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Swish, swish, flap, swish, flap. The walls of my tent begin to shake vigorously. I roll over, rub my eyes, and try to figure out what in the hell is going on. Waking up from the long, cold nights sleep at 10,000 feet, my senses are not exactly what I would call “sharp as a tack”. I unzip my sleeping bag and a rush of cold mountain air sends shivers down my spine. I scramble around the tent, frantically trying to find some warm clothes. As I hop out of the tent, I realize the shaking was coming from the other members in my group giving me a camper’s wake up call. Still in a morning daze, I ask, “What’s for breakfast?” After the laughter dies down, I realize the Clif bar I packed the day before will be the only breakfast I get.
As I scramble around camp, I notice the first glints of sunshine shoot over the ridge to the east and the moon slowly tucking itself into bed behind the ridge on the west. I wipe the dew off the face of my watch, 6:03am. I take a deep breath of the mountain air, as clean as pure spring water and then I feel nature begin to call.
With the first task of the day accomplished, I pack up camp and prepare for the days hike. The higher up the mountain I go, more and more of my group members began to fade. Some of the members stop to rest on a log that has fallen victim to Mother Nature. Others pause to take pictures of themselves, overlooking the valley below. The lake glimmers from the sun’s rays and the cool north winds push the clouds across the sky. Feeling excited now, I want to keep going to get the view from the top. Sitting on a log to rest or taking pictures just does not seem so appealing anymore.
I do not know what about hiking in the mountains that became so addicting to me, but there is definitely something about it. Maybe it is the way that all my worries and troubles seem to disappear into the land. I run around all day climbing peak after peak, not thinking twice about the rest of the world. All the TV’s, cell phones, palm pilots and other gadgets of the day that seem to keep me entertained at home are like a candle in the wind when compared to Mother Nature, who offers plenty to keep me occupied.
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On the other hand, it could be the beauty of the land that keeps me hungry for more. “We’re going to God’s country” dad said as the grin on his face grew larger and larger with every mile marker we passed. The aspen trees with their white, flakey trunks, and the freshwater mountain streams trickling down over rocks and twigs placed there ever so careful by a busy beaver just hours earlier, decorate the interior of the mountains. The sounds of the birds and hawks singing in the sky, the squirrel collecting nuts for winter and the fish jumping out of the water to catch a few rays of sunlight soothe my soul. I now understood what my dad meant when he called it “God’s country”. I just want to stay in Colorado forever.
As the week went on my dad kept making comments on how much the land had changed in the last 20 years. “I used to climb up mountains to feel freedom...,” he would say. Standing at the top of a mountain with 10 other people just did not make him feel that same freedom he felt when he was the only one up there
For me it is very different. When I stand at the top of the mountain looking out at the rows of endless peaks as far as the eye can see I realize it is not freedom that motivated me to finish the climb. Do not get me wrong I feel the freedom he was talking about, but I have grown so accustom to it in my everyday life that I would rather stay in bed than climb a mountain to feel this. Instead, I feel amazed. Not amazed that I made the climb but amazed that there is such a place left in the highly commercialized world that we live in. Twenty years ago, Estes Park would have been the perfect escape from civilization. Not today however. It has become so commercialized that it is noted for tourist activity.
Something has to be done about this. I cannot sit back and watch our growing society ruin the lands natural beauty. But what can be done? Lots! There are many conservation plans out there and until people start doing their part, they will stay just that, a plan. Ever since I got back from this backpacking trip, I have noticed a change in the way I treat nature. It disgusts me to look around the city and see all the trash that covers the streets. Think twice before you chuck out that gum wrapper. Before you know it there may not be any clean places left for us to go after we have trashed the places we inhabit now.