As a resident in beautiful, mountainous Colorado, I totally get my fellow Coloradans who say they prefer taking a hike in our Front Range to going to church. They feel something in the silence of 10,000 feet that they don’t in a brick-and-mortar building where lots of words are spoken, many old-fashioned terms about a deity and other beings they have no mental or emotional contact with. Today, I had such an experience myself, although granted I am a regular attendee at and enthusiastic member of Boulder’s historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Yesterday my wife and I arrived at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch outside Laramie, Wyoming, a three-hour drive from Boulder into a world of ranches, real cowboys, and howdies. We arrived an hour after our wonderful friends the Millers from Lyons, Colorado, who had the log cabin next to ours, both yards from the rushing Little Laramie River. I had found this old but still working ranch on Google. It had oodles of five-star reviews with oohs and ahs galore. So, both the Millers and the Feldman-Barstows made reservations. We couldn’t believe the reasonable price either: a mere $170/night per cabin including a hot “cowboy” breakfast in a decades-old lodge full of cowboy and Indian memorabilia. When we made our reservations and wanted to give the woman on the phone our credit-card information, she replied, “There’s no need for that. You can do that when you check out.” Moreover, on our first night we discovered the “John Wayne Saloon,” with a full bar run on the honor system. You just noted what you had on a sheet on a drink-now-pay-later basis. There was also an inviting pool table. (We accepted.)
To get back to the main topic, though, the next morning, after a delicious breakfast, Rob Miller drove the four of us to Medicine Bow National Forest, where we spent two hours hiking at 11,000 feet in the Snowy Mountains, so called because their quartzite bodies shine white like snow year-round. Of course, on this particular mid-October day, we found ourselves walking through as much as eight inches of real snow. The day itself, however, presented with azure-blue skies, wind-sculpted clouds, stunningly beautiful mountains, and alpine lakes that caused us each to catch our breath more than once and elicit unexpected statements of disbelief. Here was a family of evergreens—from grandparents to new babies; there was a river of glacier-rolled rocks, many cut by Nature into rectilinear shapes that would have astounded the pyramid builders of Egypt. I thought of the psalm that begins, “I shall look up unto the mountains./ From whence cometh my strength?/ My strength cometh from the Lord,/ Maker of Heaven and Earth. . . .” Here was a perfection beyond human design or capacity. There may be no atheists in foxholes. We four were certainly no atheists on this day of unparalleled, breath-taking beauty.