The base of a mountain or a mountain range is usually ringed or lined by a series of low rises. These are called foothills. The western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada offers a spectacular example of a complex and manifold system of foothills. Starting east of Sacramento it begins as soft, elevated undulations that develop into rounded but steeper and eventually sharper hills, morphing into one of the most sublime North American mountain ranges. A more gentle and extended range of foothills is the Piedmont area of the Middle Atlantic States, stretching from Maryland through the Carolinas. Compared with the ascendant and aristocratic peaks and ridges presiding above them, foothills are like steady commoners who occupy a middle ground between flatland and mountains. One feels at home in this proletarian landscape, consoled and reassured by its human scale.

Michael Collier