This sports fan out of the game with engaging offer on mountain hike
I celebrated the end of my independence on Independence Day -- I got engaged.
The sports relevance? It was the pinnacle moment in a weekend hiking adventure through Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Hiking, backpacking and mountaineering are among the great athletic passions of my life. Although their place in the mainstream sports world is small, the respect I have for my fellow alpinists and the land in which they perform is massive.
The Rockies in particular have been a very special place for my family and me. For more than 50 years my grandfather has been making his annual pilgrimage to the magnificent North Front Range, bringing with him family and a profound love of this surreal place.
My mother and I in particular have been hypnotized by these hallowed peaks, lakes and rivers, each of them reflecting precious memories and evoking exploits.
The land has been overrun by tourists during the years, exchanging hours of solitude for social hours. I tend to deny my own tourist labels.
Nevertheless, this special land still inspires an appreciation for the grandeur of nature and the delight of discovery. It still provides me with the unique ability to cleanse the spirit while invigorating the soul.
I return from long hikes exhausted and yet energized. The mountains are truly a paradoxical place.
As my girlfriend and I grew closer, it became imperative that I share this place with her. It was important to me that my future wife has an appreciation for these mountains that meant so much to me. It was important that I see a similar gleam in her eye as we hiked among the aspen, climbed alongside waterfalls and trotted along the tundra.
After all, this place helps identify everything I am today.
The adventure began with an awesome drive across Interstate 70 and the boundless Kansas plains. I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek because, although the drive is as straight as it is monotonous, it does possess its own unique beauty. The skies and colors of the great prairie are exceptional in their own right.
But I digress.
The trip was advertised as an introduction to my hiking obsession and my mountain mania. The true intent of the expedition was reserved for one crucial moment.
We began with a reasonable warm-up, trekking to a trio of popular and accessible alpine lakes -- Nymph, Dream and Emerald. Beautiful mountain trails revealed these spectacular venues, exposing early the motivation behind my fixation.
More importantly they acclimated my girl to the altitude and the conditions so the following day we could attempt "the big hike."
The following day marked the birth of our country. And it eventually marked the birth of a new union.
We hit the trails early in the morning and made our way up the trail to the legendary Alberta Falls. We sat for a moment in mutual awe of the massive and powerful sight.
The trail then proceeded nearly four miles up the mountain to the Loch -- another breathtaking lake to behold.
Up and beyond the Loch are the tantalizing Timberline Falls. These extraordinary cascades fall from below the glacial Sky Pond, streaming down Loch Vale.
It was a test of my girl's psychological and physiological will to ascend to our goal -- it was, after all, her second hike ever.
Through stubbornness and determination we made our way through steep wooded paths, through rocky switchbacks above the tree line and across the snowy remains of great winter snowfields.
As we approached the falls, a sense of accomplishment fell upon her shoulders. And a sense of anxiety and anticipation consumed mine.
Under the guise of a routine photo opportunity I invited her to join me in the shallow rocky waters below the falls. I employed a passing hiker to preserve the moment in pictures for us.
I returned to her side and while she posed for the shot, I poised for the proposal. I dropped to one damp knee and declared my love.
And she said yes.
It was a fairy tale setting high above the Loch, overlooking the gorge and beneath a mountain waterfall. What more could a hiking enthusiast ever wish for?
So I encourage you all to get out, hike through a park or walk around the block. Feed your sense of adventure.
Fall in love -- whether with nature or those you nurture.