I love the West … the big, open, wonderful, wild West. There’s nothing quite like it. Sure, I’ve lived here most of my life, but still, the West has some definite advantages.
We spent the past two weekends traveling in western states, first to Wyoming. “Hooray!” shouted the children as we crossed the state border line into our old hometown state. As if by magic, everything felt open and free and welcoming. We drove through the farm country and fields, and over the plains. We looked out to the horizon, so far away and so extensive.

“I can see forever!” commented my son.

“These towns are tiny!” laughed my daughter.

Our year of living in a more crowded area had already made us forget what space and wilderness look and feel like. There weren’t a lot of green trees, foliage or underbrush, but Wyoming was beautiful to us.

“Remember when the sun came up so early, and set so late?” said my little son dreamily. Yes, we remembered. Wyoming is spectacular.

We spent the following weekend in southern Idaho, in the hills where I first camped as a girl.

“There’s the same old knobby tree!” I couldn’t help but shout as we pulled into my favorite camp. “Look! There’s Sherman Peak!” I pointed out. “I’ve hiked that hill!” I said, enthusiastically turning in a different direction.

We stayed for two days. I had brought some board games, in case the children became bored. But they didn’t. They woke up early to the mountain sunlight, and immediately found things to occupy their time: trees, logs, rocks, bugs, flowers, plants, trails. I had to call them back for breakfast.

After enjoying our food in the open air, we gathered our water bottles, put the baby in her hiking pack and set out up a nearby mountain.

“Watch out for the cow dung,” I cautioned.

“Don’t step on the cow plum!” echoed my toddler twin. We all laughed.

“We can just call it a cow pie,” I corrected her. My daughter’s little nose wrinkled in confusion.

“A pie?” We could see the wheels turning in her head, and quickly steered her to the other side of the trail.

Further along the hike we stopped to look out over a meadow.

“Did Indians live here?” asked my inquisitive son.

“Once,” we concluded, looking at strangely shaped rocks and sticks.

After an hour of wandering, we came out onto an open hillside. The effect on my children was unforgettable. “Ohhhhh!” they spontaneously said.

From where we stood we could see far over hills to further mountains. A few brown roads and quaint houses were tucked away in the valley below.

“I want to live there,” said my daughter, pointing to a cute house on a curvy hillside. Everything was still, including the children. Some large boulders made for good seats, and we spent the next hour just sitting and looking, looking and looking. The view was better than television, Nintendo or any man-made entertainment.
After a few nuts and dried fruit and some camp songs for good measure, we were off back down the trail.

We stopped at a lake, the one where I had gone swimming as a girl.

“What are those bugs?” asked my little son. “They walk on the water!”

Sticks and rocks and twigs soon became toys, and the children were all digging in the water and the wet sand. I finally pulled them away to finish our walk around the lake and back to our campsite.

“Can we hike again after lunch?” asked one child.

As soon as our sandwiches were eaten, we set out again, walking along trails, finding fall leaves and smelling the rain which had just started. We laughed and talked and listened. By the time evening had arrived, we were settled into the car for our drive back home, exhausted and dirty, but filled.

“There were so many people in the East,” commented my teenage son, who had traveled through several eastern states earlier in the summer. “Don’t those people know about all of this space out West? Why live where everything is so crowded?”

I had to smile. I was born in the West — with the openness, the mountains, the prairie and the beauty. My son had obviously inherited the same western gene — for lots of beauty and wilderness, all indescribable and even addicting. Thank goodness we live here. Forever West.

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