The most wonderful moment in Colorado was NOT all the crazy things I did for thrills. It wasn't even winning at Nationals.
The climax of this adventure ended with a trip up the purple mountain majesties. Yes, the real ones. The one where a real poet, one hundred years ago, climbed up and decided to write a song about it. And I don't blame her.
We rode the Cog Railroad up to the top. It took about an hour. There were marmots--scrawny, dancing little beavers that live in holes and have yellow bellies--and two deer, whom I affectionately named Silver and Sabrina.
Before we reached the top, the train was swallowed up in a thick fog. The mountain was covering our eyes so it would be a surprise.
To put this in perspective, the top of Pike's Peak is at the same elevation as Mt. Rainier. That's 14,400 feet. It doesn't have to snow to be cold. When we finally burst through the cloud layer, you could literally see into Kansas. When we climbed out of the train-car, it was fourteen degrees and the wind was blowing. Wearing shorts and flip-flops didn't help.
I don't carry a camera with me, but I won't need one to remember this. I tossed a stone through a shady valley cleft with snow. It took five seconds before it struck the craggy cliffs with a resounding crack, and continued to answer me as it plummeted down the mountain for a minute afterwards. You could see everything there is to see on this face of the earth.
At that moment, everything that had happened that trip was distant and forgotten. I was an infant--breastfeeding from colors and shadows and light of the earth itself.
A Bible verse was prodding at me, but all I could recall was "without excuse."
And now, I think I really get it.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, so that they are without excuse.
The mountains understood that they were made. Silver and Sabrina knew it, as sure as the spacious skies above them. It's like when you've heard a song your whole life and then actually learn to play it. These words were no longer some faraway abstraction I heard in church. This was it, the verse itself, with all it's dazzle, brashness, and beauty. It was so complete, I felt this was the perfect place for my life to end.
But I just wasn't finished yet.
The horn blew, which meant that if you weren't on the cog train in ten minutes, you were stuck up there.
Now I happened to think that taking a train down a place like this was grossly anti-climatic. I refused to end this journey in such an unromantic fashion.
"You want to to hike down?" The tourist woman stared down at my flip-flops.
"Don't worry, I brought shoes," I said hastily. "And water." I added after a long pause.
"It'll take you all day," she said bluntly, but I could just tell her eyes were dancing with mischief. "I can stop the train halfway down if you like though." I told her I would.
My mother and I had such a comical exchange about the safeties of the trail that the whole car burst into laughter. Before I stepped off, I turned to address the crowd.
"And now, receive this benediction. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you."
Then I hit the trail without looking back.
Epilogue: Shorts proved to be an imprudent move, and I had a cough and a cold for two weeks afterwards. But it was so worth it.