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The Scenery Didn’t Change, It Was How I Saw It

November 17, 2016

How can the scenery be so ugly between Pleasant Grove and here and yet be so beautiful at this spot?

I was standing on my brother-in-law’s porch in Blackfoot Idaho staring out at his fields of alfalfa and herds of dairy cows. Of course, it wasn’t the scenery. The sceneary in southern Idaho is what it has always been: plain, unadorned and with apologies to my friends and family in the potato state, it was ugly. The company was what made the view from his porch beautiful. 

I believed that for a very long time. In fact, I took it as a tenet of faith: southern Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington, parts of northern Utah. They were ugly. I should know. I’ve driven through them more times than I can count. 

That’s what made yesterday’s drive so remarkable. I missed that ugly section of the state. I drove right past it without noticing. I drove 800 miles from Pleasant Grove, Utah, north to the Idaho border, through southeastern Idaho up to Montana, and then Montana west to the Idaho panhandle to attend my uncles funeral tomorrow. It was a ten hour drive. Originally, I was going to carpool with my cousin. then, her son and a friend wanted to join. And then my daughter and her two kids were going to ride with me. 

The result? I drove alone. It gave me plenty of time to think about my uncle. He died on a motorcycle ride through western Montana last week. Not an accident. He had a heart attack on the side of the road. But, the last thing he’d done was to go riding many of the roads I was now driving. I also got to play my CD collection. Yeah, I’m that guy stuck in the 1990s who owns CDs. I have hundreds. I threw the two big binders full into the car and swapped out old Garth Brooks CDs while cruising along at 90 mph. 

But, I noticed something odd about the landscape. Some time when I wasn’t looking, someone replaced the ugly parts. I left at 10am and had beautful weather as I made my way north on interstate 15. And it was gorgeous. The Wasatch mountains of northern Utah have always been beautiful to me. As they transitioned to the rolling hills of souther Idaho, I started to notice the play of light and dark as clouds played hide and seek with the sun across the landscape. 

The thing about a desert, is that plants are very compact. In fact, when you are driving on the freeway, it’s difficult to tell if the wind is blowing. Of course, you are cruising along at 80-90 mph, so you are creating your own wind, but cross winds are difficult to detect unless yo pass something like a flag. If you look at the scenery, especially if you are passing a field of winter wheat, or grasses that have lost their green and are yellow and gold against the hillsides, it’s difficult, but possible to detect the bobing of their heads as the winds blow down from the canyons.

As the miles slipped by I discovered a whole section of the country that I thought I knew. I thought I knew it and had dismissed it as less beautiful than my native rainforests, growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Several years ago, I came to appreciate the beauty in Utah’s deserts. It took me a while. I had to look for it, but eventually I found it in the red rock canyons around Moab, in the slot canyons of Zions National Park. In the Alpine forests of the High Uintas. The desert is stark and often bare and has a raw beauty that is every bit the match for the lush greens of western Washington and Oregon. 

But, when I fell in love with Utah’s desert, I forgot. I forgot that the geography between my home in Utah county and the forested Benawah of northern Idaho, or the evergreens of the Cascade mountains, is desert. Much of the same type of desert that Utah enjoys. 

As I rolled across the countinental divide and the high plains of Montana and the sage brush covered hills of Utah and Idaho, I realized that this too was beautiful. The landscape hadn’t changed. I was the one that had changed. I looked through my car windshield with new eyes. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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  1. Eric Scott permalink

    Isn’t the Idaho Panhandle WEST of Montana? Or has your compass been reverse polarized?

    • Two little letters out of place EAst WEst, it’s not even two letters it’s one new one and another out of place! HaHa

      Thanks, fixed it.

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