By Stephanie Malin
Taking up where I left off with Installment #1 of this two-part series (so official sounding!), I’m going to dedicate this blog – one of my last with the WRDC, for now at least – to sharing what I will most miss about the West as I venture to the East Coast for the next two years. Having adopted the West as my “home region” years ago, I now feel a deep ambivalence about leaving. I know the move to Brown is an amazing opportunity, a wonderful chance to collect new experiences, and an adventure that must be embraced quickly given its temporary nature. On the other hand, I’m saying goodbye to a landscape that fills me up, a community I’ve come to think of as home, and a group of people I love. I tell myself all new opportunities happen when they do for a reason, and I know my husband and I will love our northeast adventure and then find our way back to our “home region” sooner than later.
Without any further (sappy – sorry!) delay, I share below the top five things I will miss about my corner of the West.
5) The Unique Aroma of Logan Canyon:
An odd thing to miss, perhaps. But I will miss in nonetheless. This has hit me several times in the last few months, since this decision was made, usually as I would exit Old Main in the evenings and take a deep breath of fresh canyon air. Utah State University sits in the foothills of the Bear River Mountains, nestled in among the green-to-brown, sometimes blue landscape. The winds from the canyon occasionally whip onto campus – especially during Logan’s notoriously snowy winters – but most of the time, there is a pleasant, light breeze that wafts into the valley, passing campus on its way. It’s made its way through Logan Canyon from Bear Lake, brushing over the sage brush, off of glistening Logan River, and through the aspen trees. The canyon smells like a deep, comforting cinnamon to me, a smell that brings instant comfort because deep breaths of it have gotten me through tough courses, comps, and some serious bike rides and hikes. It is a lovely combination of juniper, sage, river, and wilderness that I will always love…and wish I could bottle.
4) Wildlife in Abundance:
Grand birds of prey can be seen during a daily bike ride. Moose often amble down the mountainside from Tony Grove. Majestic elk descend from the tallest heights during winter and feed in the valleys. Bighorn sheep create surreal silhouettes along the ridgeline. The Tetons, only a few hours away, boast wolves, grizzlies, wildlife galore. I will miss driving thirty minutes from home and seeing antelopes in the distance and eagles high up above. The West has treated my husband and I to a wonderful wildlife show while we have been here, made even more varied by Utah’s unusual and multi-faceted terrain. In ten hours, we could go from seeing lizards to bears….Amazing!
3) The people, both serene and rugged:
The people we have met here have made the West feel like home. We were fortunate to encounter people from around the world who called Logan their home temporarily, and living here brought us together. The camping, hiking, biking, and other recreational opportunities created an atmosphere in which we all bonded around our love of those past times. Outside our immediate circle of friends from USU, my husband and I met several families native to Utah or the West, families that opened their homes to us. Through them, and in visiting rural communities for my research, I’ve learned that Western folks are largely an interesting combination of serenity and ruggedness. The remote landscapes of rural Western communities lend people relaxed and contemplative demeanors, even as they make a living in extractive industries, ranching, or entrepreneurial endeavors.
2) Being in the thick of energy issues:
I love studying impacts of energy extraction and development, from individual-level experiences to community-level social movements. For the next two years, I will continue to study these issues, of course, but I will feel further away from the “hotbed” of many of these controversies. I have met memorable characters in uranium towns, have been fascinated by fracking’s outcomes, and lament the oil spills that currently plague our rural communities. The West is the stage upon which our energy future will play out, and I plan to be back to observe it firsthand!
I grew up outside of Chicago. While the city is gorgeous and its outskirts are pretty, green, and full of beauty, the terrain is flat as a pancake. Our middle school clubs used to take “skiing” trips to large hills, and our young minds were blown. I longed for mountains even as a young girl and living at 4,500 feet for six years has been a dream come true for me. For me, the mountains exude an energy that is unparalleled…except for the surge of it I feel at the ocean. Perhaps the coast won’t be that bad, then….
Thank you, WRDC and all of our stakeholders for letting me share the West with you for the past several years….I look forward to sharing it with you again in the future.