If you didn’t know Dierks Bentley recently released one of the best albums country music has had in a very long time, you must be living under a rock.
I had already listened to the album several times over the past couple weeks, driving, working, or running, but still felt like there was a better way to experience it. I was pretty familiar with the songs and the themes, but something was drawing me to find a deeper understanding.
I had been scheduled to present at a research conference in Denver, Colorado, since January, around the same time the album was announced, but long before I knew any underlying messages it would hold. I always try to make the most out of research conference trips, typically I refer to them as “science vacations.” This trip was no different, but I knew I was adding something special to my agenda. As singles from the album started to be released and I started planning my trip, I wanted to do something more than just present my research and see the city. Learning about the way Dierks wrote and created this album, by getting away from the mainstream world and immersing himself into nature and remembering what life is about, I wanted to do that too.
So I did some research and found a mountain hike I wanted to do. I ended up at Lookout Mountain. My Uber driver dropped me off at the wrong trail and I didn’t have cell service to figure out where I actually wanted to go. So I asked some locals and decided to try Beaver Brook Trail. The trail I originally planned was 4.06 miles, but this trail was 10 miles. Being a person who can’t ever turn down a challenge, I went for it. My plan was to listen to the album and take a photo of what I was looking at right when each song started. I turn my phone on airplane mode, turned the album on, and started up the trail. This is my thought process that accompanied each song of The Mountain as I trudged up, down, and around a Colorado mountain.
This song is bound to get you pumped for whatever you are about to do, but this was a whole different feeling of adrenaline. I definitely didn’t know where I was, but I was so ready for this adventure. I was a little bit overwhelmed by excitement at this point in my journey, but still aware enough to think about the song. Thinking about how I’m at this weird place in my life where I have most things together, but there’s still so much I want to do and see. I’m way less afraid to make mistakes than I used to be and much more willing to let myself get lost in the moment just to find myself. This is the first song to an album providing new perspective, but a new moment in time to start life in a different direction.
This was already my favorite song on the album. I just felt like it’s such a great metaphor for life. You really can conquer any obstacle in your way if you think about it as just each small step. As the song starts, I come to a fork that points to a very short trail, or the Beaver Brook Trail the locals had recommended. It was kind of intimidating to read this sign talking about how dangerous it is and with no cell service. But the lyrics just played on and really motivated me. So I went.
It was only a mountain, nothing but a big ol’ rock. Only a mountain, it ain’t hard if you don’t stop. It just took a little step, a right, then a left, then a couple million more, who’s countin’? Yeah, that’s only a mountain.
At this point, I’ve realized that the danger signs were no joke. This hike was going to be intense. But after making it across the rock wall in the last picture, I was ready to take on whatever it had to give me. By all means, did I feel like this is exactly what “living” is. Getting lost and exploring, just taking in everything. I definitely felt more alive during this experience than many other days that just pass without even noticing.
First off, every man should thank Dierks for creating this song. As a woman, I thank him too, because I often take for granted how much I am also thankful for the various strong women in my life. At this point in my hike, I started noticing how many women were out here on this mountain. I saw two younger women together, a woman alone with a dog and a baby on her back, and two older women just chatting away, plus me, hiking this “dangerous” trail alone, all doing this for a million different reasons. But I started to realize how amazing this experience was and that we were all sharing it in a way. We were all perceiving it differently and motivated differently, but the strength is undeniable. It made me thankful to be a woman and brave enough to create my own adventures.
“You Can’t Bring Me Down”
Shortly after this song started, I came to one of the first clear viewpoints since the trail began. The pictures honestly don’t do it justice. Seeing this and feeling this was a different kind of high. I truly felt like no one could bring me down from this. Life is really about these moments though, the highs that are untouchable. This is what we live for, whether it’s this view from a mountain or reaching whatever goal you set for yourself. These highs pull us through our low points. The memory of these views are going to pull me through a lot of less exciting days in the future, I’m sure.
“Nothing On But the Stars”
Of course, there’s the literal meaning of the song, having one last night together before parting ways. But other parts of the lyrics hit me out on this adventure. The song suddenly felt more general, more about remembering moments exactly the way they are and cherishing things in that moment before they’re gone forever. I knew this was likely a once in a lifetime experience, so I wanted to remember everything about it. Be truly present in this moment before it’s gone forever. Shortly into this hike, I realized that it’s a lot easier to pay attention to the true details when you aren’t using your phone for anything other than to play music and a camera.
“Goodbye in Telluride”
Telluride is actually about 6 hours from where I was hiking in Golden, Colorado, but it still made perfect sense. The views I saw on this hike and the feeling I felt lost in the middle of the mountains is something I would never want to be ruined by anything negative. We all remember different places where we got some bad news, but I too would beg for someone to wait until we got anywhere but here. This place is way too special to ruin with bad memories.
In listening to this album before my trip, I just wrote this track off as another love song. I didn’t pay that much attention. For some reason on this hike, this song made me think about my dad who passed away last September. Maybe it was the metaphoric elevation and feeling closer to the sky or just feeling really alone out in the middle of a mountain, but this song took another meaning. I sometimes forget that love spans so much further than just romantic relationships. This song felt like it was a message I was supposed to hear in that moment on that mountain.
Sometimes there’s a million ways to do things. This trail was one way in and out. This song is another good reminder not to take anything or anyone for granted. When the moments over or the person leaves, they may not come back. It’s important to take a moment to appreciate what we have in front of us before it’s gone. I’m pretty quick to leave a situation I don’t feel good about, but on this hike I was kind of stuck where I was, with only the option to turn around and go back. I started to think that maybe I should give things, situations, and people more of a chance before I just head my one way out.
“Son of the Sun”
Sometimes I’ve got to lose myself so I don’t lose my mind.
As a self-proclaimed gypsy soul, this song really hits home. This experience really left me overwhelmed with the beauty of different parts of nature. I was lost and completely relying on the guidance of a trail and a rocky path to lead me wherever I was supposed to go. After spending some time alone in nature. There was a two hour period where I didn’t see or hear another human. I was ready to rejoin society and civilization, but I’ll be ready to disappear again soon.
“Stranger to Myself”
Though this song discusses finding a person that helps change who you are into a better person, but I think you can still be a stranger to yourself on your own. There was definitely a time when I never even would’ve had a desire to set out on this adventure at all, let alone by myself. Based on the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve been through in the last few years, I have evolved into this person I am now. The one who’s never satisfied and always looking for the next adventure. I hope my past self is proud of the growth.
This was a good continuation of the thoughts from the last song, about the changes you make throughout life. This song was one of the most representative of this journey. I barely had anything with me, I turned off my phone, and I focused on being completely in the present. It was so freeing and exhilarating. We carry so much stress, worry, regrets, and negative things with us all the time. It’s time to let go of it all and move forward with a much lighter load.
“How I’m Going Out”
I don’t typically spend a lot of time thinking about the other end of life. But hearing this song while standing on the edge of a mountain really puts things into perspective. I really hope that I never stop going on crazy adventures and taking chances. I hope I’m able to go out doing what I love.
The album is only 47 minutes long and I ended up being out for over 5 hours. I started to play a different album when The Mountain ended, but quickly turned it off. I spent the rest of the time in silence. I thought a lot about all the lyrics I had just heard and more about how they related to my life. I was more observant of my surroundings than ever. I heard to all of the sounds around me. I really spent that time lost and amazed. I saw some of the most amazing views that I have ever seen in my life. I climbed up and down and around a mountain. Just to realize, it was only a mountain. This was living.
I highly encourage that you take some time to separate yourself from your phones and the rest of the world to soak in the present. I don’t necessarily recommend doing a 10-mile hike through the mountains unless you’re in pretty good shape, but go to a park or near a body of water. This world is an amazing place and it deserves more attention.
I would like to thank Dierks for reminding me of that.