• Blaine Hoppenrath

All the Different Mountains

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

Driving east on Interstate 40, past the Laguna Pueblo, about 10 minutes east of the Route 66 Hotel and Casino, the highway finally crests over a hill that has brought all of the semis to a crawl. At that moment you can seem them, the Sandia's in all of their grandeur. They stand as the guardian of Albuquerque to the east while the waters of the Rio Grande flow below.

I lived in their foothills for two years, I ran in their canyons and arroyos, hiked to their summits, and marveled in their sunsets. I saw them when they were blanketed in snow in winter and surrounded by monsoon clouds in summer. I have never know a range so personally and yet I sometimes feel like I barely know them at all. I never skied their slopes or hiked them in their entirety. But nevertheless, I fell in love with them.


Three hours to the south are the Organ Mountains. It’s fairly obvious how they got their name as their spires would remind anyone of a beautiful church organ. They are desert mountains and not until you get close enough to hike them can you see the hide pine trees among the cacti.


Even further south, the Chiso Mountains flank the north side of the Rio Grande. Across the river lies another country, but the landscape is a continuation and if it weren’t for a river you wouldn’t know where the US ends and Mexico begins. These mountains still make me feel like I am in the desert, and will never see much snow, if any, but I have never seen a more perfect sunrise than I have in Chisos.

To the north of Albuquerque, the San Juan’s are breathtaking. The sub range of the Rockies, the San Juan’s are as mighty as they are beautiful. And the lakes hidden within their peaks have water shades of blue that I have never seen before nor never knew actually existed.

Just as mighty, are the peaks of the Front Range in Rocky Mountain National Park. The have the luxury of drawing the attention of millions of people in Denver everyday who would rather be exploring them than simply looking at them from their office window. They seem endless and inspire curiosity.

And going even further north to the Central Montana Rockies and those mountains take a whole new mystique. The glaciers that shaped them into who they are today have left and are continually leaving their mark on the land around them.

The Sierra are an entirely different story, at least to me. While this is entirely personal, the Sierra challenged me in ways that I could never have imagined before the PCT. They were relentless, making me work so hard pass after pass after pass. But they rewarded me, with waterfalls, and lakes, and endless beauty. They were, and still are, a relentless range. Bestowing beauty to those who they deem worthy enough to explore their secrets.

And now, as I transition to the Cascades, I have entered a range that is sparse, with their peaks miles and miles apart, but nevertheless awe inspiring. The peaks may be far between, but their prominence is unquestionable. From Lassen to Shasta to Hood and beyond the range is entirely different from the ones I have seen before.

I long to know these mountains more. While I have been exposed to just a fraction of their personalities they never cease to amaze me and heighten my sense of curiosity. Not only that, but they encourage me to seek out and discover new mountains, the Appalachian, the Whites, and more.


These mountains have one thing in common. Simply, that they are mountains. They shoot up out of the ground and have an unparalleled beauty to them. But it ends there. Each range and sub range have their own nuance and personality, no two are the same, each one longing to be known for who they really are.


I say this because mountains are like humans. At the end of the day we all have something in common. We are humans, and we all want, generally, the same thing. To be happy and healthy. To feel accomplished and accepted. To love and be loved.


What happened in El Paso infuriates me and breaks my heart at the same time. It’s a city that I grew to love. Before I ever went there I thought very little of it and said as much out loud. Thoughts like “I really don’t get why people love El Paso so much.” And then, I went there.


I fell Ella in love with their food, their culture and their people. I worked literally on the border and always felt safe. Felt safe at work, felt safe walking around the city, and late at night downtown when it was dark and I needed some late night food. I misjudged the city and forever grateful I got to spend time their.


We are, as a nation, better than what we are showing the world. We are a country that is made better by our differences. We have forgotten how to love somewhere along the way, just like I judged a city before I got to know it.


Just like the mountains, we are strong. We are bold. We are beautiful. We bring our differences to the table to make each other grow and become better. I know that as I explore our land, our public land, I will become more in love with this country and the people that I meet along the way.


Note: The last part of this story is political so if you want to stop reading that’s fine.


As primaries start to unfold across the country know that two things can happen that will make it so that what happened in El Paso will never happen again.


1. 45 has got to go. His racist rhetoric is a disgrace to the office of the President of the United States. Plus he has done nothing to push congress to act on gun control reform

2. Get Mitch or die trying. Until the Senate has a democratic majority Mitch and the GOP will refuse to do anything. The House acted on gun reform in FEBRUARY and the Senate has yet to act.


I can’t knock on doors until I’m off trail. And I have very little money to donate. But I can write. I can write about my sadness and my hope. I can write about how our land inspires me to move mountains as I walk among them. I can write about how we have more in common with each other than we think and just like the mountains, we can be just as amazing.

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