With my trusty sketchbook clutched in one hand and my crumpled plane ticket in the other, I shot my parents one last goodbye glance as I stepped onto the boarding ramp. The destination: Colorado Springs, Colorado. Since all my prior adventures had kept my parents within arms reach, I realized as I watched the terminal dissolve into the corn stained landscape of Ohio that I had not simply taken a step toward independence. I had taken a giant leap that sent me flying through the sky. Little did I know, I was not actually making this flight alone. Hidden behind the glowing screen of my dad’s laptop, my family tracked my flight anxiously and held their breath at every update. But that is beside the point.
After several hours in a crowded cabin my plane began its ascent through the layers of clouds, and I was exposed to my first sight of Colorado. As I gazed upon mountain peaks that seemed to prick the clouds, I could not help but feel short of breath. If this was due to the altitude or nature’s display, I may never know. Nevertheless, my love affair with those mountains began at that exact moment. Over the course of two weeks we grew quite close, spending early morning walks and sunset lounges in each other’s presence.
Usually nature and I do not see eye to eye. I especially like to keep hiking and other outdoor activities a spectator’s sport on my part. However, one brisk morning I laced up my boots, grabbed a water bottle and started to scale the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. With every step I took, my senses exploded with bursts of color, shape, sounds, and texture. Aqua and amethyst stone littered the paths like broken china. The reverberation of water gushing through the nearby stream caressed my ear, making me subconsciously move my feet to match the smooth rhythm. After following the trampled trail for dozens of twists and turns, I was nearly ready to turn back due to an unexpected mosquito militia when there was a sudden break in the mighty Aspen tree line. It was as if the mountains were presenting me with our one week anniversary gift: the glorious view of the summits and depths of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains all in one outlook. The vibrancy of the Colorado sky coupled with the cool emerald foliage and delicate wisps of fog rivaled the works of the greatest painters: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Bob Ross.
I spent fourteen days in Colorado, taking art classes and experiencing the most awe-inspiring landscape of my life. Despite finding myself in a foreign land, I was soon to find a companion, a friend, who never left my sight. My protectors were the mountains that had acted as the backdrop to my Colorado expedition. Go figure that the girl who preferred bustling skyscrapers would fall in love with those idyllic mountain peaks. Just the way that those natural wonders appeared to reach up into the sky, I felt like they were reaching out to me. Taking my hand when I needed one the most, and helping me to know that even if my parents were not near, I have what it takes to care for myself. As I started my flight back to Ohio, and craned my neck to get one last peak at the grand Sangre de Cristo Mountain range, I felt a tinge of homesickness begin to nestle itself in my throat. For although I found my independence while on vacation, I accidentally lost a part of my heart in Colorado.
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