In the Hall of the Mountain King

Edvard Grieg’s orchestral work “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from the play “Peer Gynt” starts quietly, but gradually builds in speed and intensity until you feel a great, overwhelming presence before you and all about you. You are in the presence of the Mountain King. Hear the music:


The Kaweah River carves a deep trench into the southern Sierra from the west. Near its head the Middle Fork curves around the end of a wooded spur. Here its bed steepens as it divides and divides again against the 12,000 foot wall of the Great Western Divide.

On the edge of this spur with a fragrant forest of firs behind you, the view opens wide. Across the canyon, Hamilton Creek rises steeply into a vast amphitheater of rock. On the left is the imposing cliff named the Angels Wings: two thousand feet of vertical granite worthy of Yosemite. In the center the mighty spire of 12,205 foot Mount Stewart dominates the skyline. With its jutting haunch to the right, it reminds me of a mighty lion, roaring to the world with its head thrown back. The sun reflects brightly from smooth granite faces.

Follow the trail as it finds a break in the cliffs to drop to the river, now steeply rising to meet you. Gaze into foaming Hamilton Creek from a trail blasted into massive granite. Cross the creek above a waterfall and follow it upward, past the Angels Wings, toward the cliffs of towering Mount Stewart.  After a last steep slope, leave the hot sun and enter a cool, sheltered grove of firs and pines. A cooling breeze soughs softly through the branches.

At the far end, as you break out of the woods, you will find yourself at the edge of a broad, peaceful lake. Waterfalls slide down surrounding cliffs from hidden lakes above. Cool wavelets caress the shore.  The peaks and rock faces high above speak of power and drama. But here, by the lakeside and among the trees, it is quiet and peaceful, a restful contrast to the energy and blasting sun of the peaks above.

In our fast-paced and sometimes intense world, we need places like this in our own lives to relax, unwind, and re-connect with God. And as we open up and look around we find that we are in the Hall of the Mountain King, a loving, merciful, empowering Mountain King, who has always been here for us.


About David McCoard

After earning my MS in geology I've done various things including managing the ski touring program at a small lodge in the Sierra. In 2010 I retired from Contra Costa College in California. I've always been fascinated by the mountains and nature and have spent countless days hiking, backpacking, climbing and skiing in the Sierra. The spiritual insights I've learned there have set the course for my life. Now I have time to share them and strike up a conversation.
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