Have you ever become aware of history in the making? Have you pulled up from the activity at hand and realized that something special was happening beneath the surface? Such was last weekend for me.
It all started earlier in the year when our 19-year-old daughter, Emma, mentioned the idea of scaling a 14,000 ft.+ peak (or 14er) this summer. The idea intrigued me and I soon began to realize the impact of such a challenge. What a great way to step out of our comfort zones and stretch into an area of growth. Plus, the idea of bonding with Emma over a shared, conquered goal had the makings of a life-long memory.
Time went on and occasionally one of us would mention the topic. Finally, about three weeks ago, we were in Colorado and visited Emma at Eagle Lake Camp, where she is working this summer. We compared calendars, and picked July 27, 2013 as the date to climb Pikes Peak, our first 14er!
If you’ve driven through Colorado Springs, Colorado, you have noticed the massive peak standing guard over the city and surrounding mountains, imposing its massive height of 14,110 feet on the landscape.
On the Friday before our hike, our 18-year-old son, Zach, and I pulled into town. Pikes Peak and the surrounding mountains formed various shades of gray-green. The overlaid shadows created a beautiful pallet of tones, almost eerie in the mist of afternoon thunderstorms. Pikes Peak seemed to stand in defiance, almost taunting me for even thinking about conquering it.
Saturday morning started with a 4:00 Marimba alarm tone on my iPhone announcing it was showtime. By 5:50 we were starting our hike up the Barr Trail of Pikes Peak. The trail is 13 miles and represents an increase in elevation of 7,500 feet – the largest gain of any mountain trail in Colorado.
Emma, Zach, my nephew Peter, and I began our hike to the top, where we planned to eat a famous Pikes Peak donut, rest, and then ride the Cog Train back down the mountain.
We plodded up the trail, occasionally stopping to still our beating hearts and catch our breaths. We’d take a quick drink and then return to our steady pace – onward and upward!
Pikes Peak is known for dangerous lightening storms that pop up in the afternoon. The threat of early afternoon lightning kept us moving. We needed to summit by mid-day to avoid the more probable lightning strikes that occur in the afternoon. Close to tree-line, we saw multiple trees that had been struck by lightning – somber sentinels warning us of this real threat as we climbed higher.
The first six miles were challenging but unfolded with comparable ease. The last half of the hike proved to be more difficult. The final three miles could be best described as grueling. At one point, Emma turned to me and, between panting breaths said, “I’m going to die”. I replied “Yes, you will, but not today!”
It became all we could do to walk several yards and then stop to recover, before continuing up the trail and repeating the cycle. The farther we hiked, the less oxygen the atmosphere offered up to our burning lungs.
I love challenges like this because they reward the persistence of those who dare to conquer them. Victory does not require the fleet-of-foot, it simply demands that you persist – that you don’t give up.
Finally, after eight hours of hiking, we reached the summit. Zach and Peter arrived first, then a few minutes later, Emma waited for me to catch up with her so that we could summit together. What a moment! The “Why did we do this?” comments that I heard earlier in the hike turned to grateful exuberance upon reaching the top.
Perhaps most gratifying to this father is hearing two of my children say, “Dad, this was the hardest thing that I have ever done.” WOW, a statement like that makes a dad’s heart leap. You see, we live in a world that so often tries to limit our options and dismiss our true potential. Even worse, we tend to play negative, self-limiting recordings in our minds daily. “You can’t do this”, “You don’t know how to do that”. You know what I am talking about.
I have no doubt that the our experience of hiking up Pikes Peak will echo in our hearts and minds for years to come. Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will hear the story, and be inspired to write their own. I am already thinking about which 14er to climb next.
The experience was a poignant life lesson, and provided a glimpse of our potential. True growth and discovery always lie just outside our comfort zone. We stepped out of the status quo and reached heights (physically and mentally) that we have never enjoyed before.
What’s your Pikes Peak? What challenge in business or life will you decide to conquer? I know this, that the struggle will create a memorable journey, and the results will take you to a new level of achievement. It all begins with the first step at the trailhead.