I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and thus am undeniably what people call a city boy. Though in my youth my family spent summers in the country near Monticello in upstate New York, I never saw a real mountain. To me, a mountain was the typical rounded wooded hills of the Catskills and Adirondack Mountains.
The first time I traveled west of the Mississippi was when I was 33 years old, in 1986. I and five other caving friends went to New Mexico to attend that year’s annual caving convention. (We spent all of three hours at this week long convention. Instead of sitting in a college classroom listening to cavers talk about caving, we went caving in the Guadalupe Mountains, which to my mind was far more fun.)
When we first arrived in El Paso, we rented a car and started the three hour drive east towards Carlsbad Caverns where we planned to camp and cave for the first few days. At one point during the drive we stopped, just to look at the view. For a born Easterner who was used to hiking in forests where it might take you hours to reach a point where the trees thinned out enough to give you a lookout or vista, the west’s openness was breathtaking. Wherever you looked you could see for fifty to a hundred miles.
As I stood by the side of the road, I noticed something else, but could not put my finger on it at first. Something that was not obvious was different.
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