Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Walk in the Clouds

I haven't been this sore in years. Yesterday, Taylor and I went on a colossal hike in the Pecos Mountains. We went with Pat and Jake Smith. Pat grew up hiking and camping, so I don't think this was as rough for him as it was for me, although I know that he was struggling at the end like I was! I - on the other hand - grew up playing baseball in the park and Atari in my living room. I was way out of my league on this one!

We drove up to Jack's Creek campground north of Santa Fe Monday evening and slept in our vans over night. We were on the trail by 7AM yesterday morning with our sights set on the 12,500 feet peak of the East Pecos Baldy mountain. It's 9 miles from the campground to the peak with a 4,100 feet incline over those 9 miles. By the time we hit the Pecos Baldy Lake - which is a natural resting place before ascending to the peak - a storm started brewing in the east. We quickly ate and began our final climb, and as we did, the thunder began to roar in the distance.

When we were about 200 feet from the top, it began to rain. The storm was moving in fast, so much so that a group of hikers who were very close to the top decided to turn back. They passed us heading down, warning us of the high winds above. Pat asked me what I thought we should do. I couldn't tell him what I really wanted to do...die! By that time, I was hurting. The air was thin, the climb was getting steeper and steeper, and the trail was covered with jagged, shifting rocks. The thin air and steep incline forced us to stop to catch our breath about every 20-30 feet that we climbed. As exhausted as I was, we were so close to the top that I didn't want to turn back. So, I told Pat that we should go for it...and we did.

The boys scurried on ahead (oh to be 12 again!), and Pat and I forged on. When we reached the top, we were greeted by a monstrous cloud wall heading right toward us. It was quite surreal. Knowing that we were completely exposed to the storm at 12,500 feet, we quickly slapped high fives, took a few pictures, and promptly began our ascent back down. As we raced off of the peak, the clouds roared in and enveloped us. At times, we could barely see each other. It was truly "a walk in the clouds." Amazingly, we didn't get very wet, and once we were off the summit, the clouds seemed to roll around us but not over us.

I wish I could tell you some deep spiritual truth that I learned while walking in the clouds, but I really can't think of any. It was a bit frightening, but I really was fully aware that God was in control during all of it. I was actually more concerned about how bad I felt, knowing that the climax of conquering the peak meant that we were only half way done with the hike. We had nine more grueling miles to go to get back to the camp!

All in all, it was an awesome experience. Nothing like being with your son and some good friends on top of the world! However, I don't think I'll ever do that hike again! As I write, I'm lying in bed applying an ice / heat regiment to my left knee. I think I really messed it up yesterday, so please pray for me. I don’t know whether this is something that will get better as the rest of my sore body does or not. Please pray that it does.

I'm not opposed to trying to conquer some of New Mexico's other mountain peaks, I just want to find some that I can park a little closer to next time!


Jill said...

You know you can drive to the top of Pike's Peak. It's hard on the brakes but easy on the knees! There is just one thing...there are no guard rails. You'd better get your tattoo before you make the trip. You'll need the constant reminder "Fear Not".

Just a thought from your older sister.

Mike Potter said...

Funny, sis. Michelle and I laughed pretty hard at your comment. You're getting funnier in your old age!

Darcy said...

Wow. That is a seriously ambitious hike...and I like to hike/camp. It's nice to be challenged though (sometimes) and do something we never thought we could do though, isn't it?

You guys could do the Tent Rocks hike once it cools down. October is usually a good time - just watch the weather - you don't want to get caught in a flash flood. But, it is a great hike. I'd label it as "moderate". And a good day trip too: go get apples and cider at Dixon's apple orchard and then do the hike and have a picnic lunch! Fun, fun!

Pike's Peak has a train or something doesn't it? Easy on the knees and the brakes too...
Those Coloradoans don't believe in guard rails! Just do the drive from Durango to Ouray - 10,000 foot drop and a narrow road - no guard rail!