This weekend, I took River to the mountains (via Rocky Mountain National Park) for the first time. She had an amazing time, and is a natural rock-climber. She climbed to the top of the falls at the alluvial fan, and said that was her favorite part.
We went back down the easy way — through the forest behind. River encountered a herd of deer. I grew up with deer in the driveway, but this is the first time River has run into a herd of wild deer. She was delighted.
“Daddy, I love climbing. I’m a good climber.” She was completely fearless.
Here’s the dad:
I know, I know. I look like a complete goofball. A happy goofball. River and I had the time of our lives: she loves the mountains, and it gave me childlike joy to share them with her for the first time.
We made it up to Bear Lake, which is near 10,000 feet above sea level — as high as you reach by road at this season, with the higher passes and trails still snow-locked. We did the mile-ish walk around the lake, which was a good hike for six-year-old River, because about 80% of the trail was under five feet of packed and frozen snow. She used her stick for balance and made her way completely around the lake, indefatigable.
The peaks above Bear Lake. Looking at them, you begin to feel the immensity and age of the earth:
It was difficult to keep my mind on the Ramat ha-Golan and not picture the Rockies in my imagination as I wrote sections of Strangers in the Land and I Will Hold My Death Close, a few years ago. The mountains get in your blood. They get in your lungs: the air is thin and clean, the water cold. Your whole body feels alive up there. Your heart feels bigger.
I have lived here fifteen years, and been up those mountains many times. My wife and I hiked around the alluvial fan when we first met. She handed me the tripod and her telescope lens, told me calmly, “That’s $1700, don’t drop it,” and then led the way up the rocks. I followed, cradling the lens in a mild panic. I passed the Boyfriend Test, and didn’t drop it. Long after, right after placing a ring on her finger, I took Jessica to the cabins at Gold Lake for a long weekend. We rode horses, we admired the icy lake, we watched the fierce mountain stars from a rock pool heated by natural springs. Those days and nights at remote Gold Lake are among my most cherished memories.
And I remember my first fourteener (we have quite a few of those here) and the first time I stood on a peak and felt like I could see the whole world.
The mountains are full of good memories.
Now I get to help my daughters make some. Starting with River. (I’ll take Inara up, gently, this summer once the mountains thaw a bit more.)
Here we are going home after a very full trip. Going home, River style.
She had a blast! We’re going to have to make it a regular trip, and try some of the five-mile trails (and the long, real ones, when she’s older). I doubt she’ll be daunted.