LONGS it was my summer retreat. Never in
Deep in the heart of the Rockies lies the small
mountain village of Estes Park, Colorado. Estes Park
borders Rocky Mountain National Park and it was my summer
retreat. Never in my life had I seen someplace taken
directly out of a fairy tale. The mountains swallowed the
town. One particular mountain immediately caught my eye.
I knew that it had to be the tallest, for it was the only
mountain that was still covered in May snow.
I later learned that the enormous mountain was
Longs Peak. Longs Peak happened to be a ‘fourteener”, a
Colorado mountain over fourteen thousand feet. The mountain
could be seen from every corner of the park as well as from
distant cities such as Denver or Boulder, which were well
over fifty miles away. The mountain held an intense
mystification for me. It reminded me of a Cardinals game,
which I saw prior to my visit to Estes Park. Mark McGuire
was coming up to bat, and shocks rippled down my spine
when I saw him. An atomic power radiated from him. Even
though there were several other players on the field I
simply could not keep my eyes off him. Longs Peak also
stood head and shoulders over the other players.
I had to climb Longs Peak before I left Estes Park.
I felt a call that told me if I failed to climb the
mountain I would be missing out on a life changing
opportunity. Perhaps I wanted to climb it because everyday
when I went outside, it was the first thing I saw. Maybe I
wanted simply to prove to myself that I could do anything
that I set my mind and body to. I am not sure what it was;
all I know is that it was constantly in the back of my head
Longs Peak is an extremely difficult and technical climb.
It offers challenges to every level of climbers, especially
to a slacker like myself. The trail is only a little over
eight miles long. It has a very steep elevation gain of
over four thousand feet. The climb takes over two days of
intensely strenuous hiking. Water is the most important
thing in climbing; the body must remain fully hydrated at
all times in order to maximize best performance.
It is extremely unsafe to climb alone; therefore, my
friend Bobby accompanied me on the expedition. We started
our journey at midnight; the night air was cold, causing
goose bumps to stream through my body. The first part of
our pilgrimage up Longs Peak would take place in the dense
woods. It was pitch dark and for hours the only things I
could see were my partner’s legs moving quickly in front of
me. We had to bundle up in thermal gear just to stay warm
and I knew that it would only get colder as we gained
elevation. I could hear a distant stream trickling down
the mountain, and the heavy wind whistling through the
trees. I began to feel butterflies in my stomach in
anticipation for what lay ahead of me.
Our initial goal was to reach the tree line where we would
take our first little break. The tree line usually occurs
somewhere around twelve thousand feet. The first three or
four hours passed very quickly, with no sign of the tree
line. Had I misjudged how long it would take, or had we
taken a wrong turn somewhere? We hiked on with increasing
speed in silence. We must have hiked for fifteen extra
minutes before realizing we were above the tree line. It
was revitalizing to know that our work was not futile.
We were quite exhausted and needed a break. How marvelous
it was to sit on the cool rocks and remove the burdensome
packs from our backs. An artificial surge of energy pulsed
through my body. Upon looking up, an overwhelming joy
filled my soul. I did not feel the heavy wind or the chill
in the air. All my attention was immediately focused on
the slumbering cities below. I felt the omnipresence of God
gazing from the heavens. Yet it left me feeling sad. Sad to
know that the majority of the people below would never
experience such satisfaction.
After crossing the tree line we would begin tundra hiking.
Tundra is a delicate ecosystem, which takes thousands of
years to mature. To the common eye it appears simply as
dried up weeds. Upon closer examination I noticed the
thousands of tiny flowers preparing to bloom. How similar
this is to the real world. People today would rather judge
you based on your appearance than to really take the time
to get to know you. The trails going through the tundra
were extremely underdeveloped, which proved to be –
counteract our advancement. We lost over a half-hour of
precious time trying to recover the trail.
We reached the boulder field, our second goal right before
sunrise. Stars once bright began to drown in a deep blue
ocean. The mountains on the eastern horizon exhibited the
first signs of the coming dawn as fiery gold light framed
each peak. At the Boulder field our hike began to
intensify. The boulder field is located directly below the
majestic summit of Longs Peak. No longer would we be hiking
over a smooth trail; we didn’t even have a trail to follow
only a destination; up.
Climbing the boulder field proved to be an extremely slow
and painful process. Every muscle in my body began to tense
up from over use. The air began to get thin forcing
repeated breaks. My body ached to be home in my bed. This
last stretch of the hike took hours, and it seemed like
days. When my partner finally pulled me over the edge the
only thing I could do was lie flat on my back. The last
thing I had to do before heading down was to look over what
I had just climbed.
Nothing could quite prepare me for what I was about to see
when I looked over the summit of Longs Peak. The mountains
captivated me and left me completely and totally awe struck
by their sheer size. Never had I been through such a
humbling experience. Directly in front of me I could see
the heavens, or my interpretation of what heaven was. The
continental divide twisted and turned
majestically at my feet, crashing against the mountain as
waves would crash upon the seashore. Large lakes, which I
knew, appeared to be small blue dots.
I am not sure if it was the rising sun or the whistling
wind across my face, yet at that moment everything in my
life seemed so insignificant. The mountains stood for
everything that was solid in life, the important things.
They are the pillars of existence. We should all be so
lucky to be like mountains, all knowing, ever patient, and
rock solid in our beliefs. To see mountains of this
magnitude made me almost ashamed of having nothing in my
life permanent or solid to cling to. I realized that
people are not mountains, and we will not be here forever.
This trip made me focus on what was important in life and
why we are even here in the first place. Selfishness has
no worth in forever. Nourishing our minds and souls does
affect forever, just like mountains.