Estes Park, COLORADO / Above the Timber Line / by Amanda Oliver

I was challenged once to write without putting myself in it. No ownership, no "I"'s, no reactions or feelings.

I became angry at the person who suggested the exercise, then I became self-deprecating, thinking how maybe all I was doing was working through my own "stuff" by writing.

I wonder whether the latter is really all that bad.

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

I was dizzy and shaking when I arrived to Estes Park. Out of breath after lifting my suitcase up two flights of stairs to our log cabin. I chugged four pint glasses of water before making the descent back to the driveway.  Altitude sickness was not something I had ever experienced before and I spent most of the first day enjoying the views from windows and visiting with family.

On the second day, we made our first climb into the mountains.

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Colorado smelled like pine trees, especially driving into Rocky Mountain National Park.

This is the part where I default to talking about myself because the world around me was difficult to describe. Describing it feels like a disservice to those who will never go and an insult to those who do. I don't want to tel it wrong.

Alluvial Fan Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park

Alluvial Fan Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park

I have traveled to many beautiful places in North America, but the Colorado Rockies were special to me years before I'd been more than ten miles outside of my hometown. Michael Martin Murphy's "Carolina in the Pines" and John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High (Colorado)" were in constant rotation in my family's minivan and, even then, I understood the importance of this place. No music and words I loved so much could come out of anything less than breathtaking, I was certain.

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park was an affirmation more than two decades in the making.

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Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Experiencing Colorado for the first time with my family was perhaps the best part. My Uncle Jimmy passed away earlier this year and, when I looked around at everyone's faces and especially at the rows of mountains, it seemed more likely that he was there than not. 

I took a few hours to sit by myself in the park on our third day there. I thanked the gravel in my hands and the mountains in my view for this year of challenges and changes. What better things to express gratitude to? What better way for so much family to quietly take turns saying our goodbyes, as I am almost certain we all privately did?

Colorado was everything I hoped it would be.

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Four of Michael Martin Murphy's biggest fans

Four of Michael Martin Murphy's biggest fans