KEVIN TATE: Mountains, valleys, footprints left behind call us back

By Kevin Tate/NEMS Daily Journal

The raindrops fell from the gray clouds above and rode the face of a wind that rumbled over the peaks and valleys of the Sierra Madres. Out where low is high and high is unbelievable for a flatlander like me, there lives a quiet that’s owned a piece of my imagination since we first met. If the ocean irons the wrinkles out of my soul, the mountains take what remains and fold it neatly away.
Hustling upward with a purpose before the sunrise is more than a promise, shambling back down with another day’s adventure salted away, the silence and permanence this upheaved land owns extracts a certain respect, and returns a quiet calm. Knowing places like this exist often carries me through the times that pass when I’m away. Long after I’ve gone, part of my soul remains.
Maybe worries ride air molecules and concerns spring from background noise because, up where there are few of one and none of the other, they can’t find me. What the onshore breeze at the beach blows away finds no breath to speak up high.
At the kiss of rain, meadow grass and pinyon pine rustled to life. Pockets of canyon-heated air flew before the cold front and both washed over us, leaving us chilled and warmed and chilled again. One carried the scent of earth and sage, the other the icy north. Their movement marked the heels of summer’s final passing. Time changes the weather, the weather colors the land, but the land remains ever the same, at least in our dreams.
Geologists tell us the Rockies were formed by collisions in the plates of the planet’s crust, an upward-folding of soil and stone millions of years in the making. The glaciers that followed carved the valleys we walk, cut and padded our passageway into nature’s cathedrals, houses of worship where aspen groves paint open hillsides, where sarvisberry grows thick and tall, where elk and grouse and mule deer thrive. The steepest slopes, dressed in rockslides and shale, meet in shadows between the mountains. They grow tall in trees that defy gravity and mock passersby who, like themselves, are barely hanging on. When every step is a great struggle that brings into sight even greater rewards, the give and take of the outdoors has never been so clearly defined.
In our frequent pauses, when we lift up our eyes from the hills from whence our challenge comes to look through tree tops gold and green into a sky as blue as forever and as perfect, then we know why we walked this way. When the sun sets and the blanket turns clear and the Milky Way girds the heavens with a broad band of light from stars flung ever outward into the void, even the wind lies hushed in awe.
There are a lot of special places in this world, silent places and noisy places, some overflowing with animal life, some home to little more than plant and stone. The footprints we leave there call us back and, the more we leave, the more we’re called it seems. I’ve left some of my favorites along the Colorado-Wyoming line.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.