By the time we’d hiked a half-mile or so, Randa and I were up above the fields and meadows that wrap around the southeastern base area of Horsetooth Mountain. The glare of sun reflected fully from the surface of the lake a couple of thousand feet below and a few miles away. We walked along a trail studded with pink granite and grouted with centuries of dirt and gravel as we moved into the timber. Mountain pine and western cedar scented the breeze.
Another mile up the trail and there were few glimpses of the wide plains or vast mountains. More often than not, we had a close view of boulders and trees, wildflowers and other weeds—the indigenous flora of the area. Occasionally we could see a glimpse of distant waters gleaming in the sun but it was mostly the things you see when you’re hiking through the timberline on a mountain trail: small vines and brush growing under the canopy of taller trees and bigger brush.
In the vicinity of seven thousand feet above sea level, we paused and rested at the base of a large outcropping. Granite rose up above the trees, a series of humped bulges of rock. Decades of dead needles nested against the boulders at the base. Nothing but lichen was growing on the upper seventy-five feet of the cluster.
We made our way carefully up through the sparse vegetation at the base, choosing each step to minimize any disturbance and prevent any damage. Our French Brittany Spaniel scrambled up with us, sometimes in between Randa and me and sometimes leading. Once atop the first section of rock, we paused and looked out to the south and east.
Until one has stood in wonder from some great vantage point, it is nearly impossible to comprehend the scale of these mountains, the scale of the terrain, the scale of the high plains of eastern Colorado. The beauty of sun shimmering clear waters, the fading layers of ridge after ridge after ridge, the smell of a mountain breeze on a morning so clear you think you can almost see tomorrow. Even Layla seemed to sense the significance of the moment; she sat quietly, ears cocked, looking one way and then another.
From such moments I try to remember, when the closeness of obstacles and the nearness of smaller things seems to overwhelm me: if I want to gain a greater view, I may have to do a bit of climbing off of the beaten path and away from the relative ease of the clearer trail. I may have to sacrifice comfort and convenience.
If we wish to see farther than we have seen before or simply to remind ourselves that our lives are greater than our present circumstance, we must take the chance of a higher perspective. Even though it may confirm that we have much farther to go, it also testifies as to how far we’ve come.
And the same grace that brought us this far will surely take us home.