Ain’t this somethin’? I told my pap and mam I was going to be a mountain man; acted like they was gut-shot. “Make your life go here, son. Here’s where the peoples is.” “Mother Gue”, I says, “the Rocky Mountains is the marrow of the world,” and by God, I was right. Keep your nose in the wind and your eye along the skyline. These here is God’s finest sculpturings! And there ain’t no laws for the brave ones! And there ain’t no asylums for the crazy ones! And there ain’t no churches, ‘cept for this right here! And there ain’t no priests excepting the birds. — Del Gue, Jeremiah Johnson
Mike and I first rode along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park when we were in our early thirties. It was spring and we were unprepared for the cold weather that lingered. The road had only recently reopened for tourists. There were dark clouds and a mist hung over the mountains. When we got out of our car to view the majestic peaks the frigid wind cut right through our sea level dwelling bones. We shivered but we were so in awe that we didn’t care that we were freezing. I had never in my life seen anything like the range that spread out in front of me. I was literally overcome with emotion upon seeing it and I felt as though I was truly in God’s cathedral. I would return to this incredible spot again and again.
The next time we came we brought our girls. We slept at night in the back of our truck which had been converted into sleeping quarters with a camper top. When we took our daughters to Trail Ridge Road they were as mesmerized as we had been. We played John Denver’s The Eagle and the Hawk as we drove higher and higher and were swept away by the awesomeness of what we saw. We climbed on mushroom rock and took the trail to the summit at the visitor’s center. We looked into the distance at a mountain in Wyoming and realized that we were but a small part of the universe.
Eventually we bought a big canvas tent and we slept on the floor nestled in sleeping bags to protect us from the cold. It was a great and reliable home away from home. Even in the most frightful thunderstorms it kept us warm and dry. At times lightning lit up the inside like the neon lights in Times Square. We always felt as safe and secure as possible. Each time we visited Rocky Mountain National Park we travelled back along Trail Ridge Road and the Old Fall River Road. We marveled at the peaks that had stood like sentinels since the earliest times. We never grew weary of coming back to see them. Each time was a different experience depending on the time of day and the weather. They were alive!
I continued to hear the siren call of the mountains again and again. Sometimes I literally felt compelled to come back as though something in my DNA needed to be near the peaks to feel satisfied and content. Over and over again I would travel to the same place to see the same things because they were so precious to me. I would find a calm and contentment that sometimes eluded me back in the city.
Mike and I celebrated our fortieth anniversary in the mountains. We rented a cabin that time. We had grown too weary of sleeping on the ground. We preferred the creature comforts. As we drove in the mountains we saw shimmering golden aspen trees and elk sunning in meadows. At home hurricane Ike was raging but we were happy and content in our mountain hideaway. It was the perfect way for us to spend the celebration of our married life together.
Once again we are back in the place that we love so much. We drove along Trail Ridge Road and now know it so well that we anticipate the view from every curve and turn. We drove its length and then back. As the day drew late the weather was so much like it had been on our first venture there. Storm clouds were gathering and they encircled the summits of the peaks. I felt a sense of deja vu and suddenly remembered the way I had felt on my first journey there. I was once again overcome with pleasant emotion. I was at home in “the marrow of the world.” I saw the mountains as God’s creation and I thanked Him for giving us such a great and timeless gift. Tears of joy literally gathered in my eyes.
I’ll be leaving soon but I know that I will be back. My psyche depends on returning to this place. For one hundred years Rocky Mountain National Park has provided the public with the opportunity to see a stunning natural wonder. People flock from all over the world just as I do. Like me and Del Gue they feel something spiritual about being in the mountains. I’ve felt closer to God in the last few days. I hear His voice in the wind. I see His glory in the vistas. I share my joy with my family and strangers alike. Everyone seems untroubled here just as I am. My feet meet the earth and even though they stumble a bit because my knee is not fully healed, I feel as though I am floating on the air. These are indeed God’s finest sculptures. I feel blessed to enjoy them.