The Navajo Country imprinted me a long time ago. In 1939, without knowing that we were violating something sacred, three friends and I made the first ascent of Shiprock. It took months of planning and four days of climbing, none more enjoyable than the third day. As it ended we bivouacked not far below the summit and looked out over the desert as the shadow of the peak reached east and died, to let campfires twinkle under the stars -- scores of campfires, scattered over the arid vastness we had thought empty. I found myself feeling an empathy I had never felt before. Who was around that fire, the other fires, the farthest one? What had the winds told them that day, the vast sky, the sacred mountains? What tradition, being understood and enjoyed around each fire, had kept these people so well in touch with their land for so long?

David Brower