Being a John Denver fan, and having sung along to Rocky Mountain High since high school, when I drove into Colorado I was anxious to see Rocky Mountain National Park and hike the beautiful terrain. I parked the car in Estes Park to catch the shuttle and was surprised to find the atmosphere a bit like a seaside carnival town with miniature golf, giant slides, bumper cars, and tourist garb in tiny storefront windows. It reminded me of my drive through Pigeon Forge (see my post “Flying Takes Wings and Guts”), definitely not what I was expecting in my visions of Rocky Mountain High. But once into the park I saw just what I had hoped.
As is customary these days I started up a conversation with the man who sat next to me on the shuttle. He was from Seattle so we struck up an easy familiarity right away. It was one of those conversations that flowed along so that the 45 minute bus ride went by *POOF*. His name was David, he had the most striking blue eyes and he was there to hike with his buddies. We encouraged each other by our stories and similarities, both divorced, both seekers, both extremely happy, and loving mother nature. It was a divine conversation and I hopped off the bus feeling enhanced by a stranger’s view of life. His business is coaching people to love their jobs and making the most of their business, or at least that is MY interpretation. And I’m sure he is good at it for he was inspirational in just the few moments we shared a bus seat. I ADORE these momentary encounters, it makes me feel that magic can happen at any second!
So after taking the shuttle to the furthest point in the park I talked with the rangers about hikes and set off to see a waterfall and a couple of lakes beyond. I was singing my Rocky Mountain High theme song for the day and got teary at the extraordinary beauty, the aspens, the mountain streams, the clouds….oh yes, the clouds. They soon became threatening and I sought the shelter of a grove of trees and had snacks as the first rain came down. The best part of this downpour was the mushrooms I sat right next to. They were the most beautiful mushrooms I have ever seen, straight out of Alice and Wonderland!
The rain stopped and I continued up the mountain past the waterfall. But then the weather decided to take a turn for the worse and lightning and thunder started in. I really should buy a lightweight rain jacket. It would have come in handy. My thought was, “Oh it will pass over, no problem” as I continued up determined to get to the beautiful lake. Everyone else was scurrying down past me as I was going up.
Now I know it’s not that safe to hike the mountain ridges in a lightning storm, so I was watching and keeping my senses and intuition alert with altitude gain. It was starting to rain with booming thunder and the clouds were darker and more threatening so I decided I better turn back and give up my lake view. If you read my last post (“Hippies, Hipsters and Heroes”) I had to turn back on that hike too because of altitude sickness, so this time I just laughed, feeling it was a test to see if I had learned my lesson of not being hard on myself for failing to reach the goal. I can happily report that yes, I am learning!
The rain was now dumping, and I had only a lightweight top on, keeping a long-sleeved shirt dry in my backpack, so I dove into a grove of trees only to find another man sharing my haven. He hardly looked at me, being hunkered under a tree in a raincoat keeping the rain off his face. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, I decided that if I was going to be stuck under this tree for who knows how long, I was going to meet my grove-mate and strike up a conversation. So I asked where he was from and he perked right up, pulled out his glasses to see me better and we chatted away like new-found friends while the rain came in torrents. When it finally let up a bit, we both headed down the trail together in happy companionship and conversation to the bottom. He was a mountain man of sorts. All he does is hike 10 months out of the year, he hasn’t worked for 10 years, I have no idea how he survives but he has a truck and does back country overnight hiking into all the national parks. It was like walking with John Muir! He gave me tips for my continued adventures and we parted ways at a fork in the trail.
So even the rain had a destiny for me. I chose to engage him in conversation to find an angel in disguise. It was such a great lesson for making the most out of an uncomfortable situation. The ol’ when given lemons make lemonade kinda thing. I was very wet when I got to the bottom of my trail, but then the sun came out bright and beautiful to dry me off. It was as if the rain came just to chase me into the trees to meet a man who lives simply and without the trappings of material possessions. I missed getting to see the lakes, but between the guy on the shuttle bus, my beautiful mushrooms and now this modern mountain man I felt deliriously happy to be alive.
Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake
And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high