The snowshoe hike through the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park, Colorado was supposed to ‘warm us up’ for skiing the next day, but as the wind hurled chunks of snow at my defenseless 14 year old self, I wondered if I’d ever feel warm again. Taylor, Jessie, and Shaquan had given up long ago, deciding they’d rather sit sheltered under a rock than continue on or backtrack to the church van all by themselves. No one really knew where the Clarks had gone, but we warily assumed they were ahead of us. Patrick, Sydney, and I were the only kids left, and we tried to stick together.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
On the way to Emerald Lake, Patrick, who had idiotically taken off his snowshoes, fell waist-deep into the powder and couldn’t get up. I grabbed both of his hands, attempting to pull him onto stable ground, which turned out to be a terrible decision. I collapsed right beside him, sending Sydney, who was behind me, down with us. Exasperated, we stayed there for probably 5 minutes, nervously laughing and trying not to act embarrassed whenever ‘professional’ hikers passed us on the trail. At some point, one experienced looking guy helped us out. I don’t remember exactly what he told us to do, but it involved a lot of rolling and maneuvers that reminded me a little too much of the splits.
Onward we trudged, following snowy signs we could barely read and hoping for the best. Somewhere along the way we met up with our group leader, Mr. Andy, the one who planned this as our ‘warm-up activity.’ We didn’t hold back on expressing how utterly miserable we all were, but he insisted we take the opportunity to marvel at God’s power and creation. I heard someone grumble, “Pretty soon we’re all gonna MEET God.”
Following tremendous efforts, we saw a sign marking “Emerald Lake,” which was all fine and good, except for that we didn’t see a lake anywhere. Pat, Syd, and I couldn’t contain our laughter, and the sarcastic comments rolled towards Andy faster than the snow could accumulate on our jackets. We decided to keep walking out to a big rock in the middle of the ‘lake’, which looked like a perfect photo opp. After snapping some pretty dangerous shots, we began to walk back to the trail and continue the long trek to the van. Then, slowly, but all at once, something drastically changed. I couldn’t tell immediately what had happened, but I heard “RUN!” and saw the look of panicked faces, and decided that running was exactly the thing to do. I looked behind me for a split second, and then it hit me – the lake existed, it was covered with snow, we were on it, and the ice had cracked. This realization led me to jump on a rock I guessed was near the bank, just in time to watch Patrick and Sydney sprint away from the quickly cracking ice, which looked to be chasing them. It was honestly a situation straight out of a cartoon.
After we narrowly escaped death, and somehow made it back down the mountain, we climbed into the church van, caked in ice, nearly frostbitten, and so worn out we couldn’t speak. I peeled the ice out of my eyebrows, took off my multiple sleet-covered toboggans, pulled my feet out of my battered UGG boots (pro tip: don’t go hiking in UGG boots), and looked around at all of my other weary friends. I was tired, cold, in pain, and almost dead – but I couldn’t stop smiling.
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