Looking up, you see red, brown, and orange rocks that have been withered by years of beating rain and wind, surrounded by darkening clouds that make this journey even more unreasonable. The crisp wind that brings in dark clouds now whips against your bare skin leaving a chilling feeling that runs from your head through your toes. Pikes Peak is the most famous fourteener in Colorado, known around the world by millions and climbed by thousands. Oxygen is hard to come by, forty-three percent less than at sea level. This journey to the top is sure to be battle-tested but there is a prize resting at the top.
Life surrounds you, it’s plentiful and busy. Spruce, pine, and fir trees all vie for your attention. Begging you to stop and take time to experience all they have to offer. The sweetness of tree sap and damp dirt floats through the air, leaving you overwhelmed. Below those ever-reaching branches walk elk, deer, and bears. Each minding their own daily routine not wanting to be interrupted by any outside force. Deer and elk trot about; bears lay absorbing their surroundings always aware of what’s ongoing around them. This place is bustling with activity. Life’s easy here, everyone can get to this point, but something ahead warns you it won’t always look like this, that it won’t always be this easy.
This place challenges you a little more than the last. At 11,000 feet, everything seems like it went through the dryer and came out a few sizes too small. Trees don’t seem as sky-scraping as they once did. You feel a little more isolated than before. A yellow-bellied marmot scampers across the rough rocked ground and into a crack the size of a fist. It’s cooler here. The air, stifling dry, causes your lungs to work a little over time giving you thoughts of nervousness, or maybe it’s anxiety — at this point you can’t really separate the two. Above is still a mystery. Your vision of the top is blockaded by that of aggressive-looking clouds. They seem as if they are warning you of harder climbing yet to come, but veering off the path is not an option you have given yourself. The journey must continue.
At 11,700 feet, most life is gone. This is a place not traveled by many, but here you are. The luxurious trees are no more, vanished from sight, disappeared from the sense of smell. All that can be seen is a little grass. If you could even call those green whiskers shooting from the rocked ground, grass. Your lungs start to work harder, legs start to burn as you continue on, and your head starts to pound, telling you it’s time to rest. The wind tugs at your clothes and whips your hair, and those darkened clouds now float within arm's length. This place is unforgiving to life. It almost seems as if you weren’t meant to be there, but in the back of your mind, something is telling you this is exactly where you were meant to be. These clouds are but an illusion and above there must be something better — something more — and that is the dream that tells you to keep pushing forward.
You’ve reached a forbidden place. Not many make to 12,700 feet, but those that do hardly ever make it further. It’s nearly impossible to take ten steps without shortness of breath. A thirst for hydration dries out your throat, gnawing at you — no screaming for you to stop and take a break.
“Time is plentiful” is the illusion they want you to believe. The Devil’s Playground as it’s known, is intimidating, to say the least. Time-worn rocks are all that remain. Lightning strikes loudly and aggressively, jumping from rock to rock and creating a sight sending most stumbling back down the mountain never to be seen at this level of a dream again. But you know this type of pain is only temporary, and what is yet to come will validate any type of stress or anxiety you have endured along this journey. A few more carefully placed steps and you will arrive.
There it is: 14,000 feet up — the prize. No immense pine trees stand in your way, no tall rocks jutting from the earth’s surface trip you up, and no gloomy chilling clouds block your view anymore. It’s only you, and you’re on top of the world. The horizon stretches farther than the eye can see with brilliant light and dark blues accented by fluffy white pillow-like clouds. It’s almost as if you can see the earth round off in the far distance. It’s a never-ending sight of possibility and opportunity. It’s a relaxing feeling that runs through your veins like you just laid in bed after a stressful day. Everything you endured was set up for this moment. You feel relieved you can finally rest, the rest that you have been waiting for your whole life.
Anxiety and doubt are obstacles overcome on this journey to the top. Everything pointed against you, deer and elk no longer lope under branches of spruce and pine trees that once towered over all of life. But you were never deterred from the path and your goal has been completed. Every moment of doubt you had was pushed aside and forgotten. You marked all stress and anxiety as temporary. You can now rest in peace knowing that you underwent every roadblock necessary for this moment to be possible. The journey behind this moment is what makes this view so significant.