I lived and traveled throughout the eastern and southern US until my mid-40s. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Appalachian Mountains. The mountains in this range are generally about 4000 feet above sea level and the highest is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina at over 6600 feet. The Appalachians are the oldest mountain range in the world and such have experienced much erosion. They’re rounded, covered in green and often look like rolling hills.
In 2005 I finally took my first road trip west. The mountains dwarfed anything I’d seen in the Appalachians. The Yellowstone Ecosystem in general proved quite unexpected. I expected geysers and hot springs but soon realized there was so much more. As we traveled south down the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway my eyes and soul experienced a most unexpected spiritual awakening. We were already 8000 feet above sea level when we saw those towers of granite jetting into the sky for another 5000+ feet.
I haven’t been the same since. I even changed my geographic focus from human to physical, teaching geomorphology instead of culture and sacred landscapes. I’d seen photos of Yellowstone and the Teton’s but nothing compares to seeing such places with your own eyes. You can’t grasp the majestic nature of the American West, or any geographic region, until you visit yourself. No photo can adequately convey the treasures of this earth.
And while I did return, I still long to see them yet again.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
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