Friday, August 15, 2008

Rockie Mountain "Hi!"

Wow! Eleven days without a post. That a record of Olympic proportions that might stand for some time. So why all the time off? Laziness? Internet problems? Lack of ideas? Typographical amnesia? Xbox 360? None of the above?

The last one says it all (without saying anything, really.)

Call it wanderlust or call it active relaxation, but this summer has been one filled with great experiences traveling and being away from home and the computer. For someone who considers "traveling abroad" to be commensurate with leaving the city limits, I have logged almost 5000 miles driving and 2000 miles flying this summer to other states. With my Kansas City and Disney trips behind me, there was still one more bit of recreational business to deal with: my 2nd annual backpacking trip to the Colorado Wilderness, from which I have recently returned.

Now if tossing aside all the amenities and conveniences of our modern world, donning 60 pound backpacks, and trekking out among the cougars and black bears is not your idea of rest and relaxation, you're not alone. I, myself, wouldn't go so far as to say I had much R and R on this 6 day trip, but it was paradoxically backbreaking yet revitalizing, arduous yet rejuvenating. To be out in the middle of nowhere, having only the things with you that you decide to carry, free from the noise pollution of the civilized scene, among the majestic mountains, serene valleys, the towering pines, and the playful wildlife, inspires an awesome appreciation of mother nature and enables one's soul to reconnect with the spirit, leaving the ego far behind. This year, it also allowed me to appreciate dry weather and afforded me the opportunity to deal with constant cold, wet conditions.

Atop the mountain pass around 12000 feet in between the raindrops

With my trip planned well in advance of any reliable weather forecast, Mr. W, by backpacking bro, and I set out expecting the same magnificent weather we experienced last year on our inaugural trip: mild, dry weather. Instead, we were "treated" to a bit more variety than we expected. It rained every single day we were there, which not only brought down wet precipitate which quickly permeated our boots and socks as we trampled through the briers, but it also brought down the temperatures, usually into the low 40s. Despite our high quality "Gore-Tex" boots, the moisture still managed to saturate every aspect of our footwear the morning of our first day out, and there it stayed until we ultimately fled.

Attempting to dry out the boots and socks, even under the warming blanket of the temporary pockets of sunshine, were about as successful as trying to sweep the floors in a dirt-floor cabin. Slipping on a warm pair of "back up" socks the next morning only guaranteed that I'd have my choice of cold, wet socks to put on the following morning. Nonetheless, it didn't take but a few hours each morning to get used to the feeling of squishy wet feet and cold numb toes, at which point we could focus on other things, like psyching ourselves up for the 1500 foot ascents in the thin air with our heavy packs.

My wet clothes eagerly awaiting more rain

We each considered ourselves to be in pretty good shape, having run a marathon last February and staying active since, but the topography can be very misleading and unforgiving, which is exactly why we were out their to begin with, and even, perhaps, why we ran the marathon. The pain and the efforts that take us to the top of the mountain or get us across the finish line make us stronger physically and mentally, and in doing something that is deemed undesirable or even "crazy" by others who prefer other types of personal challenges, we share an invigorating sense of confidence and purpose. Luckily on this trip, this newly acquired sanguinity was not put to the test by an encounter with a bear.

Who knew they had Pi-ne cones up in the Rockies?

The experience this year, although very different than expected, was fully embraced, and we both enjoyed the unexpected demands the prevailing climate demanded of us. Emerging from the mountains on the last day, we knew we had a special spice to add to the stories we would share with our families and friends, and we felt we had earned the right to "cheerfully" extol about how "miserable" we were, when in fact, we thankful for the opportunity to adapt, adjust, and acclimate to the ceaselessly beautiful environment.

It was a great consolation, though, to walk through the front door of my home after the long, stinky, 18-hour drive back and smell the sweet fragrance of home . . . the home with a thermostat, clothes dryer, and big, soft, fluffy bath towels.

The sweet smell of home!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pi-ne cones.....I love it!!!! Enjoy your last weekend of freedom.