Take this last weekend. I planned a hike to one of the Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV) huts with a group of friends. We went despite a bad weather forecast and despite being exhausted from a long week of work and a to-do list that never seemed to be accomplished. The night before our planned hike was also a good friend’s birthday party, which meant a late night and several groans at the idea of waking up to go hiking.But it was worth it. So worth it. And it always is. In fact, getting out in the fresh air and taking in the views from the top of a mountain is almost always rejuvenating and a singularly satisfying way to spend a day. And let’s be honest, because Munich is so close to the mountains, we didn’t even really have to get up that early.
Skiing is another matter though. I usually have to get up at the crack of dawn if I want to be on the mountain early enough to get the most out of my day pass. And somehow that is always worth it too. In fact, I often say that skiing is the only thing I don’t mind getting up for (although that might be a bit of an exaggeration, because I do slightly resent having to leave my house before its light for any activity. Even skiing).
But these fun mountain activities only scratch the surface of what the mountains mean to me (and I know I’m not alone in this- there’s a huge group of people out there like me who grew up in the mountains or discovered the pull of the mountains later in life, andcan never go back to being “non-mountain” people ever again. I imagine that it might be the same for people who grow up in places like Hawaii, with the beach/surfer lifestyle, or maybe in a slightly different way, for those who only feel at home in the world’s biggest metropolises like New York, London, or Paris). It’s hard to explain to those people who don’t feel that ever-present tug on their hearts, isn’t it? At this very moment, I’m looking out the window at a fading orange horizon, with the Alps in high relief in the background, and I can say that even the sight of the mountains in the distance somehow makes me happier. The pure recognition that the mountains are there, just within reach, improves my life, every single day. I think it’s the subconscious acknowledgement of a completely reliable source of happiness, always there, never changing.
Mountains represent something solid, and constant, and beautiful. I can travel to any mountainous region of the world, and I know without fail that I will be confronted with extreme natural beauty and that a feeling of contentment will wash over me and I will feel at peace. I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but it is what it is, and I would be a fool to not recognize this and make sure mountains are and remain an integral part of my life. And now I must leave you with the words of the wisest and most eloquent mountain man of them all, John Muir:
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows
into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares
will drop off like autumn leaves.
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the
mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations
are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.