The Mountain

Today, September 25, is my birthday.  I’m older than dirt, but that’s not what this post is about.  It’s about celebration—and challenge.   Every year, on or around my birthday, I try to do something a little crazy.  Once I took a flying lesson.  Another time I rafted the Grand Canyon.  Last year I went to Peru.  Some years find me at home.  Even then I celebrate—I  climb the mountain. 

Mt. Timpanogos (from a Paiute word meaning rocky river) is 30 miles south of my home.  Its spectacular summit rises to 11,749 feet.  The climb isn’t a technical one.  But it’s long and exhausting, about six hours to the top and three or four hours down.  For me and my family it’s become a September ritual. 

The trailhead starts at about 7,000 feet .  To say that the scenery is breathtaking is an understatement.  The trail zigzags upward through a series of hanging valleys.  In the summer there are wildflowers, in the fall the blaze of turning aspen and maple.  We usually see deer and moose.  Higher up in the rockslides we can watch the hay-gathering antics of little picas. 

Below the crags that mark the top, the land spreads out into a wide Alpine basin.  In July and August, when it’s filled with flowers, it looks a lot like the cover of my November book, THE BORROWED BRIDE.  In September the flowers are gone, but the hills are cloaked in hues of bronze and gold. 

The climb from there to the top is short but grueling.  The first stop is the “saddle,” a spot about the size of a bus (far right in photo), where you’re on the skyline but not the highest peak.  From there the trail zigzags across a sheer rock face to the summit.  It’s easy to get lightheaded at that altitude.  If you fall—and people have—they go looking for you with a body bag.  I did the full summit on my 50th birthday with my daughter and sister.  With my mild fear of heights, it scared the living daylights out of me.  At the top there’s this little metal hut.  I lay down on the floor and shook.  These days I just go to the saddle.  Once is enough. 

I was hoping to have done this year’s climb in time to write this blog.  But last weekend’s weather was iffy, and Timpanogos is no place to be caught in a storm.  The weather is looking better for Sunday, so I plan to go with my son’s family and maybe a friend or two.  I’ll let you know if we made it. 

How about you?  How do you feel about birthdays?  Do you have a special way of celebrating?

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

47 thoughts on “The Mountain”

  1. Elizabeth!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Mine is Monday–I had no idea our days were so close together!

    I wish I had as much of an adventurous spirit as you–this hike would be incredible! Your descriptions bring me right there, and the photos are breathtaking.

    Honestly, I detest growing older, and so I dread when September 29th rolls around. And yet, there’s still that little kid in me that appreciates being remembered on that day. It’s the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, and he’s one of my favorite saints.

    We’ll celebrate Sunday when the girls come over. Steak and grilled shrimp are on the menu, and birthday cake, of course. Monday, Doug and I will probably go out to dinner, and maybe a movie, which we rarely do (the movie, I mean.)

    Your blog doesn’t mention it, but I hope your family gathers around you today and make you feel loved and special.

    Hugs!

  2. Elizabeth I hope you have a great birthday and do only the things you want to do. I like to spend time with my family and just lay low on my big day. We have had to many birthday’s this month so I will be glad when this month is done I am very broke. My birthday is next month and I will have a grandma baby yeah.
    It looks like the moutains you go up are very beautiful.

  3. Wow, you ladies are up early! Thanks for the birthday wishes, Pam T, Melissa and Crystal.

    And I hope your Monday birthday is wonderful, Pam C. It sounds lovely. Just enjoy and celebrate. You’ve accomplished another year. A while back some of the authors who write Harlequin Historicals did an informal survey of our birthday times. It was amazing how many of us had late September birthdays. There must be something about Libras…
    Have a great day everyone!
    🙂

  4. Dear Elizabeth~~ Happy Birthday! I enjoyed your post very much. The whole hike sounds breathtaking. Being that Mount Timpanogos is in Utah does that mean you will be at the Heart of the West conference at Park City? If yes, I’d love to meet you in person.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    ~Caroline Fyffe
    Your book cover is BEAUTIFUL!!!

  5. Thanks, Brenda. Like you, I like to lay low on the big day and prefer not to have a big fuss made. The mountain is enough.
    Congratulations on the coming grandbaby! That will be the best present of all!

  6. Darn, Caroline, I have conflicts and won’t be at the conference. I would love to meet you, too. Enjoy Park City. It’s amazing. And try to see more of the surrounding country if you can. UTah is a beautiful place.

  7. Elizabeth, I think you’re BRILLIANT to do something special every year on your birthday.
    Despite my ability to write 90,000 word books, I don’t have a very good imagination in things like this.

    I’m doing it.
    No wait, I’m too old to jump out of a plane.
    No I’m not.
    Yes, you are.
    Am not.
    Are too.

    Okay, one of my personalities is for it, one’s against.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    I do know I’m going to be in Dallas for my birthday this year.
    Maybe that’s enough.
    Or maybe I can think of something cool. I’m going to try.

    no you’re not

    am too!

  8. Morning Elizabeth -with the adventurous soul!! Happy Birthday! What a great way to celebrate! I really do admire all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished in your life. The Mountain looks glorious … really breathtaking. And I give you credit for climbing the sucker … oh boy, I’d have shaken for days.

    We are big on traditions at our house. For my birthday, the family comes over and we play outdoor games, or indoor games. We usually BBQ or cater in. I don’t cook that day! I also go to lunch with friends and my celebration ends up being a week or two long … hardly an adventure like yours, but cherished all the same!

    Love your new cover, btw. The background sort of looks like your mountain.

  9. LOL Mary. Reading you is a celebration in itself!
    FWIW, I’m saving the plane jump for my 70th (which isn’t that far off). I plan to do it with an instructor. Wanna come along?
    🙂

  10. Happy Happy B-day Elizabeth!!! 😀 Enjoy your day!!!
    For my B-day, it usually is a family dinner out to my fav restaurant!

  11. What a great way to celebrate a birthday. And happy birthday to you. My birthday is January 1, and so I double celebrate. My best birthday present to myself was last year when I went to the Rose Parade. It was on my List of Things To Do. I would love to go to Williamsburg this coming birthday.

  12. Oh, what gorgeous pictures, Elizabeth, and happy birthday! I do not like heights so I admire you even more.

    I just had a birthday, too, and celebrated for three whole days. (Thanks, Charlene, for one of them!)…it was a pretty significant birthday. My husband’s closest childhood friend (best man at our wedding, son’s godfather etc) passed away last Christmas. He was my “twin brother.” We had the exact same birthday and celebrated every birthday together since high school. Also, my husband survived a serious health challenge earlier this year…so we figure any day we wake up this side of dirt is a good one!

    My birthday goal this year is to FINALLY learn how to ride a horse.

    Oh, it is another beautiful day. Thanks, Elizabeth and everybody, for making it so. 🙂

  13. Thanks for the birthday wish, Colleen. And a good restaurant dinner is a nice way to celebrate. I do the restaurant thing with my grandson whose birthday is Sept. 23. But we go to HIS favorite restaurant and I pay.
    🙂

  14. What a great post, Tanya. And it sounds like you have a lot to celebrate. You do get to a point in life where just being alive is reason enough to celebrate. Think I’m about there.
    Glad you had such a great birthday!

    Now I’m going to go wash the coloring goop off my naturally streaky gray hair!
    🙂

  15. Well, thank you Elizabeth, a firm offer to let me jump out of a plane with you has clarified things nicely.

    NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And I know I’m not older than dirt, because I fully remember Dirt’s mother leaving the hospital with him the day my mom came in to have me.

  16. HI Elizabeth!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!! I dread birthdays — usually I try to forget them — but feel terrible is someone else close to me forgets it. Go figure.

    I love climbing mountains, although the ones that I climb were in Vermont and they were not the highest. There’s a spot when climbing Camel’s Hump, there in Vermont, where it’s a steep drop. My ex and I am my kids climbed to there and couldn’t go on cause we were all a little frightened to make that climb — that is until some 5-8 year old kids came by and scooted up it in minutes flat. I still remember my ex and I looking at each other in alarm, getting up off our butts and making the climb the rest of the way.

    It is a beautiful climb. Personally I love the mountains and though I didn’t grow up in the mountains, much of my adult life has been spent very close to them.

    Delightful post — wonderful pictures.

  17. A BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU ELIZABETH!!! I don’t do much on my birthday because I am older then dirt too. We go out to eat or somethink like that. Also my sister has a dinner for me and thats about it.

  18. LOL, Mary!!! You’ve made my day!

    And I loved the story about the kids and the Vermont climb, Karen. I’ve seen teenagers RUNNING up the summit trail I described, six inches from screaming death. Kids are amazing.
    Hope you don’t dread your birthday too much. We all have ’em.
    🙂

  19. Happy Birthday Elizabeth!!! Your trip up the mountain sounds incredible. I hope you have an amazing day.

    You’re right about your cover for The Borrowed Bride. The setting looks very similar to the photo above it! Did you submit it as inspiration to the art department? I’ll often do that with mine. They do an amazing job on covers.

  20. Happy Birthday, Elizabeth! It’s always great to make it another year.

    I never do anything special for my birthday. I try to forget it if at all possible. lol Most of my family won’t let me though. But I do admire your gumption for doing those wild and crazy things. It’s probably what keeps you so young looking! With me, it’d probably just give me more gray hair.

    Enjoy and celebrate. 🙂

  21. How wonderful that you do such exciting things on your birthday!!! Mine is at the end of November and since I’m not into snow, I don’t do much lol.

  22. Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!
    I would ignore my birthday if I could. Some years it falls on Thanksgiving and my kids always make a fuss about it.

  23. Elizabeth (and Pam!), happy, HAPPY birthday! What a terrific way you have of celebrating! It’s good to keep attacking new challenges–what a way of living life to the fullest! Hope you’re enjoying a fabulous day–may this and the coming year be full of joy and fulfilled dreams!

  24. Thanks, Kate. And no, I didn’t send the photo to the art department. But they must’ve had a similar one. I was amazed at how much the cover looked like “my” mountain. Except that the heroine wouldn’t look like that if she’d just made the hike.
    🙂

  25. Hooray for your family, Linda. Glad they don’t let you forget your birthday. You deserve to be fussed over.
    As for the gray hair, believe me I’ve got some. I just color it (see earlier comment). I know women with beautiful gray hair. Mine looks awful.
    Hugs.

  26. An early birthday wish to Jeanne and Estella. My grandson has a late November birthday, too. This year it’s on Thanksgiving. Kinda sad because then he doesn’t get his own day. But celebrate anyway.

  27. No, I don’t live here. Your first instincts were right!! What does that say about us writers?!?

    I’m from California. I finaled in the contest and Stephie Smith did also—in the same category. I wrote to her and said, ”Let’s go.” She’s actually from Florida. LOL!! I’m excited because I’ve never been to Utah. We want to go walking the day before the conference gets going to get some nice pictures and get a feel for it.

    Maybe next time….

    Hugs,
    Caroline

  28. Happy Birthday! You certainly know how to celebrate a birthday in a big way. The mountain is beautiful, no wonder you visit each year.

    Your cover is absolutely stunning. I would buy that book just to look at it, but I will of course buy it because you wrote it, and I know I’ll love the story.

  29. A winterized Ayrs Rock…hmmm you know it does sort of look like that, Kathy. That’s a winter photo. Only a fool would climb it in snow.

    And thanks for the birthday wish, Penney. Great to have you drop in.

    Glad you like the cover, Cheryl. I love it. HH really does a good job.
    Hugs to all of you.
    Elizabeth

  30. Happy Birthday! I am a little late but you know it still is important to celebrate YOU! I love celebrating everyone’s birthday including my own. Why would I not want to celebrate God’s wonderous creation and there is oinly one of each of us.

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