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The Mountain is Out Today

For all their bulk and grandeur, mountains are as capricious as the weather. One day stark and majestic against a blue sky, the next dissolved into mist. In childhood I looked out on Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the Presidential Range. Some days it rose out of the valley, towering over its lesser brethren and their foothill offspring, fanned by the fiercest winds ever recorded by humans. Most days, it just wasn't there.

In the Green Mountains, the iconic Camel's Hump surmounts the river valley and adjacent Interstate. Dubbed the couching lion, it rests in the misty undergrowth, hidden but for its rounded back. On clear days, it rises, sphinx-like, its noble head held high, dressed in the mantle of the season. Winter white, spring green, summer's dusky hues. The opulent golds and reds of autumn.

I remember awaiting the arrival of Mount Rainier, searching the weepy Northwest sky for a glimpse of its fabled glacier, finding only the limitless deep green of Douglas fir fingering the heavens. One bright morning, a vast, shimmering opalescence appeared above the trees. Massive as a thunderhead, ethereal as a mirage, the great mountain looked no more substantial than the clouds upon which it rested.

Perhaps it is the mercurial nature of mountains, their curious combination of immensity and elusiveness, that drives humans to scale their heights, dig crampon and ax into their snow and ice, assail their summits to plant footprints and flags.

I prefer to accede to the magic of mountains, to their here-today-gone-tomorrow proclivities. I take pleasure in their presence, soaring above our workaday world, and am equally pleased when they cloak themselves in mystery and take off for parts unknown.

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