Saturday, October 20, 2012

Does size matter?

Nothin’ but a rant today—several decades worth of bitterness, coming to the surface.

Also, this doesn’t have anything to do with Mormonism as such, but it would never have been an issue if i hadn’t grown up Mormon and thus been in contact with a lot of Utah Mormons during my growing up, so i’m putting it here anyway.

See, i grew up on the United States east coast—small rolling hills, with the Appalachian Mountains a quick drive to the west, and we went out that direction fairly frequently to spend time in the mountains. All was good.

But like i said above, i grew up Mormon, and at the time there were a lot of transplants from Utah who’d come to the area for work.* This wouldn’t have been a problem—and i’m all for cultural exchange—except that many of these Utahn transplants were so intensely dismissive of our moutains back east.

“Hah!” they’d scoff. “The Appalachians aren’t real mountains like we have back in Utah!” And this wasn’t an occasional thing—i got to hear this over and over and over.

Now, i’d never been to Utah,** but i’d seen pictures of the Rocky Mountains in Utah, and i knew that they were, well, rocky. So after a while i got tired enough of the mountain smugness from the Utahns around me that i started pointing out that their mountains were bigger, but at least mine had trees. The Utahns would consistently completely miss the point, generally answering that the Rockies have trees, too.***

Basically, there was no way to avoid being faced with expressions of superiority about how the mountains in Utah were better than the mountains in the east. (I have to say, i don’t actually know why those Utahns expressed such smugness about their hometown mountains, and my continued inability to figure out the answer to that question, even after living for a few years in Utah—where, by the way, i’d get smugness about how the Appalachians are so terribly tiny, as well, so it’s not something that came from people feeling the stress of living away from their hometowns—kind of bothers me.)


I've lived a few places now in my life, both mountainous and flat. My adopted hometown, though, is in Alaska, where we have mountains.

The nearest mountains are the Chugach Range, which don’t go up to as high an elevation as Utah’s Wasatch Front, but they’re nearly exactly the same size—it’s just that the base of the Chugach is at sea level, while the Wasatch cheats by having its base start higher.

No problem, though. What i’d really like to draw attention to is the following picture, taken from my adopted hometown. It’s not the greatest picture ’cause there was a bit of haze the day i took it, but you can still make out…

Left to right: Foraker, Hunter, Denali

…that it’s Denali, the highest peak in North America, which stands more than a mile taller than King’s Peak, the highest point in Utah. And Denali doesn’t cheat, either—its base is low enough that it’s actually the largest base-to-peak mountain on land anywhere in the entire world.

Or, in other words, and i mean this most sincerely and in as much politeness as i can muster:

     ☞ Suck it, Utah.

That is all.

* The church where i grew up produces its own Mormons much more than was the case back then. Careful, Utahns—eventually the rest of us are going to take over!

** First time in Utah: the Missionary Training Center (which i’m not sure counts anyway).

*** Um, have any of you actually seen Utah’s Rocky Mountains? No. Yes, there are trees, but compare it to the Appalachians. The Utah Rockies have trees at the level of a technicality. Sorry, but thanks for playing.


Michelle said...


Nicely said. I concur.

William Reger said...

Hah! You should have heard the Utards (my daughter's term) who came to Illinois and complained about there being NO mountains. A few of them actually began crying with relief during their exit testimonies when hubby finished school and they got to scurry back to their precious mountain refuge. It still makes me angry.

Mallory Nuzman said...

This makes me laugh! Growing up in Washington state made me very smug about the Cascade range. I grew up in the shadows of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, among all the others. In my brief stay on the East Coast during middle school (NC state) I had that same smugness! Mountains! Ha. The Appalachians are beautiful...but c'mon...mountains? Yeah I felt the same way. Sorry, it's not just a Utah thing.

David B said...

@Mallory Nuzman: I’ll happily give you the beauty of the Cascades—but the Wasatch Front? I mean, claiming those are pretty? Srsly?

Heather the Mama Duk said...

It is seriously weird that people have smugness over mountains. It's not like they had anything to do with them.

However, I like to reply that theirs maybe taller, but ours are older. The funny thing is everyone would rather strongly in no uncertain terms tell me I was seriously wrong. And then we had the earthquake and guess what the USGS people said? Yup, it is partly because our mountains are *older* than mountains out west that an earthquake that would do nothing in the west is felt for long distances in the east. So hah. I was right (and apparently size does not matter, but age does lol).

David B said...

@Heather: I’ll readily accept that judgments of beauty are subjective (with the proviso that people who think that the Wasatch Front is prettier than any part of the Appalachians are, put simply, wrong). But an unwillingness to accept simple geological fact? Can’t make an excuse for that.

Heather the Mama Duk said...

Mommie and Daddy just actually applauded when I read them this post. Mommie give you a gold star. She said this is also her pet peeve. Daddy said our mountains are so old and so tall that they had to lay down on their sides and rest for a while. Many of our veins and strata are vertical instead of horizontal because they have literally fallen over. And they are still mountains, not hills like many Utahns claim.

Mumbles said...

I was born in the east--Virginia. Spent much of my early childhood in Pennsylvania and New York. When I moved to Utah, I was terrified of those craggy disasters towering right behind my house. My dad, being a geologist, just had to tell me all about the seismic fault we were living atop (literally ON TOP). I lived in fear for years that the mountains were going to crumble and crush us in an earthquake. I admit, I've been one of the "Blue Ridge Foothills" smart alecs, but I felt entitled, since I was born in the east and have always considered it my home. Now that I'm back in the east, I still joke about it, but I wouldn't trade the beautiful hills of the east for anything. The green, the fall colors, the LIFE of it.

I am super-enjoying your blog! I'll try not to hog up all your comments sections!


Lazenby Family News said...

Love this post and happened on your blog by accident. My kids were raised in a canyon with the tall Pacific Range all around our ranch. We live between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and love it... But the transplanted Utah people cannot quit harping about no pine trees! They say the mountains are bare but don't realize those trees are huge Oak Trees and the Pines are on the North facing side. Too much to try and tell them! I usually just say, "Got beach?" My chilren are spread-out and some are flat-landers--they love the wonderful big sky. There is beauty all around...except the road from California to the Arizona border. I think an atomic bomb went off in Desert Center and Quartsite. lol I guess I'm one complainer, too This is a great post and I can really relate to it.