By Jerry D. Haight
First period after lunch, English class, boring teacher, hot afternoon, sun pouring through the west window; it was way beyond dull to the 10th grade student. Instead of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns and other parts of speech, my mind wondered a little north of west where the majestic Longs Peak was clearly visible even though more than 50 miles away from South High in Denver. At more than 14,200 ft, It is the ninth highest mountain in Colorado among 53 fourteeners (those towering over 14,000 ft.) (The highest is 14,400 ft. Mt. Elbert, near Leadville.)
Through the same window and a bit more south of west is, arguably, the nation's most famous landmark, Pikes Peak about 100 ft. lower than my mountain. Pikes is nowhere near as rugged as Longs and is accessible by the world famous cog railway and by automobile, not exactly a mountain climbers dream. Longs was by far my favorite and the easiest to watch with but a slight movement of my eye and unless the teacher happened to call on me, waking me from my day dream I could gaze with impunity.
My love of the rugged monument to God's handiwork began when as a pre teen lad and a member of the Highlander Boys (www.highlanderboys.org), I spent two weeks each summer at band camp held in a large campground in Rocky Mountain National Park near the foot of the mountain. Even then at an early age, the peak was a distraction and thus captivated, I never could manage to stay in step with the rest of the marching band because every glance at the sheer beauty of the place took my breath away and commandeered my focus. To this day, every walk out the front door of our Estes Park summer home brings me face to face with the massive peak (now less than 10 miles away).
Long ago, I wondered about my fascination with the mountain, finding it as close to being eternal as anything visible. If you view it with very powerful binoculars or a telescope you might see a climber appearing as a minute speck. Then, measuring the life spans of the mountain in eons, and comparing it to that of humankind, measured in decades, it puts us into time perspective. Much like fireflies, lighting up a night sky only to burn out in a fleeting moment, we too shall all soon disappear. This is true regardless of our name, stature or perceived importance. To me, this mountain puts life into perspective when compared with the eternal..
The Psalmist of the Old Testament, speaking to the invisible Eternal, said "You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before You. Each man's life is but a breath" Psa 39-
Amos, a prophet of the Old Testament said of the same invisible Eternal, "He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, He who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth-
In forming the mountain, His handiwork embodies a multifaceted ecosystem that is nothing short of amazing. Consider just one aspect of this system, water. The high mountain collects snow from late September to mid April give or takes a few weeks. As winter gives way to spring, temperatures rise, the snow melts into rivulets, flowing into brooks, streams and creeks. Water then flows into alpine lakes (nature’s reservoirs), or goes underground into bottomless springs; but all to the end of providing a never ending cycle of water. Mountain ranges create their own climate and most every afternoon showers generate more snow in winters and rain in the spring and summer so that there is always nourishment to the flora and fauna of the system. How long this cycle has continued unabated is anyone’s guess.
My mountain is the southern pillar of a spectacular horseshoe shaped mountain range with most peaks over 13000 ft.. To the north is the Mummy Range. Both majestic ranges nestle the town of Estes Park Colorado. But to see them, you have to go through the Big Thompson Canyon from Loveland or the St.Vrain Canyon from Longmont. In both cases the high mountain ranges are obscure until the very last curve of the drive.
When the town comes dramatically into view, the scene is awesome. Were I marching in a band parading out of the canyons, most likely I would be the one out of step but to this day, while making the drive, my eyes well up with tears at the specter and I always find a lump in my throat. I simply love my mountain.
No matter where I go my mind’s eye can see the unmistakable profile of the famous "keyhole" and the sheer cliff known as “the diamond”. If they are still there when I open my eyes, I know I am home.