The Mountains Beckon Me

I don’t begin to know how to describe my feelings about the mountains. They do tug at me though, maybe even more so having spent the last 15 years living in Texas. My relationship with mountains is not intense, like that of an addicted climber, but it is deeply memorable.  I remember vividly my first “encounter” and that was from a distance. My family was on the move from our home state of Nebraska to our new home in Washington when I was seven years old. Dad, Mom, me, three brothers, two dogs, a VW bug, and a wood-paneled station wagon pulling a pop-up trailer motored across the country to what would become our home. Mom and Dad traded off who was driving what and who was riding with whom. I was too young to know how that decision was made and why, but I do remember my Dad had all of us kids with him in the station wagon. As we drove down the highway through a forest of giant evergreens (fascinating enough to us “children of the plains”) he pointed out ahead of us and said, “Look kids! THAT is a mountain!” We looked out the windshield and in unison refused to believe him. “No way Dad! That’s a cloud!” It was in fact Mount Hood, just outside of Portland.

As children we had the good fortune to spend time every summer at the base of Mount St. Helens in a cabin on Spirit Lake. Of course we had no idea just HOW fortunate we were, and that one day the most memorable place of our childhood would no longer exist (not as we knew it), but we did not take it for granted either. We knew it was a special place. I believe it was the most serene and spiritual place I have ever seen, and I greatly regret never having been there as a photographer. This is the Mount St. Helens of my youth and some history on the mountain and eruption. To this day I still feel such a sense of sadness over the loss of our beloved playground that I’ve been back only once since the eruption, and that was to take my daughter to see what it has become.

I spent much of my youth skiing the mountains of the Cascade Range with my parents, brothers and friends, and my adulthood skiing all over the Tahoe area, as well as Taos, Aspen, Vail, Keystone, Telluride and Purgatory near Durango. These mountains fill me with a sense of awe. They are grand and majestic and at the same time serene and peaceful. They do indeed beckon me, and I am glad to have a reason to make them a part of my journey this winter.

A few days ago I winterized my RV and left it behind in Sedona to venture into Colorado with my dogs and my gear to work on another book, The Mountain Dogs of Colorado. Since I’ll be traveling throughout Colorado for a few weeks and have no way of predicting the road conditions that far out it seemed prudent leave The Beast behind rather than drag fifty two feet of metal through the mountain passes in the dead of winter.

I left Sedona early and drove in the dark for a few hours, all the while wondering what beautiful landscapes I was driving right past… and there was no doubt in my mind that I was. Just before sunrise I stopped for a quick bite and a much needed cup of coffee right along the highway in Tuba City Arizona. When I returned to my car I was shocked to find wild horses grazing along the highway right in front of me.

With the sun shining brightly the rest of the day I was treated to more amazing sights, and found it interesting to watch the landscape change with each passing mile, from desert mesas to woods and mountain peaks. Much of the drive was a slow blend of the two. One of the greatest joys of my travels so far is watching the amazing diversity of our beautiful country unfold before me as I drive down the road. This is not something you can experience from a plane.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog for long knows of my life long love affair with horses. I mentioned before that as a child I snuck my allowance off in an envelope to save the wild mustangs. I knew they were out there, but I never expected to see them. To my surprise I spotted several small herds of them running through the hills as I traveled down the highway. Even at a distance, if I stopped my car they would stop as well… all eyes on me and very alert. I was fortunate to spot this small group behind a hill right along the road. I pulled over, switched to a longer lens and hiked up the hill to see them.  They ran, of course, the moment they spotted me. Not an up close and personal horse encounter, but amazing just the same.

It was right near here that I entered Colorado at Four Corners, a point where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet. Of course I had to stop and pay the three dollars to stand on that very spot.

From here my drive took me to my first stop on this leg of my journey, the lovely history filled town of Durango.

 

And just a handful of the beautiful dogs I met there. Note to the wonderfully accommodating dog owners; I can’t begin to share all of the dogs I photographed on this blog, so please take no insult if yours is not here. I got some amazing images of all I met and hope to have a gallery live for you all to view soon!

This is just the beginning of my journey through the mountains of Colorado. Stay tuned for much, much more!

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  • Michael Lloyd

    If you can swing by the Great Kiva in Aztec. It won’t take much time to see and it’s worth while to see and photograph it

    Awesome blog as usual Fran

  • fran

    Thanks Michael. I’ve never heard of it but will look it up. When done here I’m heading to So. Utah and No. Arizona. PM me your top ten list! And plan on Big Bend early April. 🙂

  • John T S

    I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures you drew with your words as well as those you shot with the camera. The allure of the mountains comes through. What a great part of the country.

    • fran

      Thank you John. I may have to share more about Mount St. Helens. Such amazing memories I have from there. Those were the carefree days of childhood, and I don’t think they could have been spent in a better place.

  • patty

    nothing like dogs to gently remind us all to be right there in the moment!!!

    • fran

      Very true!

  • Kathleen Kelly

    Now I know where your wanderlust was born….right in that paneled station wagon with your brothers and father. What a charmed and wonderful childhood you had. It comes through in your zest for adventure, your compassion for living beings, and your respect for this country. Thanks for another great post. You are off to an amazing start on this project. xxxooo

    • fran

      What can I say but 🙂 Thanks Kathleen! I’m much deeper in the mountains now… and deeper in the dogs as well. So many beautiful dogs in Colorado! I’m overwhelmed!

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