Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Livin' la Vida Colorado

Fifty-three mountains over 14,000 feet in this square state of ours, and these Colorado people have it in their heads that climbing to the top is a great way to get a little recreation in on a weekend. After completing my fourth summit this Sunday, I'm wondering what all the rage is about.

Is it the soaring sense of accomplishment or the beautiful scenery? The adrenaline rush that comes with wondering just how long your brain can last with minimal oxygen? The physical workout? Or maybe it's being that much closer to heaven?

My feelings may have something to do with last September's climb, where I was literally wondering if I would open my eyes and see the pearly gates instead of the rocks I was sprawled on. Altitude sickness isn't one of the items I would choose from the list of things to experience on a free weekend, so I was shocked when I found myself asking my little brother if he wanted to hike Pikes Peak -- America's mountain -- on Independence Day weekend {aww...}.

there's the little champ now, taking it all in

We hiked The Crags on the back side of the mountain -- the shorter, slightly more beautiful trail -- and made it 13+ miles roundtrip in just over seven hours. We stopped often on the way up to gawk at the views and were, surprisingly, some of the only hikers on the trail.

Approaching the top, Jonny says, "I feel like there should be a crowd of fans up here cheering us on. I'm needing some recognition... something." He's right. This is how you feel, especially when you're climbing a tourist mountain. Everyone else up there either drove cars or rode the train and were there to buy magnets and high-altitude donuts. We felt proud of ourselves, so we had a tourist take this here picture:

Here's a tip for your next 14er: hike with people who aren't funny. Laughing hard above tree line gets go to catch your breath and find yourself with no breath to catch.

I know you hardcore backpackerettes will be ashamed when I admit to you that Jonny carried the pack most of the way, up and back. We brought one pack, so naturally, we both couldn't carry one the whole time. And because it was heavy on the way up and Jonny's a gentleman, he carried it. Because a storm was coming on the way back down and I was slowing the pace when I was carrying it, he was kind enough to take it back.

What I really have to say about climbing a 14er is this: if you have the urge to do it, you must. It is worth it. You won't ever forget what the world looks like from the top. If you don't have the urge to do it but think you'd like to be talked into it, I can refer you to a friend... Despite my feelings toward 14ers, not a day goes by that I'm not amazed by Colorado, and these mountains have everything to do with it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence Day

I know, it's July 5th and Independence Day was yesterday. But because thoughts on things happen before, during and after the moment, I'm writing about yesterday, today.

Americans love a party. We recognize trees on Arbor Day and celebrate the weather on Groundhog Day, and we even throw parties for other countries' holidays. But there's something different about the fourth of July. It's a holiday with no fuss, no gifts, no cards. Instead of sitting around a formal table with family members only, we fling open the doors and take the party outside with family, friends and neighbors. Paper plates, chips and salsa, burgers, hot dogs, and outdoor games are all part it. Something about this holiday lures everyone out. We're comrades, fellow countrymen, co-enjoyers of this wonderful home.

Beneath all the casual fun is something very significant. Deep inside, we have an immense sense of gratitude for all that was done to secure our independence. Standing amidst hundreds of other Americans with my hand over my heart while our national anthem plays is a tremendous privilege, and I did nothing to earn it. Given that, I have a responsibility to protect it and make it the best it can be for my fellow people. I was also reminded that we fought for independence from something so we could be dependent on something else. The people who founded this country weren't seeking anarchy -- they sought a government under God.

America is a gift, and I'm so glad to celebrate it with all who are proud to be American.