The call of the canyon

By Randal B. Thatcher


The call of the canyon

Heading for the Hills Whenever They Bekon




I have hardy neighbors who avail themselves of our surrounding mountains and canyons with reliable regularity, whether going up to cut firewood, or to fish, or to hunt, or to just get away from the heat and the hubbub of the lowlands for a few hours.

Recently, two of these neighbors—a competent outdoorsman and his energetic grandson—invited me to join them on one of their four-wheeler excursions.

“We’ll set off tomorrow at 8 a.m.”

“But, I don’t own a four-wheeler.”

“We have one you can ride.”

“But, I’ve never actually driven one of those things.”

“My 12-year-old grandson will help you.”

“But, I’ve got so much weeding to do.”

“Those weeds will still be there when you get back.”

“But, I need to fix a sprinkler-head, and spread some gravel, and sand down a screen-door.”

“And every one of those things can wait.”


“We’ll see you tomorrow at 8 o’clock… Sharp!”

What else could I do? I reported dutifully to their house at eight the next morning, receiving a crash-course in the fundamentals of four-wheeler operation, before we were off in a cloud of dust… a convoy of three, cruising along the gravel road that would usher up and up and away from all the cares and to-do lists of that all-too-predictable life below… up into the green canopy of forest, and into the verdant peace and cool of our local mountains.

I soon forgot all about troublesome sprinkler-heads and peeling screen-doors, feeling literally transported, by those four churning wheels beneath me, into another world, where a doe and her fawn would cross the road directly in front of us, before darting into a thicket; where we would coax our machines across a rushing mountain stream and up a rocky incline into a sprawling alpine meadow of wildflowers; and where we’d eventually ride high enough to reach a clearing that offered a vista of the valley below that made me gasp out loud.

The whole experience proved so completely transcendental that I couldn’t help musing to my companions: “What if I hadn’t come? What if I was still stuck way down below, pulling weeds in the 90-degree heat?”

“Well,” remarked the grandson with a knowing shake of his head, “that would’ve been a shame.”

As we rode back down that scenic canyon road, I heard the admonishing words of a favorite poem in my head: “Listen to the wild; it’s calling you.”

So glad was I to have answered that call of the canyon, having accepted my neighbor’s kind offer, that I said yes again, the following week, when they invited me to tag along on yet another four-wheel expedition up a different canyon, which featured a marvelous midday saunter through a neighborhood of beaver ponds, and a welcome respite along the banks of a babbling brook, where our young companion gathered treasures, including a pretty rock, a curious chunk of bark, and a stick that’d been gnawed on by a beaver.

Strolling through aspen groves, we perused the woodland archival of the myriad names and dates carved into the trunks. (One of us thought he’d found a carving from 1773; but upon closer inspection, turned out to be 1973.)

We spent hours together in this idyllic setting, reluctant to return to the heat and mundane realities of life down below. (It was only the lure of a tasty meal in the local cafe that finally coaxed us back down to the town.)

Upon returning, I discovered, as my neighbor had predicted, that the weeds were still there, along with all those other miscellaneous chores I’d put off to escape into the hills for a few choice hours of wandering blissfully in the wilderness.

And it’s always up there—that bliss of the high country. Every single day! The only question is whether I’ll heed the call, whenever our surrounding mountains—or my neighbors—beckon.

The next day, as I went methodically about fixing that sprinkler-head, it seemed my gaze kept wandering wistfully back up toward those green hills to the east, where I had been just 24 hours earlier, roaming happily through those high, bewitching woodlands.

There is so much more to discover. This same neighbor tells me he’s been scouting around these mountains and canyons of our Sanpete Valley for many years, and still has more intriguing trails and pathways to explore.

And so, to this congenial neighbor with the four-wheelers, or to anyone else who might hear that beguiling call of the canyons, I say simply this, “Let us go!”

And don’t worry… The weeds will wait.


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