I always learn something new when I spend some quality time in the great outdoors. Today was no different. I have been anxiously awaiting a beautiful day to hike Mt. Muscoco, a three-mile hike that boasts 360 degrees of mountain views from the summit. I went for a quick jog around Garden of the Gods in the morning, celebrated the life of my friend Danielle with my Colorado family in the afternoon, & headed to Cheyenne Canon afterward to begin my ascent.
I approached the main entrance to Cheyenne, only to discover that the road was closed due to maintenance. I was aggravated at first, but realized I would get to take a more scenic route to the trailhead by driving through Gold Camp Road. On a day like today, sunny & 70 with crisp, fresh air, I was actually quite pleased that the easy, convenient route was closed, just look at the view I was blessed with:
Pictured Cheyenne Canon from Gold Camp Road
Life lesson: the detours we face on our journey lead us down a greater path.
The sun was still shining when I reached the trailhead for Mt. Muscoco. I figured I would have plenty of time to hit the summit & return to my car before the sun went down. The trail is considered Moderate/Advanced, but I was feeling good today. I grabbed my gear & hit the dirt. The views from this trail--wow. If you live anywhere near Colorado Springs, please do yourself a favor & bring a camera. I stopped more than once to say "Wow" & "This is awesome!" I could not stop smiling. Every time I needed to stop to take a breather, there was always a beautiful view to photograph.
The trail rating is very accurate, as the closer I got to the summit, the more narrow the path became. I had to grab trees in the areas where the path had been washed out from the melting snow & some rock crawling was involved, but in trail adventures of my past, the summit views have always been worth every grueling step. The trail is fairly simple to follow until you get closer to the summit. Just as I had reached the Mt. Muscoco Summit trail marker, I had difficulty discerning the trail from the natural foliage growth. As I began climbing, the trail got substantially steeper. I had this instinctual feeling that I should turn around, but I was so close! I could see where the tree line ended & I was craving the view.
Pictured: The distant summit of Mt. Muscoco, photographed during my descent.
As I was climbing, I could feel the weather changing. The temperature dropped almost instantly, the trees began to howl, & dark clouds began rolling in. In the distance, I could see the rain making its way rapidly down the mountains. The wilderness will speak to you, you just have to keep your eyes open & listen to her signals. She was telling me to get off the mountain & go home. As much as I wanted to see the summit, I was reminded that Mother Nature ultimately gets to decide whether I reach a peak or not. She didn't care that I had the day off, she didn't care how badly I wanted to see the 360 degrees of mountain views from the top, she wanted me to descend safely so I could come back on another adventure that offered better views with a clearer sky on a different day.
At first it felt like I was giving up -- I was right there, so close! I don't back down from a challenge & Mt. Muscoco was certainly a challenge. To tell myself to stop & turn around was really demeaning to my psyche. But as I was making my way down the path to return home, I knew it was the right decision. The trail was hard to follow & I knew I would get lost if the sunlight disappeared. I wasn't amply prepared for poor weather, I was in shorts & long sleeves, which is nowhere near prepared for a rainstorm. When the sky turned dark, I can honestly say that I was scared to be on the mountain. I have never had an experience like that before, where I was at the mercy of the elements.
I sang out loud for most of the descent, partly because I knew I was the only one on the mountain & also because it would help keep me calm. The feeling I experienced when I heard the wind, saw the clouds, & felt the fear was a very helpless feeling. I have never felt afraid while in the mountains until today. These words were tapping on my heart repeatedly:
The dark clouds are coming in, they're coming in
The raindrops are falling, they're falling
But you don't have to be afraid
You just gotta keep the faith
I created you
I will protect you, oh
You will never be alone
I will carry you
I will carry you
Before going on the trail, my Colorado family & I said goodbye to our sister & friend, Danielle. Last week was such a dark week for my friends. The clouds that settled instantaneously over the mountain today reminded me of how quickly the news of Danielle's death affected each of us. Her death was heartbreaking, confusing, tormenting. Then I began to think about my own life & the dark clouds that have dominated certain chapters of my story. How my life used to be the storm that was pouring over the mountains.
The one constant in my life has been my Creator. Through all of the storms I have weathered, He was always right there. I did not always listen, I was not always conscious of His hand, I know I tried to fix things on my own -- because I didn't think I needed Him or I didn't think He cared enough -- but running down the mountain today, literally racing against the storm clouds above me, I realized that God will bring you darkness & that darkness is not always anticipated. Being a Christian doesn't mean you are immune from temptation, pain, sadness, or trials & tribulations. Being a Christian means that you trust & rely on God to protect you during those moments, it means you no longer need to fear the next step. You have to relinquish the control, rely on your faith, & keep moving forward. The world will not stop & wait for you,.. you have to keep going. 2 Corinthians 5:7 "For we walk by faith, not by sight." No matter how thick the darkness in your life, God created you & He will protect you. My prayer is that we are able to discern God's voice from our own desires, granting ourselves the freedom to choose Him wholeheartedly in any circumstance.
Pictured: the incoming rain during my descent.
Megan Elizabeth is a storyteller based in Kalispell, Montana. Take a peek at her blog & portfolio, drop her a line, & follow her story on Facebook & Instagram.