Ironically enough, I am writing this entry from the high Alps of central Switzerland. Especially here, where you ascend above the clouds to overlook aqua lakes and wooded slopes, you feel the necessity of retreating to high places. I go to the hills when my heart is lonely, Maria von Trapp sings. Holy texts are filled with accounts of people finding solace and vision at the tops of mountains. And John Muir, with all his lush love of our nation's parks and peaks, says:

People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, 'A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently.

With reverence, awe, and wonder, we are so happy to be hosting a special event this month with plein air artist Ellie Wilson, celebrating our peaks of Utah. In anticipation, we've collected some of the stories of our state's most familiar mountaintops.

11,750 ft

This is a mountain cloaked in legend. More than 12 versions of the tale exist, but my favorite begins when two lovers, Red Eagle and Utahna, are forced from their tribe. Red Eagle, a young warrior, has anxiously pursued Utahna, and finally won her love, much to the chagrin of her other suitors. As she is an Indian princess, this loss is more than the tribe's young men can stand. One evening, after the two have parted ways, a group of angry warriors chase Red Eagle up Mount Timpanogos where he falls to his death, and is forever immortalized as Emerald Lake.

When Utahna wakes the next morning and hears of Red Eagle's death, she is beside herself with grief. She runs to the peak of Timpanogos as the first beams of light hit its slopes, lays down on the mountaintop and dies of a broken heart. 

It is said that you can still see the outline of a woman in the ridgeline of the mountain, and should you venture into the Timpanogos Caves, you'll find there the Great Heart stalactite, put there by the god Timpanogos to forever join the young lovers' hearts.

11,253 ft

Lone Peak gets its name because it is the last peak along the ridge separating the Salt Lake and Utah counties. The peak's sheer cliffs and solitary summit make it stand out in our Utah mountains.

The hike up begins with a trail called Jacob's Ladder, after the story of Jacob in the Bible. The story begins with Jacob traveling to Haran to find a wife. Night catches him in the wilderness, and weary from his journeyings, he lays down to sleep, with only a stone for a pillow. That night, he dreams of a ladder, connecting the earth to heaven, and of God blessing him with rich earth and much posterity. When Jacob awakes, he declares that surely God was in this place, and it becomes sacred to Jacob as a place where earth touches heaven.

Though that Jacob's Ladder is on the other side of the earth from Lone Peak's version, the elevation of this landmark peak and the solitary wilderness that surrounds it makes the peak an easy place to lift thoughts heavenwards.

8,560 ft

Alta's story comes less from lore and ancient stories and more from historical roots of Utah's development. In the mid 1800s, silver was discovered in several places in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Mines were opened, and to house the miners, Alta was founded. Not many years after, the mines were exhausted of ore, then ravaged first by a forest fire and then by an avalanche. By 1930, only one man remained in the once bustling town of Alta--an owner, George Watson. Rather than pay back taxes on the land he owned, Watson donated what is now Alta to the National Forest Service. Eight years later, Alta opened its first ski lift, and it's been a favorite among Utah mountain resorts ever since.


For years, Ellie Wilson has been painting our local scenery: the fields by Utah Lake, the creeks of the Wasatch Front, the majesty of Bridal Veil Falls, and our beloved Mount Timpanogos. Ellie's depictions of Mount Timpanogos have become somewhat of a constant in our gallery: we try to always have at least one on our walls, though they sell nearly as quickly as she can paint them.

Over the last several months, Ellie Wilson has been putting together a one-of-a-kind show celebrating the Utah peaks we call home. As a send-off to the summer days we love spending in our Utah mountains, we are happy to host Ellie Wilson's Peaks of Utah show. Whatever the peaks that mean the most to you, we hope you'll find a moment of rest and rejuvenation as you admire our local scenery through the brushstrokes of Ellie Wilson.

Ellie Wilson's Peaks of Utah Mountains show will run from August 10 - 25th at Heirloom Art & Co. Please join us in the gallery or purchase paintings online by clicking here.

August 13, 2018 — Carolyn Carter

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