An Illinoian’s Perspective of Utah


Photo credit: Nick Halberg

Why Utah? It’s a question so central to the beginning of a first year student’s experience it’s even on the application. Answers vary from person to person, but mine was adamant: the mountains. I came to the U in large part for the mountains.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed. It’s hard to look out a window here and not see something that makes you want to grab a backpack and head out. Utah seems to have it all: big mountains to climb, rivers to raft, natural arches unlike anything else in the world, and more national parks than any other state but Alaska and California. The hardest thing is picking the right adventure.

With my first free weekend looming, I decided on an overnight trip to Red Pine Lake, planning to climb the Pfeifferhorn and White Baldy the next day. My two roommates and I piled into an old Subaru and head up Little Cottonwood to the White Pine trailhead. A quick hike brought us to the lake, where we scoped out the best possible campsite, and fired up the stove for some well-deserved ramen.

As my two roommates were laying out their sleeping bags and pads in the tent, I was left sitting on a rock by the lake watching the clouds whip across the sky above an unreal mountain landscape. All I could think was, “This is home. You live here now.”

This was not a slightly larger hill that allowed for a slightly better view of the surrounding cornfields like I was accustomed to in Illinois. This was a real mountain, with real views. The fact that I only drove thirty minutes to get there and didn’t have to pay any fees or get permits only added to the experience. Sure, we weren’t completely alone, and sure, we were only about an hour hike back to the car, but for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t hear the road while camping.

I fell in love with Utah that night. Managing to summit both peaks the next day was more than just the cherry on top, it was a whole new cake. The last time I had experienced this kind of adventure was after months of research. Comparatively, this trip took just a few days to put together. The quality of the adventures compared to the amount of logistics they take is something unprecedented so far in my life. I did not know such a place existed where this ratio could be so low. I felt as if I had fallen into Shangri-La.

Maybe it was the slightly expired ramen making me feel this way, but during that trip a sense of amazement washed over me anew each time I moved my gaze from my shoe. As an outsider, this is all new to me so it naturally is more exciting, but that is the true appeal of the place where we live. There is so much to see, do, and explore that anyone, regardless of how long they’ve lived here, can feel like an outsider and take it all in again.