Monday August 10 was a melancholy day. It started with Susan Nelson’s funeral, and ended with saying goodbye to my parents who will spend the next year and a half in Italy, on an LDS mission. Somewhere between all the emotional upheaval, I turned 32. Happy birthday?
The next morning I left for a trip to King’s Peak in the High Uinta mountains. And I realized anew how therapeutic time at altitude can be. The clarity of the air, the beauty of the mountain valleys and the sheer magnitude of the peaks surrounding me seemed to permeate my emotional state-of-mind, reminding me that life is beautiful. That despite our low points, our challenges, and our inability to always grasp and understand the bigger picture, that we can retreat to places, some literal, that bring us peace in times of turmoil.
Life at altitude is simple. Our concerns were basic: water, food, sleep and scenery.
After standing atop King’s Peak, Utah’s highest mountain (13,528), I napped in my tent at 11,000 feet. The wind blew through the quiet pines, coming in gasps and howls, a constant presence both reassuring and threatening. But no storm followed. Instead, a golden evening, still and pleasant ended what was a grueling, but amazing day.
Standing on King’s Peak I had the opportunity to look around, and for as far as I could see there was nothing but vast and wonderful wilderness. Four mountain basins, filled with lakes, pines, long and deep grass, all converge into an upheaval of rock and boulder to create the peak and its surrounding competitors. I wished that I could stay there longer, forever even. Or, at least one more day, one more quiet evening, and one more cold, groggy morning.
But, one must come down. And such is life, I suppose.
I have a new sense of admiration and respect for the people I ride bikes with. When things that truly matter occur, when friends need one another, they are all present and accounted for. No questions asked. I suspect every one of them would have given up the most anticipated of races on the calendar to be in attendance Monday.
Life is peaks and valleys. In between those we enjoy a most wonderful journey, sometimes scenic, and other times not. But always an adventure, always worth the effort.
And that, I think, is the whole point.