None are ever truly certain how to conceive picturesque canvas’ alike the one before me. Each mountain ripples into each other with such a divine purpose, as to aid the following curvature in it’s soothing ebb and flow of earth and sky. Who would have imagined me and my twin, slapstick excuses for athletes, standing among this frosty current of brisk air, on the highest mountaintop our eyes have witnessed. Quite a strenuous journey I will admit, but to see the world as it should, to see the world as a flat portrait, intricately stenciled to a superb mass of color and silver linings.
It was a long way to this climax, on the yellow shell of a bus, with the air of an all encompassing transport to another universe, to an entirely separate way of feeling and consuming the world. The waking journey began in a little church parking lot in Binghamton, New York. A busload of eager scouts, had minds and hearts at the ready to be cultured.
Floating through New York, to Colorado, to New Mexico, we welcomed our pilgrimage with open arms. We vigilantly viewed the constantly contorting scenery, from dark greens of characteristically thick forests, to the thinning of all vegetation amid miles of tabular farmland, speckled with silos and rustic farm homes. Each hazy evening we set up camp at a family KOA or a state park on a notch in the interstate.
As the inevitable point of this saga was to hike the great Rockies, testing our physical stamina and empowering our entry into the trails of manhood, we arrived at Philmont Base Camp. A haphazard evening was all it took to wrestle the hundreds of pre-made, freeze dried, surprisingly edible food rations into our hiking bags, and wind up the bear bags with taught manilla climbing rope.
The century-old, worn wooden gate which led to the adventure before me creaked open, in an almost ominous ensemble. I wonder what dad would think of me. It’s hard to imagine only five years lacking his voice, while he peacefully sits in the ground. I might as well say he’s in the ground beneath my feet now. As cliches go; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, or so it goes.
This gate begins the first step. In a blur, I gathered my wits and fit my role, as an avid hiker. Though younger than the other kids, I stand on my ground (or ashes) with confidence, with no regard for their cliches, including singing the over-used, masculinity driven songs of Don’t Stop believing and Bohemian Rhapsody.
No matter the occasional social strain, our souls hiked together along treaded paths, through campsites chronicling the life of the founder, Waite Phillips. I recall one campsite built around Waite’s ponderosa pine cabin, in which an eloquent staff member stole my very heart with her cast-iron skillet abundant with peach cobbler.
The most endearing moment lay halfway through the campaign on a lazy evening, at Buena Vista campsite. Being without a tent for the evening, I slept nestled in my cotton-fiber sleeping bag, only to be awakened in the midst of the night by a brilliant light blazing across the luminous sky. I gazed up, to see every star imaginable, as if I’d stepped into the depths of space. Even the milky way curled its amorphous mass among the luminaries, like a dazzling river grande.
This epic mountain, named Baldy, was the height of my epiphany, and changed my life in unexpected ways within the years to come.
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