There is a peculiar but not unpleasant feeling I get in the pit of my stomach and center of my chest on every occasion that I embark on some grand adventure or misadventure as the case may be. Over time, the grand cycle of get up, go to work, come home, go to bed and repeat manages to tarnish the luster of life for me. In as such, the further my schemes lead me astray from the herd so to speak, the greater that feeling hits me and the wider the “Tom Sawyer” grin spreads upon my face. Now don’t get me wrong here... I’m not some sort of social deviant who thrives on breaking the rules (well... unless it involves a motorcycle and a curvy road). I just like to think of myself as a person who marches to the beat of a different drummer.
I suppose that a normal person who had just packed all of their possessions into the back of a Ford Explorer and abandoned the creature comforts of a bed and roof over their head for an indefinite period of time, may have felt at least a little touch of trepidation (especially if that person was familiar with the unreliable nature of beat up old Ford Explorers). As for me however, I have to admit that I managed to sport a huge smile upon my face on the first day of my self imposed mountain exile. I would have been happier I suppose, if I would have had time to set camp before work that afternoon, but I already had my destination picked out off of a remote rocky mountain trail that appeared ideal to me from my initial daylight scouting. A thin copse of trees surrounded a flat rock clearing on the side of a cliff face, and it proffered a magnificent view of the pine covered hills below. There was more than enough room to set up a tent near but not directly upon the edge, and an ample number of stones and dropped dead wood nearby to create a cozy little fire pit to light up what I was picturing would be the perfect first night alone in the hills. I could scarcely focus my thoughts upon work that day; my mind kept wandering to my own little mountain top utopia which awaited me. How was I to know that reality was about to give me the strong pimp hand to the face? (heh!)
Fast forward with me now to the end of my shift and to the middle of one very dark and windy Rocky Mountain night. To start things off, I managed to miss my turn off two times as I wound my way up the hills to my trail. Even with my brights doing their meager best to cut through the almost oppressive darkness of the lonely mountain road, the tiny little trail head was nearly impossible to spot unless one was intimately familiar with the surrounding landmarks- and I was most definitely not. Picture if you will a blonde head sticking completely out of the driver side window of a barely moving vehicle, curse words spewing forth in a volcanic rush from a mouth that had long since lost that great big grin. Yeah... that was me.
Finally however, persistence managed to squeak in a win over the darkness and I was able to find my turn in. My grumpiness flew completely away from me as I came to a complete stop and locked in my four wheel drive- that grin began to find its way back home. This was one of the parts I was looking forward to the most. To get to my promised land, I had to negotiate my way over perhaps a mile or more of some very fun, and somewhat challenging terrain. When I had taken my girlfriend up the trail a few days prior, I had almost high centered my poor rust bucket from laughing so hard at the flailing of her arms and legs as she bounced around in, above and off of her seat. Ah yes; good times indeed. But at this point, I was fully aware that I had to take it much slower due to limited visibility; my brights did little more than to light up the tops of the trees, and the dims and fog lights only spotlighted the most immediate obstacles. Regardless, my heart began to race in excitement and somebody in my truck began to giggle like a goof ball (...wasn’t me- I am far too composed and mature for such a thing). So forward went the driver seat and off I went...
Ok, as fun as the descriptors are for my private little night time battle with the now renamed trail from hell, let’s just say that I finally managed to make it to my camp with slightly frayed nerves, one accidental bite on the tongue as a gift from a particularly nasty unseen rock, and one Fred Flinstone lump on the side of my head from an impromptu meeting with my driver side window. In retrospect, I supposed it would have been wise of me to fix my seat belt with more than just a small expanse of bungee cord. Whatever the case, I had arrived and it was now time to set up the tent, relax and enjoy my beautiful mountain vista.
I had a small lantern somewhere in the wreckage that was my carefully packed gear in the back of the rust bucket, but in my eagerness to get set up, I opted to leave the remaining headlight on to light up my labors. I reached over to the passenger seat where my tent was my silent and non judgmental companion for the trek, and opened the door to face my next unpleasant reality- mountain winds can be fierce; particularly on the side of a stinking cliff! I will leave it to your imagination to picture the scene of a solitary, medium sized man trying to do battle with a tent whose apparent sole goal in life is to become a kite. Suffice it to say that it was no surprise to me that by the time I finally got it set up and staked down, my remaining beleagured headlight blinked out of existence. With a mopish sigh, I slugged bacl over to the battle wagon after killing the dead light switch, and went for my air mattress, pump, and sleeping bags. Forget the notion of a fire in this wind... I just wanted to wind down and call this night alot of colorful names before finally calling it over.
I’d like to say that all of my gear didn’t come tumbling out to the ground the very moment I opened my rear hatch. I’d also like to say that it didn’t take me over an hour to finally find the gear I needed, and get all set up for sleep. But by now, I am sure you have a proper grasp of some of the luck I was having this night. I won’t lie to you.. it was at this point I began thinking to myself “what in the HECK am I doing out here?? I may have just made one horrible mistake." Doubts started filling my head and heart, and I began to wonder if my whole trip out to Colorado had become an epic failure.
As the saying goes however, “this too shall pass.”
I finished setting up my camp, and found the energy to attach my portable battery charger (thanks a million for that one, dad) to the truck after a brief but well needed one on one conference with Mr. Jack Daniels. It was at this point that fortunes finally smiled down upon me... or perhaps it was something bigger.
The truck cranked up for me on the first try, and as I sat there letting the engine charge the battery back up, I decided to turn on the radio and relax a bit. Well for any of you who have ever tried listening to the radio while positioned somewhere between Egypt and the Middle of Nowhere, you probably already know that all you are really going to get is AM stations... and that is if you are lucky. Well I pushed the scan button and sat back to see where I landed, crossing my fingers in the hopes that it wasn’t going to be some Spanish channel. A few garbled blips went by, and then one came in clear as a bell; and in English ta’ boot! It was a church broadcast of some minister or another, and even though I am a Christian, I am certainly not one to go out of my way to listen to a sermon; but on this night I felt content- perhaps even a need to listen.
Yes, perhaps it was a bit sacrilegious of me to be sitting there listening to a preacher teaching the Word while nipping on a bottle of a different kind of spirit all together. For that matter, to this day I can’t recount the bible verses that were referenced in the sermon; but the message came in loud and clear:
That is paraphrasing of course; there is no way I would be able to accurately quote scripture to anyone out there. But that is the basic gist of the message I received. And as I sat there listening, that wind no longer seemed as menacing to me; the skies no longer looked so dark and foreboding. Call it what you will, and take it however you want, but at that moment I felt a peace wash over me, and once again those mountains where I sat seemed beautiful and inviting to me. That grin found its way back onto my face and that giddiness crept back into my chest.
This is going to be an adventure... this is going to be fun!
(to be continued....)