Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Horn Creek Mountain Top Experience

Last week was my family's annual trek to the mountains of Colorado for Family Camp at Horn Creek. We love it. Our year isn't the same without Horn Creek, so we literally do everything in our power to make the trip happen. This year was particularly tough because we weren't in a position financially to be able to go, but thanks to some very generous folks who work at the camp we were able to migrate northwest for a week in the thin, beautiful air of Horn Creek.

There were many wonderful things that happened at Horn Creek this year, and it was probably my favorite trip since we started coming 4 years ago. Pierce was easier to handle this time around, and even when he did generate some chaos, the other campers seemed better prepared to deal with his quirks. Jillian and the boys went and did as they pleased, and they frolicked and built forts and observed (and sometimes captured) wildlife with more skill and freedom that ever before. Kim and I had more time to sit and talk and enjoy the scenery than in years past, and we began to feel like Horn Creek was more "ours" than not.

The highlight of the trip, by far, happened on Thursday when Kim, Trent, Cale and I hiked to the 13,450 ft summit Horn Peak. We began in a meadow at 6:00 a.m., and as we hiked to the base of the mountain, we realized we were in for a very difficult day. Ten minutes into the hike we were seriously re-thinking our summit attempt. We just couldn't seem to catch our breath. And by "we", I mean Kim and me, because Trent and Cale showed no signs of struggle. I think there's probably something very empowering to a kid when he discovers he's stronger, on some level, than his parents. It was good to see my kids empowered.

By the time we got to the tree line (which is the place where the oxygen levels are so thin that tree's can't grow) we were exhausted. Again, by "we", I mean Kim and me. The boys were still fresh as a mountain stream. Little punks! Our guide informed us at this point that it would take at least three more hours to reach the peak. Three more hours!! How could that be? We had already hiked for 3.5 hours, and it looked from our perspective like the top of the mountain was only a couple of hundred yards away. Our guide was obviously mistaken. We'd be at the top in less than an hour.

The sad truth is that it took us more than three hours to get there. Oh yeah, and by "us", I mean Kim and me. The boys hit the summit a full hour before we waddled to the top. We collapsed there with our two oldest sons, and we took in a panorama of some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. It was an exhilarating, confidence boosting accomplishment for all involved, and it was the kind of thing that made me long for more of this kind of activity with my family. I made it a goal on the top of that mountain that I would climb this mountain with each of my children before I die.

I want my kids to know that true accomplishment is more than getting to the next level on a video game. I want them to know that they can overcome tremendous obstacles and still achieve great things. I want them to know what beauty looks like. I want them to feel small compared to God's handiwork, and I want them to know that when they do, I'll be right there with them, feeling even smaller. I want them to know that how you descend is just as important as how you ascend, and I want them to understand that risk and danger are sometimes parts of the journey that you must embrace instead of avoid.

When we got to the top of the mountain I looked at Cale and said, "You know what the bad thing about climbing a mountain is?" He answered, "No." "You can never say 'I can't' again", I responded. "I'll know better, because if you can climb a mountain, you can do just about anything." He thought, nodded his head, and said, "Yep." Then I said, "Do you know what the good thing about climbing a mountain is?" "What?" he replied. "You can never say I can't again."

I'm not sure he understood where I was going with that, but I knew that one day he'd realize that having a never quit mentality would become a great asset. That's the kind of thing you can only learn by experiencing something bigger than yourself. Horn Creek gives us those kinds of opportunities, and that's why we love it.

You should probably find a way to get to Horn Creek sometime!