Day Two: Further Up and Further In
When I was young, I somehow invented a different definition of “mountain” than might be expected from a girl growing up in the distant shadows of the lower Appalachians. I defined “mountains” as little gray isosceles triangles. I even remember writing a sort of story in my head about a family who went for a picnic on top of a mountain. They climbed all the way to the top. When they spread out their picnic blanket, they realized something was terribly wrong. The summit was so steep that they slid away from each other and tumbled down the mountain. I remember the image so well: the little brother and sister in their matching red and yellow shirts, watched as their food rolled away. Somehow, I don’t remember the resolution to my lovely, morbid, eight-year-old tale. It might not have been the grand picture book I thought it to be, but this week, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, I saw the mountains I had only dreamed of as a child.
We drove, first towards Boulder then on to Estes Park and finally toward Rocky Mountain National Park. Nathan announced the elevation every 1,000 feet. Stephanie and I cheered. 8,000ft—9,000ft—10,000ft—11,000ft and finally 12,000ft. The valley has a deeper meaning now.
We rolled the windows down and breathed as deeply as we could the captivating aroma of a pine forest. Further up we traveled. We stopped at Rainbow curve for pictures and encountered our first wild animal of the day: a chipmunk. I felt like a Disney princess when one came up to me until I realized that chipmunks were the seagulls of the Rockies. They were everywhere and they were not at all shy about their interaction with humans. We travelled higher, till the trees became fewer. “ELK!” I exclaimed, so we stopped and chased the herd of magnificent creatures. As we travelled across the tundra, we heard their song. It was deep, eerie, high, and enchanting. We got close enough to see the differences between the babies and the bulls, but the chill of the tundra wind kept us distant enough to avoid a stampede. Well, maybe not quite that distant. As we shuffled back down the tundra, I let out a sound surprisingly similar in pitch to the elk’s call. Stephanie and Nathan paused to look, questions in their eyes, “A, a gray, something, a gray little thing just ran between my feet!” A field mouse ran between my feet on the tundra of the Rocky Mountains. I think.
Traveling on, we stopped at what could have been the top. It was hard to say because the road was quickly swallowed by a cloud. The rain felt more like ice. Braving the frigid air, we exited our lovely rental car to take a picture of two cold looking bighorn sheep. We stayed in the car at the visitor’s center, and then we began our descent.
In a different weather zone less than an hour away, we frolicked on a golden hill overlooking Boulder. When we laughed, I forgot all about the shivering wonder of the Rocky Mountains. I was in the moment, and in the moment, there was hope.
Three days prior to this adventure, I had no idea I would be going on said adventure. All I had were lingering childhood imaginations of
what a mountain might be like. Now, I know. It’s all I imagined, and somehow more. I hold onto hope, hope that is golden like the sun on a hill covered in blowing wheat, that this is true for more than just the mountaintop experience.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:7-10
I know my imaginations of future glory and Heaven and the great mountain in a land eternal are mere images, but if the Rocky Mountains are so much grander than my childhood imaginations, then how much more amazing will our next adventure be? So today, back in Georgia and college life, I’ll live remembering the beauty of mountains, the bizarre feeling of a field mouse (maybe) running between my feet, the smell of pines, and the wonder of a world that will last forever.
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in! … And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” -C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle