Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Long Path...

When I started this blog, I named it Paths to Learning because I love to take walks, especially ones that are off the beaten path. Raising 5 kids, being a stay at home mom and homeschooling besides, was another “off the beaten path” hike I took and I saw many similarities between the two.

I started to think about the hardest [non-metaphorical] path I ever took and my mind went back over 35 years to a time when my sister Gail and I were camping in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We had driven out from Michigan in her VW bug for a week’s vacation. We surveyed the topographical maps and took short hikes to accustom ourselves to the thin air and higher altitude. I always get altitude sick, so for the first few days we did the regular tourist hikes around Bear Lake, up to Emerald Lake and a few others. We took a hike up to Twin Sisters and got in a hail storm attempting Flat Top. Then, two days before we were to go back to Michigan, we went to a ranger talk in the park.

It was the old days, where the ranger built a nice fire, got out his slide projector and then proceeded to talk about the night’s theme. That night it was “Long’s Peak.” Long's Peak is the highest peak in the park—towering over the other peaks at over 14,000 feet. The East face is bleak and threatening and only skilled mountain climbers can make the peak that way; but, if you go around the back, there is an easier way.

The ranger showed flora and fauna, talked about seasons and so forth, but when he said that if you wanted to make the peak in one day you had to leave the base station at 3:00 am—Gail and I looked at each other and smiled. We have always been kindred spirits of sort, and we knew.

We were going to try it.

We actually left the fire-side program, and smelling of wood smoke and bug spray, we made our way back to our tent. Gail said, “Well?” and I nodded. We set the alarm for 2:30, packed our day packs and lay down to sleep. Morning was going to come way too soon. By 3:00 am we were parked at the trail head, dressed in layers, flashlights in hand. We signed in the trail registry, and were off.

It was dark and very lonely. I don’t know if Gail was scared, but I was. I mean, what were we doing? Two girls on a path in the mountains in the middle of the night—what were we thinking?

[Continued tomorrow--picture of me about 35 years ago, resting on a path in the Smokey Mountains]

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