I stopped and looked back at the mountains. My group had forged ahead looking forward to finally making it back to the car after spending 5 days backpacking in the Flat Tops Wilderness. I hesitated because I didn’t want to leave this view behind. I stopped often to look back and tried to choke back my tears. This place had so much historical significance and personal significance for me. I was saying goodbye to this place as I headed into the next stage of my life. I knew the mountains wouldn’t move and they would still be there. But I worried that I won’t find mountains that made me feel at home.
The Flat Tops Mountains are so unique for their remoteness and plateau shape. But beyond their beauty, lies the cradle of the wilderness. In 1919, Arthur Carhart concluded that the area had too much scenic value to break it apart with roads and buildings. This ethic carried through and eventually turned into the Wilderness Act. I have traced his path up and over the Flat Tops. The mountains stamped my heart with lasting memories of coyotes yipping at night, mushrooms as big as your head, and endless lakes.
The Flat Tops have a history and sense of wonder that affects me to the core. Those mountains capture the true sense of wilderness. However, as I explore other places, I am discovering that all places have a unique history. That history helps place me in another time and gives greater meaning to experiences. The experiences can be shared with other people beyond myself. Someone else has been there too. For the significant places in my life, the history of the place was forged by someone else seeing the place’s value and beauty then setting it aside for all to enjoy. I’m humbled by the history of these places.
It may be impossible to find another place that affects me as profoundly as the Flat Tops Wilderness. However, the history of all places has a story to tell that helps me bond and connect with it.