27 hours on the road. And those puppies needed to get plenty of exercise before being kenneled in the back of the car for an entire day. By 4:15, I'd checked everything off my list, and Chuck was ready to begin his much-deserved vacation. We were OFF!

Leaving an elevation of 732 feet in St. Charles, Illinois, we were heading toward the Mile-High City of Denver, and pushing on to Utah where we would be meeting our kids in Saint George (elevation: 2,860 feet). To say I've gotten used to the flat prairie of the Midwest is not entirely true. Not having any mountain ranges on the horizon to help me get my bearings has been unsettling more than anything. Thank heavens for my GPS in Illinois, or I'd never get to any of my destinations!

Our plan was to take turns driving and sleeping during our 1,600 mile trip, but we began with both of us up front, and the puppies in the back. We were thrilled that we would travel through Nebraska and Iowa after the sun went down, and would arrive in Colorado around sunrise. Being spared the monotonous landscapes of the prairie states during the night, and viewing the Rockies and Utah's eastern desert during the day were part of our master plan. On our return trip, we would leave at sunrise to enjoy our favorite views throughout the day, and drive through most of the flat lands after sunset. The planning doesn't get much better than that!

Just as we entered eastern Colorado, a pretty peach sunrise lit up the sky. I was thrilled just to be in that Rocky Mountain state, but to be honest, eastern Colorado should just be called western Nebraska; they're twinners. Just slightly rolling farmland, and not a mountain in sight. 

We grabbed a quick breakfast at Chick-Fil-A, and headed into Denver. My heart was not prepared for my first sight of the Rocky Mountain range. Poor Chuck. He was so worried this trip was making me sad, but I couldn't help it; I was so overcome with emotion that tears ran down my cheeks. There was no sadness; just gratitude that I was finally surrounded by mountains again. I just didn't realize how much I'd missed them.

Driving through Vail and Silverthorne, and then Grand Junction offers some of the most breath-taking views. While Chuck drove, I snapped pictures with my cellphone through the car window. Never mind the glare from the glass or the bug guts on the window; there were mountains in my viewfinder again. 

Crossing the state line into Utah was a highlight of our journey. I love the welcome signs featuring the red rock delicate arch from Arches National park with the words LIFE ELEVATED. Yes, we weren't in the flat lands any more. 

My spirits continued to lift as we drove across the eastern desert, which is like a mini-Bryce or Zion National park to me. I love seeing the mesas in the distance and all of the massive rock formations. There are so many different colors of rock out there.

When we finally entered the Sevier Valley of south central Utah, I cried again. Home. I was home. We pulled off I-70 for a quick pit stop at our humble little cottage. I paused in the living room, just soaking up all of the familiar sights and I picked up Sierra's cat Ludo to give him a hug before we piled back into the car for our final stretch of the trip to Saint George, where all of my kids were waiting. 

It was a glorious week with our family, catching up with conversation and laughter, hiking across the slickrock above Apple Valley and into Bullion Canyon of Marysvale. I was constantly in awe of the beauty around me, and felt my eyes sting with tears several times as my breath would catch in my throat at the sight of the sun coming up or going down over the mountains, or seeing the mountains in the distance shrouded by fluffy, white clouds. 

We rode off into the sunrise during our return trip, enjoying the majesty of the mountains and taking delight in the desert as we reversed our route eastward to Illinois. As we approached Orchard, Nebraska, I looked as far as I could see, which is pretty far, and I noticed all of the clouds surrounding us in the distance. I shared my thoughts on the view with Chuck.

"It's not that the prairie is ugly. I know that there are farmers and teachers and college students and others here, who wake up here every morning, and when they step outside, they are so grateful for the beauty of where they live. For me, I just have to pretend that there are mountains hidden from view by all of those clouds, and it makes me feel a little better. I feel calmer when there are mountains nearby." 

The next morning, after crossing the Mississippi River, it was my pleasure to watch the sunrise over western Illinois where the farmlands roll gently toward Chicago. We were closer to home, and I smiled knowing we were almost there. Yes, I had missed this place, too.

Calling the prairies of the Midwest home during this time of my life is much easier, knowing that Chuck and I will be returning to the western mountains` frequently, until the day we both call Utah home. Until then, I will love my life as the Country Mouse turned City Mouse, living in the suburbs of Chicago, and visiting the mountains as often as I can. 

Chuck and I with the red rock mountains of Utah in the distance.

You might take a girl out of the mountains, but you'll never take the mountains out of the girl.


  1. I love this. The mountains are amazing, but your family shots are even more glorious. I am so glad you had this opportunity.

    1. In this blog, the family shots were taken by a friend and my son, but I agree, the family shots are my favorite.

  2. This is exactly how I feel. I grew up just outside of Denver, moved to Kansas and beyond, and I do often pretend I'm close to the mountains. (That first photo with the snow-topped range- was that taken on I-70, just past Genesee? I got married with those mountains as the background- that view is near and dear.) I love this post. I'm so glad I am not alone in my love for the mountains. And so glad you had a lovely trip all around.

    1. We share a love for those mountains; soul sisters! The very first photo was in Utah. My first photo of snow capped mountains in Colorado was the view from Denver on I 70.

  3. Denise,
    Loved the passion in this post and how your anticipation kept rising the closer you got to those mountains. Thanks for taking us with on the trip home. Sometimes I pretend that there is water just beyond. I just love the water. Beautiful photos!

    1. Thank you so much, Anne. I love water, too, but I've only been able to enjoy it after a long drive, or during a vacation.

  4. I am a Nebraska and Chicago girl, so didn't grow up living near mountains. But now I love the mountains. What a wonderful trip you had!

    1. Thank you! Are there mountains near you now?


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