Tuesday, January 19, 2016


I awoke to a bright light coming from the hallway. My dad was obviously in the bathroom. I could tell because he was the only person in my family that was inconsiderate enough to leave the bathroom door open with every single light turned on. He often did this in the early hours of the morning before he left for work. When he did this, he would wake up everyone in the house.
I slowly slid out of bed and began walking to the bathroom. I took a quick shower before heading downstairs to grab my backpack. At the door I said goodbye to my mom, and then my dad and I left in my mom’s minivan. We drove to the Avoca Legion Hall, and we began making room in the van for our other passengers. These passengers were Evan Pattee, Bill Dea, and Daniel Ledvina.
When they were all in, and my dad had talked to James Russmann for a few minutes, we began to drive to our destination, the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. It was a Boy Scout camp that we were going to for a week. Daniel, Bill, and Wayne Ring would be staying at the regular camp with merit badge classes, while the rest of us would be doing something a little more challenging. Wayne Ring had come with other Boy Scouts who had driven separately from us. We were going to hike through part of the Rocky Mountains, and we would only be guided by a teenager a few years older than us!
After driving for nine hours we finally stopped. I threw myself out of the car and onto the Colorado soil. It had been a long car ride. Evan and I had to listen to Daniel explain how he was going to build his own Macbook Pro laptop, and he would only pause his explanation for a few seconds before starting once more. It was still beyond me how and why he was going to build it, but I didn’t wait to find out.
My dad and I grabbed our tent and moved it to where we would sleep that night. We set it up, and then we covered our backpacks in a tarp to protect them from the rain. After that Evan and I met up with Ethan and Logan Hoepner. We talked for a while before Dakota Fox came up to us. He asked us if we wanted to climb up some giant rocks that were clumped together. We all thought that was a good idea, so we followed him to the giant clump.
At first climbing the rocks was tricky. There was a part where you had to jump onto another rock, and you also had to slide under a tree at the same time. It was a little challenging, but we would all get used to it over the course of the week. We didn’t know it at the time, but we would be back here in only a couple of days.
Later on that evening all of the Scouts walked over to a cabin that the trek guides were in. The trek guides were the people that would be guiding us through the mountains. Inside of the building we began to plan out how our first trek would go, and then we planned how our second trek would go. The Scouts were divided into two groups. The groups were Trek A and Trek B. I was in Trek A along with my dad, Evan, Justyn Stuck, Ethan Hoepner and Logan Hoepner, and their dads.
After we finished planning out our whole trip we got all of our food and packed it into our bags for the week. Then we returned to our campsite and put our bags by our tents once more. After that Dakota took us back to the large rocks, and we climbed up them again. At the top, we examined the whole area. We looked at the mountains not far from us. There was one that was really close, so we decided that we were going to try and climb it.
We ran to the mountain and began to scale it. Ethan was in front, and I followed him. Then came Dakota, Dylan McDonald, and then Evan. We were climbing upwards vertically, but we weren’t quite at a ninety-degree angle. Ethan managed to lead me to the right rocks and branches, and then I would do the same for Dakota after passing the parts Ethan had helped me on.
Eventually, we reached a part that flattened out. After waiting for Evan to reach us, we walked to the edge and looked down. We were definitely fifty feet higher than everyone on the ground. It didn’t look like much, but it was actually a lot of work. When we finished resting, we decided that we wanted to climb higher. Ethan took the lead again, and Dakota and I followed side by side.
This time the rocks were a little more horizontal making it easier for us to climb. Ethan led us through a patch of cactus and in between two large boulders. We climbed upwards a little more until we reached the tip of a small incline. We looked around and took in the beautiful area. Everywhere we looked there were mountains and gorgeous pine trees. We thought we were going to go back down when I pointed out that there was more of the mountain behind us.
Ethan and I eagerly took off, ready to conquer the new obstacle in front of us. Dylan, Dakota, and Evan turned back around and went back down. Ethan and I weren’t bothered too much by this because now we could move faster without having to stop and wait. We ran and jumped on every rock we saw. We laughed a lot, and we were having a blast for a really long time.
Soon we arrived at a tall rock that we had to climb to keep moving forward. We climbed it, but we were shocked to find something else. In front of us was a five-foot gap that we would have to jump across. To other people it may not have looked like much. However, below us was a fifteen-foot drop onto rock hard ground. I looked at Ethan, and he looked at me. If anyone was going to die from jumping this gap, it wasn’t going to be me.
“Ladies first,” I said.
Ethan smiled before taking a few steps back. He ran, and then he leapt off of the rock that we were standing on. He safely landed on the other side finally allowing me to release the air I was holding in.
“You’re next,” he said.
“Alright...it’s now or never,” I whispered to myself.
I took a few steps backwards until I was ready. I took a deep breath, and then I began to sprint. I got close to the edge before I jumped off the rock that I had been standing on. I safely landed on the other side next to Ethan...For a few seconds at least. I had jumped too far, and now I was teetering back and forth on the edge of the rock. I tried to back up, but I slipped and fell down onto a rock a few feet in front of me. I hit it hard, but I was okay and able to stand.
Ethan landed next to me. I looked at him, and then we began to climb upwards again. We reached another tip of the rocks and found more mountain behind it that we still had to climb. Ethan didn’t object when I started to climb it, so I assumed that meant he wanted to climb it as well. It was slowly getting darker, so we wouldn’t have much time before we would have to go back.
Eventually we reached the very top of the mountain. Compared to the others around it the mountain wasn’t very big, but we still felt good about having conquered this one. Ethan noticed a ledge sticking out of the mountain. He walked to it and started to walk out on it. I followed him, and I never once looked down. The ledge was thin, maybe four feet wide at most. It felt kind of light, so I actually looked down.
The ledge we were on had nothing supporting it. It was sticking farther out than we originally thought, and tiny pebbles were falling to the ground about a hundred feet below. I called out to Ethan, and I dragged him off the ledge. Once we were back on the safe ground that wasn’t hanging over a ledge I let Ethan go.
“Why’d you do that?” he asked angrily.
“Look,” I said.
I pointed at the area below the ledge. Even more pebbles were falling to their doom below. Ethan’s mouth dropped open. He would have never gone out onto the ledge if he would’ve known about what was below us.
“Let’s go,” Ethan said slowly. He gestured towards a clump of boulders not far from us, and then he took the lead towards them. I followed him up them, and then we went back down. We walked around some more before I noticed a tall, thin stack of rocks stretching about thirty feet upwards. I pointed at it, and Ethan led me to our starting point.
We grabbed rocks that were sticking out of the stack, and we climbed our way to the top of the stack. At the top we both looked down. Justyn, Evan, Dakota, Dylan and his mom Jamie had all returned. They were standing in the exact same spot that we had just been in. We hollered down at them, and they looked up at us.
“Be careful up there!” Jamie cried.
“We’re fine! We’re heading down soon anyways!” Ethan yelled back.
Ethan wasn’t lying. The sun had almost completely set, and we still had to climb down the stack of rocks and the mountain. We slowly made our way down the stack in the dark. When we reached the bottom we walked to the spot that we had climbed up the mountain from. We waved goodbye to the other group, and we began making our way down the mountain. It was hard in the dark, but we managed to be okay.
After a few minutes all of our sunlight was gone. We stopped and looked around. Where did we go from here? Nothing looked familiar, yet a lot of it did at the same time. I looked at Ethan, and his eyes grew wide. I waited a second, and then I took off running. He followed close behind me. We sprinted and slid down the mountainside, but we never once stopped to look around for something familiar. I didn’t feel safe up there in the dark, and I don’t think Ethan did either.
We reached a steep hill, and Ethan went down it first. He was still moving fast, so he didn’t notice the hole in the ground. He stepped in it and tripped. He fell down the rest of the hill and landed next to a patch of thorny bushes. I quickly followed down behind him. I stopped where he was lying and helped him up.
“Thanks,” he said quietly, “We better get going.”
We began to move again, but this time we were going at a slower pace. Neither of us wanted Ethan to fall again, especially because it was getting even darker outside. We didn’t have a flashlight with us, so we had to be extremely cautious going to down the mountain, even if this one was small compared to others. The more we noticed the bigger ones, the more excited we got about our two day trek that would begin the next day.
Eventually we reached the bottom of the mountain. Ethan didn’t fall again after the first time, and I had the same good luck. We were both extremely lucky. The only light we had going down the mountain was from the moon. At the bottom we looked up at it. The moon was surrounded by thousands and thousands of beautiful stars. They all shone brighter than they ever would back in Avoca. After watching the sky for a few more minutes we walked back into camp.
“Where have you been?” James hollered. “We’ve been looking all over for you! Where are the others? They were supposed to be back by now!”
“We told them we were going back down,” I explained, “They didn’t follow us, but they wouldn’t have stayed up there too long. Jamie was with them.”
“Great,” James said sarcastically, “Jim and Bill just went up there to find them.”
Ethan and I walked off to our tents. Ethan went in his tent with Logan, and I just hung around outside of mine. I read a book for a few minutes before I decided to go to the bathroom. I got up, and when I was halfway there I heard someone calling Dakota’s name. I thought it was Bill, so I went into the bathroom without looking back.
I returned to my tent, but the boys still weren’t back. I began looking around camp just in case one of them had returned. I didn’t have any luck. Fifteen minutes passed, and the boys still weren’t back. I was getting too tired to do anything, so I just sat outside of my tent and watched the mountains.
After a while I saw a flashing light. I heard Bill yelling at Dakota in rage, so I knew that the boys were safe. I crawled into my tent, and I fell asleep in an instant. I woke up several times with a rock shoved under my back, but it was a decent sleep. I only left the tent once to pee, but other than that I was safe inside of my fabric walls.
The next morning I climbed out into the sunlight. Everyone was up except for the Hoepners. I walked over to Jim, and he handed me a tiny box of cereal. I poured it into my plastic eating container and ate the entire thing. After that our whole troop went over to the guide’s cabin. We finished packing up everything from there, and then our guides drove us to the starting point of our first trek.
Our trek guide’s name was Spencer. He was a seventeen year old Asian boy from Fremont, Nebraska. He was up in Colorado because he wanted to get some extracurricular activities before he went to college the fall after next. He was really nice, but he didn’t always know where we were supposed to go.
Justyn Stuck did most of the guiding for our group. He was in the lead the whole time, and he was the only one with a map. Spencer was in the back with Shane Hoepner, who never seemed to be able to keep up with the rest of us. We always had to wait for him to finish climbing the next hill when we were already at the top.
The first day of hiking was okay. We were traveling through a forest most of the time. We had to cross several bridges to get over rapid water. There was a lot of uphill climbing, so we had to take lots of breaks. By the time we stopped for lunch we were all ready to be done. We had hiked for five hours, and Spencer said that we still had a little ways to go.
Our lunch consisted of tuna in a plastic container and Ritz crackers. We also had some Gatorade drink mix and Chips Ahoy cookies. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but that’s all we had for the rest of the week, so everyone got tired of it really fast. The Gatorade drink mix was really weak, but it infected everything it touched with its disgusting flavor.
After lunch, we began hiking again. Justyn led us through a wide area with lots of fallen trees. We had to climb under some which took Shane a while. By the time it was three o’clock we had finally picked out our campsite. It was a wide open area resting at the top of a large hill. We set up our tents and began to cook our dried meals. We had stroganoff, which Ethan thought was the greatest thing since the invention of cars.
After dinner, Ethan, Evan, and I walked down to the creek to fill up our water jug. Ethan went to the bathroom in the trees. He had to bury it deep in the ground so the bears in the area wouldn’t find it and search for its source. While he did that, Evan and I filled our jug and watched a few other groups of hikers walk by. It was cool to see them because we knew that people didn’t come out here too often.
After we finished filling our jug and waiting for Ethan to return we returned to camp. We dropped off the water, and I got into my tent immediately. Everyone else was up for a couple of hours, but I fell asleep long before they ever did. I woke up once, but it was right when everyone else was going to sleep, so I just rolled over and didn’t wake up until the next morning.
When I did eventually wake up, I was the last one. Everyone was eating breakfast, and I was still hanging around in the tent. I pulled on a new pair of socks and climbed out of the tent. I pulled on my hiking boots, and I walked over to everyone else. Ethan and Logan were eating some oatmeal, and Evan and Justyn were talking with Shane and Devin Hoepner. My dad was cooking everyone’s oatmeal for them.
I ate my breakfast, and then we pulled down the tents and got packed up. Justyn led us up the rest of the hill, and we examined the area. The entire hill dipped into a giant valley. It was surrounded by mountains, and at the bottom rested a wide lake. It was a dark blue, and the surface was moving around gracefully in the wind. We walked down the thin path and looked at all of the flowers that were growing. They were all so beautiful. I wanted to pick them all and take them home, but that was illegal according to the Colorado Laws of Hiking, an unofficial rulebook designed by the hiking guides to prevent people from harming the environment.
After Devin took a few picture of us we made our way to the bottom of the valley. Spencer told us about a lake at the top of the nearest mountain to our left. It was called Hang Lake, and we would have to climb upwards at a near vertical angle for 1,000 feet to reach it. We all agreed that we wanted to do it except for Shane. We left him behind, and we began our climb. Logan and Spencer headed up in front of us, and Ethan and I followed. My dad, Evan, and Justyn followed behind us, but they kept stopping to look at the view behind us, so they didn’t stay with us the whole way.
After a while the air began to get really cold. Piles of white stuff began to appear on the ground. I thought it was rocks, but I discovered it was really snow when Ethan threw some of it at me. I grabbed a handful of snow and threw it, but I missed and hit Spencer instead. He started to throw back, and soon Logan joined too. We were throwing snow everywhere, but eventually I snuck out of the battle. Ethan followed me, and Logan and Spencer eventually came as well.
After about twenty minutes we reached the top of the mountain. At the top was a thin stream that flowed all the way down the mountain. Behind it was a long wall of tall bushes. I looked for a way through, and I soon found one. I moved slowly between the bushes, and I soon found myself in a whole new world.
A small lake sat at the base of the very tip of the mountain. The tip was coated in a soft, beautiful layer of snow. The lake wasn’t frozen, but on its shore rested a high wall of snow. Ethan, Logan and I walked over to it. After poking it with our feet we walked over the top of it. I fell into it, and Logan did too. We pulled ourselves out and followed Ethan and Evan down to the other side of the wall of snow.
The wall cast a shadow over us as we walked under it. We were on the very edge of the lake, but none of us were scared of falling into it. No matter how cold it was we all knew that there was nothing in there that could hurt us. We had drunk the water many times already. It was the cleanest, most pure water I had ever tasted. Nothing back home would ever compare to the amazing taste of that mountain water.
Justyn and Spencer climbed halfway to the peak of the mountain, and then they came back down to our group. As we were walking to the other side of the wall of bushes we met a group of attractive young women. We had no idea who they were, but I think we all would have liked to have gotten to know them a little better. They looked around for a bit, and then they began traveling back down the mountain.
We followed a little ways behind them. Ethan and I were in front of Jake and Logan this time. The girls got a little ways ahead of us. We eventually caught up to them, but we split off in different directions. The girls stopped us when we separated though and started to talk to us.
“This path will make it easier to get down the mountain,” the taller of the two said.
“Okay, thank you,” I said as Ethan and I walked up to the path.
As we were making our way to the path I tripped on a rock. I slipped down the hill, and I fell onto my back. I rolled for several feet before I was stopped by a large rock. I grunted and pulled myself off the ground. Ethan ran down to me and helped me up.
“Are you okay?” he asked me.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I answered.
We were close to the bottom of the mountain now, so we just finished the walk down. I examined my hands and arms. Both hands were bruised and cut, and I had a deep slit on my right arm. It was dripping blood, but I had nothing to stop it with. I would have to wait until we reached my dad’s bag to get the First-Aid kit.
When we reached the bags I went straight to my dad’s. I dug around in it, but I didn’t find the First-Aid kit. I looked up the mountain. My dad was still at the top. It would probably be fifteen minutes before he reached me. I would just have to sit and wait until he got here.
Justyn and Evan went down to Blue Lake which was only a quick walk below us. The wind had picked up, so the water was moving back and forth even faster. Justyn and Evan disappeared into some pine trees to watch the water. Ethan, Logan and I sat down next to our bags and looked at the area around us.
The snowcapped mountains were so high above us that I wondered how we ever made it to the top of one. I looked up at the one directly across from us. It appeared to be the tallest of all the mountains in the area. As it rose up higher and higher the trees on it began to disappear. The grass remained all the way up until right before the peak.
“Why aren’t there any trees on the peak?” I asked Logan.
“There is not enough oxygen for them to survive. That grass must be able to live with limited oxygen though,” Logan said as he pointed at the thin blanket of green cloaking the top of the mountain.
I nodded. I wanted to go up there, but I knew I would struggle to breathe, and it would also be a huge hassle to get there. There didn’t appear to be an access point to climb up the mountain, and it also got extremely steep and flat. There was no grip anywhere except for large boulders that were spread too far apart.
After a while my dad and Devin reached us. I showed Dad my cut, and he just applied some Neosporin to it. He told me to let it breathe, and it would be fine. After that we got all of our bags ready once more. We began hiking towards another huge hill that would get us out of the valley.
We met the girls again, but this time they were going towards where we had come from that morning. We said our final goodbyes, and then we began to climb the hill. This time I led the group along with Justyn. We stopped every few minutes to let everyone catch up to us. The hill was really steep, and it kept switching back and forth as we moved up it.
By the time we reached the top of the hill it was almost eleven o’clock. Gray clouds were gathering above us. A few of the mountain’s peaks were being hidden from view. A low rumbling could be heard in the distance. I got a little nervous. I was really cold already, and the rain wouldn’t help.
Before we started our descent of the hill I took a final look at the valley. Blue Lake shimmered in the limited sunlight, and the trees softly swayed back and forth. I could see a part of the entryway to Hang Lake. I smiled as I looked at everything. It was so beautiful. I just hoped that I could come back to the valley one day. It was the greatest place I had ever been to before. It made me appreciate everything that existed and every wonderful thing I had yet to discover. I gazed upon the valley one last time, and then I turned to make my way down the hill and the rest of the mountain.

Over the course of the next week I would experience many more things. I would hike through a storm. I would cross a river as hail struck me, and I would build a camp in the freezing cold. I would be stung by three bees and flee from them. I would hike down a desolate road for two hours with a limited amount of water. I would go white water rafting for the first time, and I would do the scariest thing I had ever done before. I would ride in the car for nine hours with Daniel for the second time in my life.

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