Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Help Me, I Think I'm Falling...

I was poring over Glen Denny's amazing, must-read photographic retrospective, Yosemite in the Sixties, when I spotted this nugget under a photo of Michael Covington sorting gear in Camp 4: "Mike Covington, for whom Joni Mitchell wrote 'Michael from Mountains,' 1969."

Huh?

It turns out Covington was a singer-songwriter good enough to be offered a recording contract before he dropped out of the music biz to start the Fantasy Ridge guide service in Rocky Mountain National Park and later Denali National Park. Covington, who now lives in Telluride, was instrumental in the rapid rise in climbing standards in Colorado during the 1970s, both through his own climbs and through the guides he hired for the summer in Estes Park—including luminaries like Billy Westbay and John Bachar. But before that he was a pal of Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon. And, apparently, an intimate of Joni Mitchell. "Michael from Mountains" was written in 1968, the year before Denny took Covington's photo. The chorus goes:

Michael from mountains
Go where you will go to
Know that I will know you
Someday I may know you very well


Fantasy, indeed!

7 comments:

CJM-R said...

Michael From Mountains.. one of my favorite Joni songs!! Also recorded by Judy Collins.

James Welsch said...

No shit - sounds like an innovative hiker/singer... He's also much sexier & more authentic than Mr Denver. Wonder how his yodeling is.

kerry dexter said...

also makes me think-- and no disrespect to Mr. Covington intended, it would fit well in a medley with Joni's song -- of a song from the Irish tradition called Crazy Man Michael.

fPeggy Spofford said...

I met this guy on the Durango-Silverton NGRR, who had just loaded his pack and gear and found out he was a technical climbing guide. Talked to him because my mother and father (Mary & Walter R. Spofford)did technical climbs in the 1930s in CO, WY, and British Columbia with Fritz Wiezner. I was fascinated with his philosophy and out look on life... matched mine. Didn't get his name, but with the help from a climbing group in Ouray, CO I did. Googled and found this and a wonderful interview he did in 1999 for the Park Service in Alaska. I feel extremely fortunate to have met him.

Anonymous said...

Judy Collins wrote the song. She's a Denver born native and her family spent their summers at the old Fern Lake Lodge in RMNP. That's were she apparently met him.

Dougald MacDonald said...

Hmmm.... Judy Collins recorded this song, but I'm 99 percent sure that Joni Mitchell wrote it. Interesting about Collins' time in RMNP, though!

Angeles said...

Wow, a bit shocked after stumbling upon this article seeing as Joni Mitchell is an individual I admire so deeply... I met Michael about eight years ago during one of my annual trips to Ouray (nearby telluride just on the other side of the mountains) . I was 17 I believe. I had been traveling out there alone to for a a couple of years prior to escape the Midwest. I still go to the area to this day every year. I am now 25. Every now and then I think of him, so tonight I thought.. let's google the guy. During my brief encounter with Mike I was mesmerized by his wisdom and spirit. I had basically fallen in love with the guy.. yes that's right.. at the age of 17. Ha! I lived in Telluride last summer for an environmental education internship and am fairly sure I saw him again in Ouray in a small cafe. I didn't say hello. I knew he wouldn't remember me.. Anyway, I'm glad to have discovered this little blog entry! I now can say I briefly knew someone that Joni Mitchell was close to.. How cool is that...