Sometimes you have to laugh

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Ben hiking out to our camping spot. We spent the night on the right butte.

With the intention of evading the onslaught of homework this weekend, my brother and I decided to go camping. A slight breeze sifted through the air as we stepped out of our little 2001 Toyota Corolla and into the Pawnee Grasslands of Northeastern Colorado. As we peered into the grassy landscape we could make out two massive towers of rock looming in the distance, sentinels of some unknown land beyond. Obviously they were begging to be climbed, so Ben and I trekked through the shin high grass to do just that. We almost gave up, but finally managed to find a primitive ladder carved into the tan rock on the far side of one of the buttes.

Unlike the mountainous expanse that usually baffles me when I go hiking above timberline, this view was quite different. Stark grassland stretched as far as the eye could see. The breeze had picked up, but was still somewhat bearable, so we set up our tent on the top of the tower, thinking it would be a perfect view of the stars at night (It was more a great view of the bright moon instead). The sun set. The wind picked up, and before we knew it we were trying to sleep in a tent that acted more like a sail than anything else, moving at will. I woke up in the middle of the night to the thin material separating me from the elements periodically clobbering the back of my head. As much as I tried to shift away from the side of the tent, some other part somehow found a way to batter me again. I remember vividly smiling and laughing to myself in the middle of the night due to my useless effort to get away from the wind. Finally, after God decided he’d had enough fun, I saw a faint light brimming the horizon and soon enough the sun peeked its golden face above the grassy fields.

Thinking of that night brings laughable memories of what could have been a terrible experience. Life is molded by perspective.

Don’t Give Up

My good friend and I decided to go “surviving” this past weekend. This is a term I use to describe trekking out into the Colorado woods with nothing but warm clothes, a knife, tinder and flint, and a rope. Food? Nope. Water? We brought a pot to boil any water we found. A tent? No chance.

After parking the car on the side of a bumpy dirt road we decided to get to high ground and scope out any areas we thought could provide water. In the distance the slight shimmer of a small lake caught our eye. We hiked through a forest of fallen trees and shrubs for the next hour and a half and finally stumbled upon a small stream. Screw the lake, it was time to make a shelter. We pieced together a basic lean-to structure with an entrance that opened up to a small fire ring. Soon we had a fire and began to boil water. A dash of pine needles made for a faint taste of tea. Heck, we were living in the lap of luxury here.

Just before dusk we decided to explore the area and make sure we weren’t on private property. Earlier that day we had seen keep out signs and headed in the opposite direction. Unfortunately the evidence was clear: Salt licks, a chained up picnic table, and quite a bit of untouched firewood not 3 minutes from where we had set up camp. My hopes sank as I realized we had to high tail it out of there. To get busted for trespassing let alone making a fire on private property is serious business. We quietly packed up what little we had and bid farewell to our shelter.

By this time the sun was well below the rim of mountains around us. The moon provided little light but not enough for us to see very far. We headed for the first ridge back to where we had come. An hour and we would be back to our parked car. Stars poked their way through the blackness around us and the moon fabricated shapes with which to navigate. After the first ridge we headed towards the next. And the next. Before long the shadows blurred and the ridges loomed. The car surely was just over the next crest. Time seemed to slow. It had now been three hours since we left the shelter. Jordan and I were exhausted. No sooner had we stopped to rethink our navigation when a light illuminated the darkness. We had found the road.

There was a point in the hike where fear wormed it’s way into my head. Would we make it back, or spend the whole night in the cold without a shelter? We both wanted to give up. But we kept hiking and finally made it back to the car. We could have just sat there in denial and let the night take hold but we suppressed the temptation and soon found our way back. In what situations do you feel like giving up? How can you overcome that temptation?

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Jordan and I at the site before our trek back.

 

Just for Fun

Here is a little snippet of a short story I started a little over a year ago.

Shrouded mountain blog postShrouded Mountain

Chapter 1: Vengeance

White. Not white as you would find on this page or the white of a cloud alone in a sea of blue, but an altogether different white. A blinding white that pierces the eye and sends shivers down the spine. This white cut like a ray of lightning through the small window of 33 year old Thomas Montrell. As his eyes slowly adjusted, he could barely make out a landscape of jagged mountains far below. Unlike rolling hills that rose and fell like the waves of a gentle ocean, this land seemed fierce and unwelcoming. The spectacle brought with it a sensation of fear and wonder that forced Thomas to sit back and close his eyes. Planes always seemed to play with his sanity. He thought of his quaint home nestled in a green meadow broken only up by the occasional maple tree. A portion of his conscience exposed the slightest feeling of regret. One split second decision and what was now near memory could become a reality again. He could go home if he desired. His eyebrows narrowed. No. he couldn’t give up after all this planning and preparation. This was it. There was no turning back now. The pain of the near past was too much. He needed vengeance. His thoughts were shattered as a hand with a glass bottle was thrust in front of his face.

“Another swig of scotch to calm the nerves?”

His excitement urged him to reach out and grab the bottle. He shouldn’t. This was a professional excursion of which he was the leader. He lifted his hand. “No, No thank you. We’re nearly there.” Thomas was right. The six seater plane shuddered as it cut through the freezing Himalayan air.

“Al right, fun’s over,” the pilot’s voice crackled over the intercom. “Let’s buckle our seatbelts and pray for a smooth landing. This runway hasn’t been used in years… Hope it’s still there.” Thomas made a lunge for the scotch.

Sure enough, ten minutes later found the bruised but still functioning plane parked at the end of a rutted runway. The cracks had increased over the past couple of years, most likely due to weathering from the snow. Thomas stiffly stepped out of the exit and stared around him. The peaks around him were high and numerous, resembling rugged claws of that now had him and his team tightly within its grip. He felt the familiar crunch of snow beneath his feet and looked down to see the edge of the runway.