I am headed to Denver this week to visit with my son and we are going to climb a mountain — a very big mountain called Grays Peak. At 14,270 feet, it is the highest in Colorado’s Front Range and one of fifty four peaks in the state that stand at least 14,000 feet above sea level. Locals call them “fourteeners.” Before you get too impressed, the trail to the top of Grays starts at over 10,000 feet. Still, getting there will be about twice as difficult as climbing one of the 4,000 footers in the White Mountains. I’ve climbed all forty eight of those and I’m kind of glad that the good folks in New Hampshire haven’t come up with a cute nickname for them. Though not nearly as tall as the Rockies, the White Mountains are not cute. They are rugged and, in bad weather, truly dangerous. They are majestic. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. call them? Oh, yes: Prodigious. I like that.
Why do I keep climbing mountains? To me, being in the wilderness from time to time is an essential part of living a full and balanced life. It nourishes the soul. It gives one the chance both to breathe and to think deeply. It provides a healthy distance from responsibilities at work, school, and home. If you are lucky, there won’t be any cell service. A blessed break from technology and unrelenting availability.
When the wilderness includes mountains, there is the added element of physical challenge. Do I have what it takes to make it to the top and back down to my car? Will I get lost? Do I have the right equipment to stay warm and dry? Mountains humble those who climb them, and without a doubt, a little humility is a good thing for most of us.
Climbing with my son will be very special. Together, we’ve reached the top of dozens of mountains in his twenty five years and I can’t wait to do it again. Our first climb was Flying Mountain on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Honestly, calling it a “mountain” is generous. It is little more than a hill (284 feet) and my son didn’t actually do any climbing. At two months old, he rode to the summit in a snuggly, attached to my chest. He climbed his first 4,000 footer, Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, at six years old. Impressive.
When he moved to Denver on his own, I was impressed once more at his courage and his adventurous spirit. After a relatively short time, he was chosen to be the lead mechanic at a large bike shop north of the city, and I couldn’t be more proud. The hike is a kind of celebration of his recent promotion.
Now, it is his turn to take the lead, to show his old man how it’s done. He chose the mountain and the route. He even called to remind me to bring warm clothing and snowshoes. He will have to hike slower than he usually does as I make my way up to the summit at a middle-aged pace. But we will both make it. And we will stand on the roof of the Rockies, admiring the awesome view, humbled and exhilarated once again by nature’s power and beauty, together.
Have you thought about going out into the wilderness to reconnect with nature, with God, with yourself, with someone you love, or all of the above? This is a perfect time of year to do it (inspiring colors, cool weather, no bugs). If you go, you may well reach new heights of understanding and appreciation for the gift of life.
Scott on A New Summit A New Summit | Gaia… on A New Summit Steve & Lynn Way… on Streams in the Desert lori maccausland on Seeds Steve & Lynn Way… on Seeds