A year ago, I had only just heard of the 14ers in Colorado and their popularity as a hiking destination. I had no knowledge of the alpine environment. I had never seen a marmot nor had I experienced many of the magnificent flowers that have adapted to the harsh environment at elevation. Coming into my first season with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, I didn’t know what to expect. Yes, I’d spent long hours digging in the dirt, building structures with raw material from the Earth. I’d backcountry camped and have hiked in places more beautiful than I could imagine until being there. I have connected with a crew of strangers working towards common goals.
Here though, the experience is different. It’s unique in how the climb is higher and the air is thinner. My perception constantly is shifting while my internal and external body is working harder than it ever has before. Everything around me is amplified and my senses are heightened. Colors are more vibrant, sound is more clear. Many of the alpine flowers are so aromatic and euphoric. The whistling of the marmot and pika cuts the air. Any shift in the weather drastically alters the body.
There is an intense energy resonating from the mountain and I am still learning from it.
I like the symbolism of the mountain, and its transitional stature. It is born of rock and stands strong as it reaches towards the sky. For those who make the journey, there is a level of struggle that is endured. A force is constantly working against us mentally and physically and it is up to you thrive.
I admit, I haven’t peaked yet. Yes. Really. I’ve never hiked to the top of a 14er. I’m too tired at the end of the work day and too tired on my days off. I’m building up to it. For now I’m content being just below and out of reach of the summit. I have the pleasure of maintaining the trails that will eventually guide me in my journey up. I look forward to the experience and the sense of awe I will have; the detachment from life outside of the mountain and its concrete values and materialistic nature. I will instead enjoy the abstract energy at the peak, experience the multiplicity of the universe and soak in its beauty, romanticizing my trek as I am now.
It’s easy to fall in love with the alpine, and many people have. I reflect on how great it is to be a part of an organization that is so passionate in protecting and restoring it as more and more traverse the terrain, and how wonderful it is to work with volunteers and to meet people who are equally as passionate. I am grateful for the experience.