Although I prefer the ocean, I enjoy being in the mountains, too. Mountains show us the grandeur and timelessness of the earth.
We may know that the mountains rose eons ago from the boiling lava of volcanoes or from the shifting crusts of tectonic plates. We may see the surfaces of mountains sculpted by fires and floods and new eruptions. But in the moment we gaze on them, mountains are unchanging and enduring. They are as solid and comforting in their cragginess as an old grandfather who says little but offers peppermints from his pocket.
I recently saw the Olympic Mountains from Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park. In the picture above, note the backbone ridges that ran from where I stood out to the peaks, still snow-covered in mid-August.
And in the closer view to the right, see how the sun glints off the glaciers, turning them into sugar-dusted confectioner’s treats. The mountains seem almost dainty, last winter’s snow still whimsically scattered in valleys between their crests.
We stood on a mountain within the Olympic National Park and saw Mt. Baker to the northeast near the North Cascades National Park on the far horizon. (In the picture on the left, Mt. Baker is suspended just to the right of the evergreen, hardly distinguishable from the clouds that hovered beneath its peak.)
Then we turned slightly to see Victoria, Canada, north across the Strait of Juan de Fuco. The strait seemed hardly any boundary at all, an arbitrary division of the earth. Yet without a passport we could not cross the water.
As we stood breathing in the beauty, the sun shone on my back, the leaves were just starting to turn, and the snow gleamed in the distance. A seasonless day.
The world seemed large and small, near and far, old and new, familiar and foreign, all at once. The mountains were everything. And they were magnificent.