Friday, August 14, 2009

On the Mountaintop

My final hike of this vacation was to Deception Peak, an ascent of about 2,200 feet from the Santa Fe Ski Basin. This peak is 12,200 feet in elevation and is above the timber line. In the photo above, Deception Peak is the little hump to the left of the middle peak that is called Lake Peak.

Because of the high altitude and steep ascent, I found this hike both challenging and exhilarating. Because I live at sea level, I was breathing hard on the ascent. There is 30% less oxygen at 10,000 feet than at sea level and I had first-hand experience of this!

The exhilarating part of this hike was its rugged and natural beauty. On the way up I enjoyed large alpine meadows filled with wildflowers (Indian paintbrush, asters, sunflowers and columbine), granite formations jutting out of the hillside, and a gorgeous view of Nambe Lake about 1,000 feet below.

After I arrived at the summit (after 1.5 hours of hiking), I spent about 20 minutes enjoying views of landmarks of the Pecos Wilderness: the Truchas Peaks (all over 13,000 feet), Santa Fe Baldy, Trailriders Ridge and Horsethief Meadows. I felt like I was on top of the world and it was an overwhelming feeling.

I love mountaintops because you can see so clearly for so far. They serve as a metaphor for the high moments of life. A "mountaintop experience" is to enjoy a spiritual high. So many key events occurred on moutaintops in the Bible: Noah lands the ark on Mt. Ararat, Moses receives the law on Mt. Sinai, and Jesus is "transfigured" on a mountaintop.

The thing about mountaintops is that, eventually, we must come down. Life isn't lived on mountaintops but on the plains of daily life and in the valleys of difficulty and loss.

Yet, these mountaintop experiences sustain us in the mundane and trying times of life. The key is to revisit the memories of mountaintops for spritual sustenance.

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