Archive for March 21st, 2023

It’s not always bad news…

Reason #44- Mountains

Nadyne and I grew up near mountains, she in Tucson, Ariz., and me in the Los Angeles Basin in Southern California.  We shared a love of mountain views and their majesty.  But, like the song lyrics go, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”  We moved to Kansas, where the nearest mountains were almost 300 miles away.  In fact, we used to joke that from the 12th floor in the Wichita City Hall you could see all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  Sorry, Flat-Earthers, the curvature of the earth kept this from being true.

We experienced an interesting phenomenon in Wichita that extended to many flat plains locations: claustrophobia.  How can being in a wide-open space cause such a feeling?  I finally figured out that it has to do with a finite horizon.  Walk or drive anywhere with mountains and the sight of the range gives you an internal sense of the size of the space you are in.  Take away the mountains and either you have a non-distinct view of the infinite horizon or the horizon becomes the building rooflines, treetops or the top edges of tall hedges.  That loss of a distinct space can be unnerving to those of us who grew up around mountains, and it didn’t seem to affect native Kansans at all.

Believe it or not, there are health benefits to visiting a mountain range.  There are several reports that spending almost any time in the mountains can trigger weight loss and high altitude is known to decrease your appetite and make you feel more full.  People who live in or spend considerable time at higher altitudes, which would include cities like Denver, Colo., and Santa Fe, N.M., are less likely to die from a heart attack and have lower risk of cardiovascular disease.  The fresh air you breathe in the mountains, free of toxic gasses and air pollution, gives your lungs a chance to breathe in a better mix of oxygen.  Pine scents also tend to decrease hostility, depression and stress.  Mountain trails also provide some of the best exercise available and the opportunity for bonding with friends, family and that special someone.

You can extend all the benefits I embraced with trees to the mountains as well, since more trees inhabit mountainous regions than all other geographical zones combined.  Speaking of geography, and therefore geology, there are three major ways mountains form, all as a byproduct of plate tectonics.  Volcanic activities occur when one tectonic plate is pushed beneath another, causing magma to be forced to the surface.  The “Ring of Fire” was created in this manner, as have the series of dormant volcanoes in the Cascades, site of Mount St. Helens.  During tectonic plate collisions, when two plates plow into each other, one plate is forced upwards, creating ranges such as the Appalachians, Himalayas and Mount Everest.  The least-known is rifting, when rocks on one side of a fault lift relative to the opposite side, such as with the Black Forest in Germany.  I don’t want to make this a geology course, but as we tour America, it is interesting to see how the different mountain ranges were created and how they have changed over geologic time.

The “purple mountains majesty,” though, is why we love to visit the mountains, with photos not exactly doing them justice, and with views sometimes so amazing as to render us awestruck in silence.


I’ll complete this discussion with a quote from a famous 19th-century novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote, “Mountains are earth’s undecaying monuments.

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