This is a tale of well-made plans and good intentions.
You see, many months ago, I decided that I wanted to celebrate the 30th anniversary of my birth in a special way–by accomplishing some goals that I had wanted to do for a while. And I wanted to do fun things with fun people.
Several friends have moved to Colorado over the past few years, and I’ve had the good fortune of getting to visit them about once or twice a year, normally in the winter so we can include some skiing. One of the friends and I hiked Yosemite several years ago. I had heard about the mountain peaks in Colorado and knew that my friends would be up for the challenge. Thus, the goal of hiking a 14,000′ mountain was born and added to the 30 list.
Plans were made. Schedules were arranged. Plane tickets were purchased. And expectations were high.
On Tuesday, two days before I was to fly out to Colorado, I got word that my friend–the same one who I had hiked with years before–had torn his ACL in one of his knees playing indoor soccer. “Disappointed” doesn’t begin to describe it–not for my sake or the possibility of the hike, but I hurt for my friend, especially since he had suffered a similar injury to the other knee several years before. Not to worry, his wife informed me, there was still a group interested in hiking. Nick would ride with us to the mountain and accompany us back to town.
And then it flooded.
Shortly before I arrived on Thursday night, many parts of the state were underwater, suffering the worst flood to hit the area since 1976. I flew in on Thursday night just before they closed portions of the interstate. We didn’t realized this little gem until Friday morning, when we discovered that there were few options for us to make it very far outside of town.
Between my friend’s injury and the terrible weather, I began to question whether this hike was meant to be.
My friends and I spent much of Friday considering various options: different mountains, or different routes to avoid flooded areas. But by the time we had to decide whether to make the drive on Saturday morning, the roads out of town were still closed. The hike wouldn’t be happening on Saturday.
Since the hike wasn’t happening that day, we found ourselves with no plans on Saturday–a rarity for this group. The weather improved considerably, and we attempted a morning run (at least those who could stand the altitude), and spent much of the afternoon in the park. But according to the forecast, there was still more rain to come.
Conditions improved. Roads opened. And we started talking about one last possibility: make the hike on Sunday morning. But I would have to do it solo.
The scenario would go like this: wake up well before everyone and drive to the nearest, most accessible mountain that we felt the roads would be open for. Admittedly, there was more than a fair bit of reluctance on my part as my friends and I discussed the options. I wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea of driving in the rain. I didn’t come out to Colorado to do the hike by myself (though this protestation was less about safety and more about community–we picked an easy hike that would be entirely doable solo). And there was no guarantee that the mountain would even be open.
But after considerable convincing from my friends, I agreed to make the effort. I had come too far not to make one last attempt. Whether I climbed the mountain or not, I had to try.
Sunday morning arrived. I checked the website–all of the roads to the mountain were open. I put on the warmest clothes I brought, filled up a mug of coffee, and started to 2ish hour drive southwest. I arrived at the trailhead just as the sun was coming up, though the only way I could tell was that the clouds were getting brighter. There was no sun to be seen, and the rain was still coming down, alternating between a light mist and a heavy drizzle.
I turned onto the road up the mountain–a winding, 9 mile stretch that would finish about 2 or 3 miles from the summit, leaving just the last stretch to climb.
I talked briefly with an official looking guy in an official looking truck, who had no idea when or if the mountain would open that day. I walked around, misting rain mixing with a touch of disappointment, and finally succumbed to the realization that the climb was not happening.
There was nothing left to do.
I drove away knowing the next chance for a climb wouldn’t be until next summer, well after my April 10 deadline. The seasons would soon be changing to winter, and I had several other trips already planned, which made it virtually impossible to make another Colorado visit anytime soon.
As hard as we tried, it wasn’t meant to be.
I made the drive back to town realizing that I can’t look at the weekend as a failure: I got to experience a weekend in Colorado with great friends and make some new ones. And ultimately, that’s the point of many of the items on my list–to prioritize time with people. There will always be mountains to climb. And there will always be friends to visit. Just because the dream doesn’t happen according to my schedule doesn’t mean the dream is dead. It just means that the outcome is different.
And ultimately, that might have been the lesson God wanted to make in all of this. One of my biggest struggles is “holding loosely” to the plans I make. Every now and then, I need to be reminded that I’m not in charge. That I can make the plan, but God directs the steps. That we don’t always chose whether our plans succeed or fail, but we chose how we respond.