Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mountaintop Experiences

John has written about Pike's Peak and some of our experiences at Rocky Mountain National Park, but I wanted to go back a little and write about my thoughts.

Two years ago, we drove up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, a frightening experience, and one that I don't want to repeat. I thought Pike's Peak would be that much worse, 7,000 feet higher than Mt. Washington, more twists and turns, more opportunities to plunge to our deaths in the ravine below. I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible the top of the mountain was and how non-threatening the experience would be. Sure there were switchbacks, and sure there were dropoffs into nowhere, but the road was nice and wide, roomy enough for two cars to pass easily. Looking down into the valleys was not my idea of fun, but when we were at a place that was a designated pull off/viewing area, I was quite comfortable picking out landmarks way down below. What I wasn't prepared for was the horrible way I would feel when I stepped out of the car at the summit. 50 degrees and gusty, the temps ought to have revived me, but I couldn't help but feel the same way I did when I was a little girl, going over the mountains to my Aunt LeeAnna's house. I wanted to enjoy the great meal she'd cooked, but barfing seemed more likely. Pike's Peak summit was one of those moments. I wanted to stand gazing off into God's creation, wanted to pray for the people I had on my list, but my prayer turned into, "Please God, don't let me pass out or barf on all of these tourists. My children will be soooo embarrassed!" I staggered around the gift shop, not even able to comprehend the gift items, and those of you who know me well, will attest to my sickness. Unable to shop is not the way to describe Paula Keller. John took pity on me and we left pretty speedily. I drank a bottle of water, fell asleep and when I woke up a few minutes later, a few thousand feet lower, I felt much better. I never want to see Pike's Peak again!

Now, several days later, I'm at 12,000 feet, running down hillsides and back up again, in search of elk and the sick feeling has not reoccurred. Sure I can barely breathe, but I'm not woozy. John has described our hikes to the lakes, and I'll briefly describe our climb up Trailridge Road. What an inspiring trip, seeing snow capped peaks in the distance, crisp breezes making the air almost uncomfortable. We found out that the road had only been cleared of snow for 4 weeks, and much snow remained on the alpine hillsides. In fact, there were several places where kids were sledding and several places where people were skiing on crazy, straight up and down hillsides. John wished heartily that he'd brought his skis, and I thanked God heartily that he hadn't!

Elk dotted the hillsides, munching lazily on alpine grass, and down in the valley, large herds of elk grazed by clear pools of water. We drove along the trail, until we reached the pretty little lake named Irene, and ate a picnic lunch. We walked to the lake side, and there, just as pretty as you please, was a female deer, eating her lunch of lakeside grass, no more than 10 feet away. She didn't bolt or seem frightened at all, just looked us up and down and went on eating. The mosquitos chased us away from the lake but all in all, it was a great picnic.

Back on the road, we stopped at the continental divide and had our picture taken. John told the boys that if they peed a little on the one side, it would end up in the Atlantic and on the other side, it would end up in the Pacific. See what I have to put up with, the lone woman on this trip? No one peed, thankfully, although there was a wet spot from a previous visitor. I don't want to think about it!

Down to Estes Park to peruse the gift shops and have a little overpriced pizza and then back to the campsite to pack up for our early departure for Wyoming and the Tetons.


We're on the way, Interstate 25 into Wyoming and already have seen camels, antelope of some kind and tons of power generating windmills. I'm sure we'll have much to write about on the next post.

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