Alpine Therapy

I had the day off work on the Fourth of July, so I joined my neighbors on a brief daytrip up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, the smokey haze from the Wyoming and Utah wildfires blanketed the best views all day, but we still had a peaceful picnic in Beaver Meadows and enjoyed a short hike up the Ute Trail. It was my first time inside the park itself – normally, I just jaunt around downtown Estes or take a horseback ride near Lake Estes, all outside of the Nat’l Park borders. Epic fail on my part! I’m going back at the earliest opportunity.

A pair of equestrians we met during our picnic.

From the time I was seven years old to the time I was in high school, my family took us camping every summer, deep in the backcountry of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Instead of backpacking, we would hire a pack train and ride horses about three hours in, then set up our tents next to one of the many pristine lakes below the Minarets. This kind of camping has forever spoiled me. Parking a car at a designated campground just isn’t in the same league. We enjoyed utter seclusion. If we saw another person during those four days, it was a surprise.

It seems those summers have made their mark, becoming part of my DNA. Now, whenever I’m high enough and secluded enough, the mountains feel like home to me. The sound (and the smell) of the wind rushing through the pines and aspens up high is such a keen thing; it brings those memories rushing back and anchors me in the present, all at once.

Baby aspen on our hike.

And yet, with all this beauty less than an hour’s drive from my front door… I hardly take advantage of it. Work and life keep me so wrapped up most of the time that escaping into the Front Range is often the last thing on my mind.

For shame.

I need to do this more often. “Busy” is a fact of life, but it’s also something I do to myself. I have devised all sorts of obligations and projects and responsibilities to keep me occupied. Most of the time, they rule me, instead of me ruling them. I’ve been wondering lately why I feel so bleak and uninspired, so twitchy and moody and unlike myself.

Well, duh. I’m running on empty. My books (as much as I love them) can only do so much to take me away. I’m still within four walls. Let it never be said that sensory experience is somehow less fulfilling or less necessary than intellectual experience. I need both, desperately, and I too often deprive myself of the former.

Headed back down the trail. Wildfire haze.

Moving here was a small miracle, but as the normalcy of it takes over, I’ve started to lose sight of that miracle. That’s my fault. I never want to take the life I have for granted. Serene places like this are a beautiful (and wholly undeserved) opportunity I’ve been given: to rest, recharge, reflect, appreciate… to position myself in a more complete reality than the one I narrow my vision to every day. And most importantly, to listen to the Poet speak: still creating, ever restless.

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