The Humblest Hill

An ode to the reprieve, peace, and joy found at the top of every hill.

Written by
Greta Hyland
·
4
min read
Summary
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There is a small, nondescript hill in the heart of St. George surrounded by a sea of housing and development. You can drive by it every day and never really see it. If you do happen to look at it, you notice the radio towers on top and not much else. It’s not pretty, especially in comparison to all of the beauty surrounding St. George, but to those who know it, it’s a gem hidden there in plain sight.

The first time I learned the name of Webb Hill was when a coworker asked me if I wanted to run to the top of it with him and others for their morning workout. This coworker and crew were wildland firefighters. We started at the District office and then hit the bike path that winds along the river at the base of the hill. Just over the bridge and around a bend you take a sharp right up the rocky trail. I was gassed not far up the steep incline.

That first run ignited in me a desire to be able to run to the top and back without stopping to walk. A year later I was on an engine crew and we ran Webb Hill regularly for physical training. By then I was able to run Webb Hill to the top and back without stopping.

I am no longer on a wildland fire crew but that Hill still beckons. Criss-crossed all over it are mountain bike and running trails. From my house I could run up and over it and then on the bike path back to my house in 4.5 miles. I could also run a loop that skirts the base of the hill then goes up and over and back down to my house in 4.5 miles as well. Webb Hill has become my go-to for trail running because of its convenience but also because it acts as a magical portal that takes me to a different place when I run it.

Once my feet hit the dirt my entire focus narrows to what is right in front of me. The houses and streets and noise disappear as I wind my way around the small, rugged island surrounded by earth, wind, and sky. Running that non-descript trail could be in the foothills of the Tetons as far as my mind and body are concerned. After a good rain, pools form in the recesses of rocks where I can look down and see heaven reflecting back up to me and even though the elevation gain isn’t anything to brag about, from on top you can see Zion to the east, Pine Valley Mountain to the north, the Utah Hills to the west, and Mt. Bangs to the south. You get a panoramic view of the diverse landscape that surrounds this town and discover that even the humblest hill can offer vistas of the most breathtaking beauty.

It's been nine years since my first encounter with Webb Hill and I still run it to this day. Even sitting here thinking about it causes a sense of communion and peace to wash over me as my mind and body relax, the edges softening as I teleport back to that well-worn path. When the mind remembers, the body responds. Even in the midst of the busyness of life, just a few moments with my eyes closed and my mind projecting from memory, those images act as a salve on my hurried and busy psyche. Without moving from my house, when I close my eyes I find myself there, thrilled by tarantulas tip-toeing down the trail with me, surprised by a coyote seeking refuge from civilization running parallel to me up the hill, and my dog in hog-heaven chasing lizards and running circles around me as I make my way through the dust and over rock.

And in those moments, both real and remembered, I thank God for the small things, for the tried and true, for the gift right in our backyard. The grand and spectacular are note-worthy as always, but the small should not be overlooked in our search for reprieve, peace, and joy. Those repeated moments over years and decades build a memory trail in our mind of the familiar, the well-trodden, and the steps that make a lifetime.

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Author Bio

Greta Hyland

Greta Hyland is a Utah native. She lives in southern Utah and is the mother of three boys and step-mother of two girls. She is an avid believer in the American idea of public lands and public access to those lands. She is a Natural Resource Specialist for the BLM, operates the Southwest Journal and just finished her first novel, Asa’s Run.

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