The Friday Five: My Favorite Rocky Mountains

I just returned from the mountains of Colorado where the majestic snow-capped mountains meet alpine tundra, rushing streams, brilliant wildflowers, rocky peaks, and towering lodge pole pines. When I was 12, I attended an outdoor adventure summer camp in Estes Park, CO and was too afraid of the adventure, so I spent my days on the archery range. But once I finally climbed my first mountain (they made me do it!), it changed everything. I ended up spending 9 summers there in the beauty of the mountains and the fellowship of young women who dared to face summits as courageously as they dared to face their own fears. I have climbed more mountains than I can count, but here are five favorites that remain with me. 1. Mt. Audubon (13,233 ft) is in the Indian Peaks Wilderness outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail begins in the trees, but you quickly come upon miles of open tundra with stunning views of the Indian Peaks and the Never Summer Range. This is my favorite mountain to climb, and I love bringing friends (and James) along for this one.


2. Chief's Head (13,579 ft) is the third tallest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you look at it from a distance, the mountain looks like the profile of an Indian Chief. This is a great day climb to do from a backpack to Sandbeach Lake. This is where I learned how to glissade down snowfields (it's like skiing in your hiking boots) and how to let go and have fun.


3. Long's Peak (14,259) is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park and is the beloved goal for most adventurers to the park. I climbed it once as a 14-year-old camper and then returned as a counselor to lead a group of remarkable 12- and 13-year-olds for their first summit to Longs. Isabella Bird was one of the first women to climb Longs in the 1800s - wearing a hoop skirt! - so one time I climbed Longs in a dress to honor her (NOT pictured below :-).


4. Navajo Peak (13,409 ft) is another mountain in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It is more of a technical climb that requires a lot of scrambling up a steep couloir as well as creative maneuvering to climb up the chimney of its peak. There was an airplane crash on Navajo in 1948 where three people died, and the wreckage of the plane remains scattered along the gully up to the mountain. There are still remnants of plane sidings and engine parts along the way which is surely terrifying to think about. It's hard to remember if I love this mountain because of the climb itself or because of the girls whom I climbed it with. It's probably both. The top of Navajo in the photo is the triangle mountain in the background.


5. South Arapaho (13,397 ft) will always be special to me because it was the first mountain I ever climbed. At 12-years-old I cried my way up as I struggled for oxygen, and ultimately, for courage. This mountain taught me that I didn't have to live a life of caution and fear - and that there is great reward in pushing beyond the boundaries of physical comfort.


What about you? Any mountain favorites?



The Friday Five

Here are the five things that caught my attention this week: 1. My Hometown is on Fire

The fires continue to rage in Colorado while more than 30,000 residents have been evacuated and 350 homes have been destroyed. The photos reveal empty lots where homes and trees used to stand. The skies look as though armageddon has come, and we all wonder when it will end. A raging wildfire wakes us up to realize that we are not in control of our lives as much as we think we are. And reminds us that the things of this world can instantly become ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.

2. Who is John Galt?

Those of you who have read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged probably know the answer to this. I am nearly halfway through this 1000+ page book and, therefore, still do not know. Atlas Shrugged is often referred to as one of the most influential books of the 20th century, and I'm wondering if it was from the earlier part of the 20th century because, who has the attention span these days to dive through a 1000 page philosophy book? Well, my book club and I are trying. I will hold my review of the book until I am finished (which will be about 650 pages from now).

3. Fish and Visitors Stink in Three days - except for at the Nardellas!

Ben Franklin's wise little words do not apply at our house this week. We have had a rare experience of being in Nashville for the entire month of June. And in that time, we have hosted our best friends (and their child, parents and sister) from San Diego, my best friend from South Africa and a surprise visit from my dear mom (Wednesday's text from her said, "Can you do breakfast or lunch tomorrow or Friday? Just wondering. Miss you.") I said yes and she hopped on a plane. Our house has been filled with the sweet aroma of conversation, laughter, home-cooked meals and the deep and enduring friendships that remind us that relationships are sacred gifts in this life.

4. Supreme Court

Regardless of where you stand in the healthcare debate, it was hard not to pay attention to Justice Roberts' bold stance in yesterday's decision. For spending so much time in broken African political systems, it is no small thing to see a congress creating laws and a supreme court reviewing the consitutionality of those laws. Despite the ugly brokenness of our own political system in the US, I am grateful to live in a country that affirms a separation of powers. It is a privilege that our nation gets to debate the method by which we bring healthcare (like is it a tax clause or a commerce clause?) because so many of our neighbors around the world do not even have a system to debate, a doctor in their town or services to care for the sick.

5. Chloe is my new friend

For the last couple of weeks, I have been greeted in my yard by a 5 year old girl named Chloe. She and her mom fled an abusive relationship in Maine and have been homeless since. Her mom moved into a house across the street from us, a house that often has several different people coming in and out of it. I am never quite sure who truly lives there and life for everyone there seems rough. Chloe and I have enjoyed chasing fireflies and playing with her purple build-a-bear and pretending that the world she inhabits isn't as bad as it actually is. I am glad for my new friend.