"Well, I'm running down this mountain pass at midnight
Those truckers they all flash their lights at me
This highway is the very best companion
It knows there's nowhere else I'd rather be…."
- Dan Fogelberg
Okay, so I have played with Dan's lyrics just a bit here. If you want to hear them the way he wrote them you can listen to "Mountain Pass" through this link. But from the very first time I heard this song, these were (at first) what I thought he was saying…and from that moment on, it was the only way I every heard it.
This is a post about a road. It is about a 100.02 mile stretch of the most beautiful highway on earth…to me. I think of it as my "birth canal." On this stretch of road, I leave a place I was…each time…and come thorugh to a place where I will have been borne anew…again.
Colorado Highway 285 from Evergreen to Buena Vista is littered with the shedded snakeskins and cast-off chrysalises of my life. By the time I reach my destination I am as naked and child-like as a babe. I never arrive burdened…heavy-laden…with the baggage of self and sin. Somehow the high country wind that blows through the rolled-down windows of my Jeep and the music pouring through the speaker system - washing over me like a Rabbi's blessing at a bris - strip me clean.
I am ready for camp. I am ready to have my heart tried and tested and made new by the demands of loving and caring for "the children of the Most High."
Leaving Evergreen, I wind my way past Evergreen Lake, up Hwy 73 till I reach its junction with 285. My trip doesn't really start for me until I am actually on this incredible "highway of our Lord"." I am never in a hurry. As eager as I am to get to camp, I don't want to rush this part of the journey. I pull onto the highway at the Safeway and something changes in me. I am not my past mistakes. I am not my former good deeds and published words…or works. I am Kate and I am going to camp to have a summer of transformation. I have no agenda, I have no "to do" lists. I only have a pure, hungry heart for this journey.
Coming down Crow Hill into Bailey I feel like I am flying. Flying beyond all that would want to hold my feet in the concrete of doubt and drown me in regret. The car soars over the road…and I soar past my "once upon a times."
Weaving my way through Shawnee, past the Santa Maria shrine looking down from her mountain altar, winding through Grant…stopping long enough beside the rushing river to clasp my first handful of mountain-fed water and drink deeply of her gifts…I feel the ache lifting from my heart and a child-like joy springing from a place so deep it makes me weep to even write these words.
I return to the Jeep and sit for a moment in the pine-filtered Colorado light…now, so close to the sun…and whisper just one of a thousand prayers of gratitude I will breathe over the course of this 100 miles.
My heart leaps as the Jeep starts and I take her deeper into "a place that I love, to the Piney Wood Forest, and the High Country Snows" (D. Fogelberg - "High Country Snows"). We crest Kenosha Pass and as we round the bend I can see the high country meadows and ranges of South Park stretching before me like Shangri-La. Because it is June there will be wild irises along the irrigation ditches, and new foals will be kicking up their heels in tall grass next to patient mothers and resolute cattle "on a thousand hills."
This is where I will slow the Jeep to a pace just fast enough to keep more hurried drivers from expressing disdain in gestures and symbols. I am in no hurry and do not hesitate to pull aside for any and all vehicles that wish to pass. I will drink long at this visual fountain of God's bounty. I will be languorous on this leg of my journey. I will imagine myself a pioneer wife on a Conastoga wagon reaching the summit of this ridge and finding a paradise of flat land just waiting for the seed she's brought all the way from…I will not imagine her first winter and the snow that will drift higher than her rooftops because of those same flat meadows and strong mountain winds.
I will thread my way through the last 36 miles from Fairplay, past Como, near the Midland Trail to Johnson's Corners. Every inch of landscape visually absorbed as if I were breathing in each molecule and as it entered my system it begins preparing me for what the next five weeks will be all about…living Love...accepting the opportunities for service, humility and compassion, with grace.
As I come over the last pass my heart is racing. I am holding my breath. Tears flow as rapidly as the Arkansas River is rushing from Buena Vista to Salida. I am home. My valley has her arms open to receive me. And right between them is the palm of her hand over her heart - and the center of my affections, my home - the Adventure Unlimited Ranches. I pull over to the side of the road somewhere between where I have crested the pass and where I will reach the turn-off for Hwy 24 leading into Buena Vista to just take it all in.
Once I can see again to drive I pull up at the three way stop, turn right and make my way through my only real hometown, Buena Vista, Colorado 81211. Bongo Billy's in on the right. On the open deck is a table once painted cobalt blue with a big cup and saucer in the middle where I have journaled, and read, and gazed up at Mt. Princeton for more summers than my sun-burned shoulders can count. Further down on the left is Merrifield's nursery where I will return later in the day to pick up pansies and wildflowers in clay pots and hanging plants for my porch. Do I stop now for ice cream at Kay's or take a short detour down Main Street for a hot chocolate at Mother's and a quick peak at what's new at Serendipity? Do I really want to pick up nubbly wool in rich deep colors even before I have walked through the door of my cabin?
No! I have only one destination….I want to go home. I stay on course through town. I will return later to visit with Prana - my favorite Weimaraner in the world - at Trailhead, and pick up dried cherries and Dakoba dark chocolate bars laced with lavender at Nature's Pantry. But for now I have my sights set on a series of avalanche chutes filled with late Spring snow, and at their base my little cabin in the woods next to a burbling stream that feeds Valerie Lake. I am hungry for the scent of Aspen, lodgepole pine, and yarrow. I am thirsty for the sound of hummingbirds and children laughing. I am aching for home.
I turn left at Swishers Diesel Repair shop with its lot full of old school buses. Five Fingers are now right in front of me and by the time I make the right at the entrance to Game Trail and the left into camp property I am both electric with excitement and absolutely still inside as if I haven't needed to even breathe for the last few minutes. My life is not dependent on air or water or forces of nature. My life is fed by the stillness of this place, the history of joy and healing that has become her cellular memory…imprinted on every rock, leaf, and flower.
I stop at the gates and climb out of the Jeep walking gingerly in my flipflops across the cattle guard to wrap my arms around one of the big pine logs that make up the vertical posts for her gate. I hug tight, kiss her squarely on her bark-less long cylindrical cheek and thank God…again…for gracing me with another year in this place I call home.
I climb back into the Jeep and drive up the road that bisects our lower pasture. Horses, antelope, picket pens, rabbits, birds of every name and nature barely notice I have arrived. I take the right fork at the "Y" and circle up around Coyote's Den, past the Sky Valley corral, behind the Horseshoe cabins where each of my girls will have made their transition from little girl to young woman, up and around the tennis courts to the parking spaces in front of the Hub where my friends will greet me as if I am the most awaited guest…ever! But then they do that with everyone that arrives home! After today I join them as part of the greeting committee. I will be there in the Hub with them as often as I can...rolling out the welcome mat for others who will be arriving at the door for the first time…or the fifiteth.
But for today I am the lamb who has found her way back to the place where she feels most the Shepherd's care, has known His staff and His rod, and recognizes his Voice in the wind as it whistles through the pines, and sees His face in the eyes of the children…of all ages.
This is a post about a road…a road I will travel next week…a road on which each deeply drawn breath of mountain air will hold a thousand prayers of gratitude....for one more year...