Well, my 20th birthday has come and gone, unfortunately before my 20th peak was climbed. When I initially challenged myself to climb 20 14ers before my 20th birthday, it seemed monumental. A hefty goal, worthy of all my attention, and significant in my humble summer life. The mountains, along with my training for the Triple Crown, gave me a much-needed purpose in an otherwise slow few months. I let these personal challenges consume me, and regarded them with the utmost importance. I did my lab duties with due diligence each morning and arrived promptly for work in the afternoons, devoting any free hours to runs and providing any possible excuse to get a day off to make my way up a new peak and towards my goal. I'm ashamed to say that I felt sorry for myself some days; how hard my life seemed, that I had to work when I should have been out on my beloved mountains!
9 days before my birthday, I had 5 peaks to go and a perfected plan on how to get to my number. That day, Waldo Canyon caught fire. As the fire progressed, worsened, and terrorized our city, a lot of things were put in perspective. Summiting 20 peaks was no longer the most important thing to me. Suddenly, there were lots of worse things than having to work over the weekend. The Waldo Canyon Fire, of course, isn't the first - or worst - tragedy any one of us has seen, but it certainly struck close enough to home to jar me out of my cocooned mindset.
I forfeited my plan for that last week, to get those last 14ers, without too much trouble. Being home, in this community that pulled together incredibly in a time of incredible trepidation, was far more important. The mountains will wait - they'll be there whether I go today or in 50 years. I could not say the same for all of Colorado Springs.
So, I hope to climb 20 14ers by my 20th summer - a small adjustment from the original plan. But then, life is a series of small adjustments: careers, paths, and desires change; runners adjust their training plans when the smoke is too thick to run outside; people rebuild when all is lost; and plans change in the face of adversity.
In the last few days before my birthday, I hiked Mt. Harvard with my mother. I knew that I wouldn't reach 20 by Monday, but that was no longer the point. Still reeling from the fire, we were able to escape for a few hours to spend time together. On my birthday, I climbed my Mt. Elbert (my 17th 14er) with my father and my best friend - a perfect birthday.
Like so many, I'm grateful to the Triple Crown for hosting the Summer Roundup this Sunday. Our community endured tragedy and devastation, and the gathering of the Roundup I hope will lift many spirits.
My heart goes out to all those who lost homes, the volunteers, and the firefighters.