First Mother's Day without Her
I Am The Ordinary, Medium Woman She Was Looking For

Beauty in Utah

Usually I go hiking because I love being in the mountains, out on the trail with the vistas and the trees and the wind and the cliffs. That it is exercise is the secondary bonus.

Sometimes, though, I hike just for the exercise. I am grateful I live fairly close to a steep trail so I can do this, because I love the sustained effort of hiking uphill as fast as I can, without the distraction of beauty to slow my efforts.

Because, yeah: the trail to the Y is not a truly beautiful trail. The trail itself is wide, with dry, grey dirt and gravel. It works its way steeply up the west-facing side of the mountain, and in Utah the west side of any mountain is the dry side. So there’s some grass, and some scrub oak, and 13 sharp switchbacks to get to the Y painted on the mountain. It’s also a very popular trail; many people hike it for the same reason I do—sheer uphill stamina—but there are also young couples making their way up the hill, and moms with young kids (who are either crying or running effortlessly), and groups of BYU students (especially in August and September, as hiking the Y must be some sort of requirement for them).

It’s not really an encounter with nature.

Except, I’ve lived in Utah all my life. I’ve heard every variation of “Utah is so ugly” that you can imagine. It’s dry, it’s brown, there’s a severe lack of towering pine trees and shaded meadows. Yes, yes, I know.

But if you look, there is beauty to be found. Even on the Y trail.

This will grow less true as summer continues, and all the greenery that’s just burgeoning right now—fed by all the snow we had this winter—dries and browns. But even on the hottest day in the middle of July, beauty is there if you watch for it.

It’s in the shape of the cliffs—look up, look up!—and the inviting shadows of the canyon to the south. It’s in tiny wildflowers crowding the edges of the trails. It’s also in the spaces defined by the switchbacks, little triangular patches of meadow where, if you stop and wait quietly when no one else is around to huff and groan, you’ll see squirrels, quail, a rabbit if you’re lucky.

And, here’s a secret: keep going.

Actually, don’t. Just stop at the Y, enjoy the touted view (I love the view up there, but I also don’t, because I know I’m supposed to stand in awe of all the beautiful big houses crowded the hillside but instead I just feel annoyed—and sure, probably jealous—that I don’t have a big beautiful house on a hill), turn around. Whatever you do, don’t keep going.

Leave the lesser-known remainder of the trail to me, OK?

Because if you keep going, you find a narrow trail that swishes through the trees and right along the cliffs. Keep going and you’ll find yourself in that inviting canyon. Yourself, and not many others, or at least not the hordes that hike the Y and then turn around. You’ll find wildflowers and cliffs and a trail that will challenge your lungs while it leads you along soil padded with last year’s leaves. If you’re lucky you might see an elk, or long-horn sheep or, like I did only once, a moose making its way down the canyon wall on the other side. You’ll wonder if a mountain lion or two is hiding somewhere in the brush.

And you’ll remember that beauty in Utah is the kind you have to search for. It’s not showy and it’s hard to access. Huffing lungs and a pounding heart, strong quads and flexible calves are required. But it is always worth the climb.



I love the Y trail for the symbolic journey it is for me: the physical evidence that I can do hard things, emotionally, spiritually, etc. I need to get back up there!

I have taken that upper side trail once, but we were unprepared for snow, so we never made it all the way around. We were starting to fall through up to our knees when we decided to turn around. I'd love to do that hike with you this summer!

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