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Nature and Wildlife
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Most Memorable



Lauren Chapman writes "I love the outdoors and much of my free time is spent there. Swimming, hiking, fishing, going to the park, ridding my bike or even just taking a stroll through the neighborhood. Still, my most memorable experiences have been in the mountains."

Having lived in Colorado all my life it is impossible to not see the beauty of the rocky mountains. Even at a distance they seem unreal and for much of my childhood life I wondered what it would be like to see them up close. At the age of 15 I went on my first ever backpacking trip and although I had been camping before I would soon understand them to be to completely different things. Though challenging at first I caught on quick making the rest of my stay in the back country a truly amazing experience. The following summer I was offered a scholarship with Outward Bound for a two week trip in Grand Junction and I gladly accepted. Unfortunately I was unable to finish the trail due to physical ailment and was sent home early. Although my stay was shorter this time I still awestruck at the beauty of it all.

This past summer I was offered an internship with Big City Mountaineers, a company that takes urban youth on a week long backpacking trip free of charge and I accepted. My job entailed desk work (data entry), logistical work, (packing for trips), and my favorite part of the job, field time. Each trip consist of five youth, five adult volunteers, one peer leader and enough food and clothing for five days. I had the role of peer leader in which I was to play the middle man between the youth and volunteers should there be conflict or a need for compromise. Each day is planned so that the first three days will be your hike in, the fourth day a summit and the fifth day your hike out. You can probably guess that the first two days are the hardest and even though the third day is easier nothing compares to the excitement of the fourth day.

The fourth day is also known as the summit day. The chance to literally feel like you’re on top of the world. Now even though I had been to the mountains numerous times by never once had I experienced standing on top of one. Ecstatic I barely slept the night before and the next morning I was the first to wake. We ate breakfast as usual, oatmeal and hot chocolate, packed only what we needed for the day (rain gear, sunscreen, lunch, and bug spray) and then headed for the trail. Like most of our hikes this one started off in silence, everyone just taking in their surroundings, the smell of the trees, the rush of the water, the sight of the sun raise and feeling the warmth of it. Above tree line now we started to feel a real change in altitude. The pick up of the wind and how thin the air had started to get but still we walked on. No longer having a path to follow we headed our separate ways. Knowing that we would all end up together I believe we all needed this time to really take in what was happening. Hearing nothing but the sound of my own short breaths I finally reached the top. Looking out in front of me I could see blue sky for miles and if I looked up and stuck my tongue out I could almost taste the clouds. If I looked down it all looked like a big blob of color. And even though I couldn’t tell the trees from the grass or the mountains from the meadows the sight was amazing and beautiful and it all belonged it was all meant to be there and standing on top there on top of the world I suddenly realized that I belonged there too. We sat for an hour just taking in our surroundings and feeling the blessing of being in such a presence.

I have accomplished a lot in my life and have done many things I am proud of but nothing will compare to the feeling of being on top of the world. To feel big in the world but not out of place. To be at peace with your surroundings and to know that no matter where you are or what you are doing you can always go back to the top of this mountain and know that everything will be ok.

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