I spend quite a bit of time in nature by myself enjoying its beautiful scenery. I always come away in awe of the sights with my mind and soul recharged. My time in nature is my church surrounded by God's gifts where I can pray and feel at peace. In the serenity of nature I'm able to disengage my mind of current thoughts and let moments from my past enter my mind and enjoy reliving some of those cherished times.
Recently I was hiking in Colorado surrounded by the rugged Rocky Mountains, vibrant blue skies and the smell of pine trees when my thoughts drifted to a time several years ago when I was still a newbie to hiking at higher elevations. With my son Tyler and close friend Jim, we decided to do some hiking in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park. We heard about the challenges of hiking at higher elevations. We heard all about altitude sickness but the 3 of us from the plains of Nebraska felt we could handle it. But, it taught us a valuable lesson as we struggled to hike some of the short trails and even getting out of the car was challenging. The 3 boys from Nebraska learned quickly about the thin air in the Rocky Mountains.
After spending our first day struggling to adjust to the altitude we decided to go for a longer hike the next day. So we took the trail to Emerald Lake which starts at Bear Lake then it's a steady climb through the aspen groves and ponderosa pines passing by Nymph Lake and Dream Lake with views of Long's Peak along the way. We really struggled with the elevation gasping for air as we hiked slowly taking many breaks along the way. We hydrated often and our breaks turned out to be a godsend as we had plenty of time to look around and enjoy the amazing sights.
Capturing a Cherished Moment
After hours of hiking, we finally made it to Emerald Lake. The lake sits at over 10,000 feet in elevation, so the hike took its toll on us. We needed to rest so we sat by the lake and viewed the magnificent scenery. We were amazed at the sights as this was the first time each of us had experienced such a glorious sight in the mountains. The clean clear waters of the lake surrounded by rocky granite peaks were spectacular. The fresh mountain air started to rejuvenate our lungs and it felt so peaceful. Jim said at that moment he "felt a spirit in the air". I remember telling him, "I feel closer to God right now".
Sitting by the lake we forgot all about the struggle to get here. There was no stress or worries here. There was only a very special moment in nature shared by friends. A cherished moment where we were surrounded by God's gifts to us in nature and His spirit touching our souls.
Journey to Emerald Lake
Friends are Friends Forever
10 months later, Jim passed away unexpectedly. His passing left scars on my heart that are still healing 7 years later. Jim was my brother in life. We had many special moments together; so many road trips, fishing weekends, kayaking together and unforgettable cookouts in his backyard. For over 25 years he was my friend. Together we laughed, cried and shared our deepest thoughts. I would love to have one more special moment with Jim, but it's impossible. So, when I am out in the quiet and peace of nature, I think about him often and relive some of those cherished moments we shared, especially that day at Emerald Lake when we both felt the spirit in the sky.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Move on.
January 27, 1961 - May 13, 2014
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that's the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin' up to the spirit in the sky
- Norman Greenbaum