I’m really a water person. I’m drawn to lakes, rivers, oceans, and even the little stream in my back yard. But there’s something majestic and awe-inspiring in the mountains as well. I grew up in Pennsylvania, where the rolling Appalachians and Poconos offered the nearest mountain views. I remember driving down the highways looking at the blasting tracks in the rocks, and driving through tunnels in the mountains. The valleys always contained little villages or farms.
Great Wall of China at Badaling outside Beijing
As I traveled, I realized that, although the mountains of home seemed impressive, they were certainly not the grandest in the world. Now I’ve seen the Rockies, the Cascades, the Alps (we walked the glacier at Mont Blanc), Fujiyama, the Chinese mountains, and the volcanic peaks of Hawai’i.
The big island of Hawai’i passes over a magma vent as the tectonic plates move, creating massive peaks.
The entire island chain was created by volcanoes. The largest are Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two enormous “shield volcanoes.”
Mauna Loa (“long mountain”) is the world’s largest mountain in area, and although its base is deep in the ocean, its height above sea level is a respectable 13,679 feet.
Mauna Loa is actually still an active volcano, and to its west, Kilauea and other vents are still building the island with periodic lava flows. To its south, a vent underwater has begun building yet another peak, which won’t break the surface of the Pacific for many, many years.
Mauna Kea is actually the highest mountain in the world – about 33,000 feet from its sea floor base to its top. The height above sea level is a mere 13,803 feet.
On the other hand, big isn’t the only measure of a mountain. There is great romance in the mountains of the Scottish highlands, even though the tallest mountain in the British Isles (Ben Nevis in Scotland’s “Great Glen”) is only about 4,400 feet high.
These mountains are host to the stories my grandparents told me in my childhood – of Rob Roy MacGregor, of the Campbells and MacDonalds, and of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s failed attempt to reclaim the Scottish crown.
To me, these mountains will always be larger than life.
This post is in response to a weekly travel theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack, on the subject of Mountains. To see other bloggers’ responses and get more info on her challenge, click here.