It is said that everyone heals differently. I heal through nature, hiking in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It is here surrounded by majestic evergreen trees, hummingbirds flitting to and fro and the radiance of the sun that I can experience peace, joy, and hope.
My journey started before dawn. I awoke at 4:00 AM. My original plan was to hike a local mesa around 7:00 AM. Since I was three hours ahead of schedule, I decided to head West to Deer Creek Canyon. Deer Creek Canyon is close to my heart. I grew up a mere 5 miles from the mouth of it.
I drove into the parking lot before dawn and unloaded the best hiking buddy and companion, my ever-present dog, Kahlua. There was a slight breeze and a presence that was unexplainable.
With my backpack filled with snacks for Kahlua and me, and a Camelbak guaranteed to keep us from going thirsty, we started off on our hike. Kahlua and I both had a spring to our step. It had been too long since we hiked, it felt good to be out in nature.
We started our trek with an immediate elevation gain. As we climbed, I kept turning around to check on the progress of the sunrise. The early morning dawn announced the rising of the sun. The eastern sky emerged very slowly with colors so vibrant no artist’s palette could do justice to them. Through the mouth of the canyon, rays of sunshine bounced off buildings followed by a fireball of fire engine red, sunflower yellow and orange pumpkins ready for harvest.
What a glorious way to start a hike with a Picasso of nature. I stood in awe of this miracle and expressed gratitude to have been a witness to such a creation. If I had to turn back then and there, I would have gladly done so. The amazing sunrise had grounded me and welcomed me into the presence of my God. I already felt at peace. Only when the sun had risen and the hues of red, orange, and yellow were faded did I turn to the bigger task at hand – conquering the mountain.
As Kahlua and I climbed, we entered the shadows of the western hillside. The sun had not yet risen high enough to kiss this side of the trail. It was in the shade that I needed my long sleeve shirt to keep me warm and protect my skin from the trees reaching out to scratch me. The path was lined with a mixture of rocks, tree stumps and flat sandy areas.
In the stillness of the morning, I released my stress, anxiety, and unease. I wanted to leave my mind empty and be open to fresh, new thoughts, ones that would guide me and give me joy.
As I hiked, I thought about what the journey was going to be like, what was at the top and how I would feel once I reached the summit. Occasionally the trail would take a turn and we popped out into the sunshine then we would be back in the shadows again. The trail climbed, dipped, twisted, and turned. It made me think of my journey of life, that there are ups and downs and good and bad and light and dark times. I focused on the future and knew that I would reach the top and be victorious. Also knowing I would be tired, hot, and fatigued for having traveled the journey.
As we ascended, I encountered other hikers who were going through the same thing – climbing a mountain. Some were quicker and would pass by going up. Others were coming down having walked the journey already. Yet others were going to take an entirely different path, which very few walked. I promised myself that the next time I came back to Deer Creek Canyon I would take that less traveled path because it would be a challenge. I liked the idea of doing something new, experiencing the unknown.
After a short rest at the top, we commenced our descent to the trailhead. Now there were fewer shadows and more sun. I knew at the end of that path my car was where I left it and it would take me back to family, food, and my home. We had done a large circular trail back to where we started. However, I was different from when I left a few hours earlier. In that short time, I experienced highs and lows, hot and cold, beauty, gratitude, and fatigue.
We made it! I was confident that when we started our journey that we would make the full loop without any problem. It would be a test of physical and mental endurance, yet one which I chose to experience. I could have stayed at home and done nothing, and missed the sunrise, the challenges, and the triumph. In life, we don’t always know what to expect each day, peaks and valleys, simple and difficult and bright and shrouded. We have not been guaranteed to have an easy life. What we have been guaranteed is that with faith, perseverance, and resilience we can climb to the top.
At the end of each day, we can be renewed. It is on your journey of life through grief, trauma, and everyday circumstances that you will experience these things yourself in your own way. I want to encourage you to look ahead, understand you will experience the good and bad and that there is hope.
What journey will you choose? Do nothing or experience life with its ups and downs?