Monday, August 4, 2008

The Colorado Way

Last week, I climbed/hiked/slowly crawled my first 14er! (For those of you who live in the flatlands of the US and may not know - a "14er" is a mountain that reaches over 14,000 feet in elevation.) As a good friend responded upon hearing my news ... "well, that's the Colorado way I guess". Grrr... So for this post and my own ego, I will try to go back to the excitement I felt the day I did it.

My Daddio turned the big 70 last week. (Why is it "the big", why not "huge", or "enormous"?) Something he had never done in his life was climb a mountain. He decided it was a good task to pursue at the ripe old age of 70. And while he wanted to tackle Longs Peak, we were advised by a good climbing friend that if he wanted to continue to ripen, Longs was probably not a good idea. He suggested Grays Peak instead. It is supposed to be one of the easiest in CO. We took his advice.

My brother, Christopher, my Dad and myself headed out last Wed (7.30.08) at 5 a.m. (yes, I did get up at 5 a.m.) We were staying in Breckenridge, so it wasn't too far of a drive to Grays Peak. We were supposed to drive up about 3 miles off the interstate to the trailhead. Only problem once we got to the road leading to the trailhead, was realizing that my brothers SUV was a pansy of an SUV (sorry Chris). We couldn't get up the mountain. While Dad and Chris wanted to call it quits already, I urged them to give it a chance. So we parked the car and began hiking ... 3 miles before neccessary. It was pretty discouraging. It sort of felt like a slow jaunt up hill through a lame forest, rather than a beautiful picturesc mountain climb. After about an hour of that nonsense, and 3 cars driving by without as much stopping to see if we were intentionally walking the road, Dad and I stood in the middle of the road for the next car hoping they would understand we wanted a ride to the trailhead. They got the picture, and had just enough room for the 3 of us. (Well, not really enough room, but we made it work anyway.) We peacefully road the remainder of the way. Thanks to them, we again had a fighting chance at this mountain we were on.

At 6:30 a.m., we began the real thing. We started out at the base at an elevation of 11,280 feet. Our goal was to reach 14,270 at the tippy top. And while this may sound like less than a mile when comparing how many feet are in a mile ... the hike itself was actually about 7.5 miles rountrip (I know, it blows my mind and I don't even like math). I was pumped ... excited ... ready to go. I also sort of felt like Richard Simmons as I tried to encourage the same enthusiasm in my 70 year old father and big man brother (haha Topher). We kept a pace of about ... well ... slow and steady. We stopped frequently to remind Dad to drink, take drinks ourself, remove rocks from shoes, and of course ... visit the outhouse of all outhouses. (Yes, I actually did it. For those of you who know that I'm not much for camping or anything that keeps me away from a real potty for longer than 4 hours ... I successfully became friends with the great outdoor restroom. And even though at one point I was fearing for my tooshie due the bumble bee flying near by (see last post about my fear of stinging creatures)- it all worked out. TMI, huh???)

Well, we reached about 13,000 feet and Dad was feeling it. (So were we, and we aren't even 70. Go Dad !!! We are still so proud of you !!) Dad didn't want to make Chris and I stop though since we only had about 1200 feet left. Again, for those of you who know math - 1200 doesn't seem like much. But oh, let me tell you, to us non athletic folk - 1200 feet at a 45 degree incline (like I know what 45 degrees is Dad just told me that was it) is stinking HARD! Not only hard, but 1 1/2 hours of hard. Chris and I would trade roles on being the motivational speaker while the other would try and call it quits. We did both know that we couldn't give up though. We were too close.

Then finally, we reached it. We made it to the top. As we stood just a few feet away, we looked over to the joining peak (Torreys) and wondered if we were at the top of Grays, or if we had to continue going up. A few short steps later though, we realized we were there. We had arrived. We were on top of a mountain !!! First, we were greated by a family of Mountain Goat. We were amazed at how they didn't care at all that we were staning 10 feet from them. Then we turned and sensed what amazement really was. Everywhere we looked we saw mountain top after mountain top. And no lie, I reached the top only for my iPod to flip to a song that sings, "I will lift my eyes, to the Maker, of the mountains I can't climb". At first I thought - haha were wrong, I climbed it! But then it dawned on me as I looked across all the other peaks, that it was true - I indeed can not climb the mountainS ... just this one (and maybe a few more in my life), but never all. My heart was suddenly struck to the deepest level with the realization that God is SO SO Big, and I am SO SO small. I've always thought the mountains were beautiful because of how small they make me feel.... but this took it to a whole new level. It shouldn't take something as grand as a mountain top to realize I'm not God, but I guess sometimes it just does. Anyway, we hung out at the top for a bit, took lots of pictures that won't do our experience justice, signed our name in the Grays Peak Book of Life, and headed back down. Then stopped because the mountain goats were blocking the trail. Then started again.

It took another 1 1/2 hours to get back to my dad. (Poor guy had to huddle up in a cave for 3 hours while Chris and I had our experience.) It was SO worth it (for us, maybe not so much him). From there it only took another hour to get the rest of the way down. (Total time on trail ... 8 hours.) And wouldn't you know it, the guys who were kind enough to not run over us on the road, but rather give us a lift - they were ending at the same time as us. While panting, we were able to ask if they would be kind enough to cart us back down hill. We just didn't have anything left for 3 more miles. They did. God bless them.

So after my long story, there are a few take aways for me. One, as with every mountain top experience ... it comes to an end (usually quicker than we'd like). The joy of climbing that mountain was sorta crushed by my "Colorado Way" mocking friend. (Only I must say, I'm still pretty darn proud of myself.) And the emotion of how huge God is and how small I am has already been called into question about a million times since returning home. ...... "Really, God, let's try it my way - cuz I really can see the span of eternity and I think I know better what I need right now." haha. So in the words of Bebo Norman - I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the Mountains I can't climb ... both here in Colorado and in my heart. (Yes, yes I did have to relate my hiking experience to my crazy extreme heart.) Below are some photo's, that like my story - do not do that day any justice. You should go climb one for yourself!

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