Oxygen choices

On Monday, the girls had their first real “summit.”

Mt. Washburn, YNP.  10,243 feet.  Three miles up, three miles down.  1400 foot elevation change over three miles.  Not a 14er or a Half Dome, but still pretty challenging for six young kids.

Even our 2-year-old made it over a mile up the steep climb before I started to pack her on my back.

This sweet little 4-year-old had to have been one of the younger hikers ever to summit completely unassisted.  (So proud of her!)

The experience was completely spiritual for all of us.

When we were 2/3 of the way up, it started to really tax us.  It was a constant steep incline, and we were weary from the climb and wet from rain.  Little spats of bickering started to break out here and there, and the girls started to talk about how hard the hike was.  Our breathing was labored and we were becoming exhausted.

Then, my 8-year-old near-quoted a line from one of our favorite movies: “Guys, we can’t do this right now.  We’ve got to make oxygen choices.”

We all laughed.  She was right.  We may not have been hiking the Himalayas, but we did have oxygen choices to make.  We needed every spare breath we had, and we couldn’t waste them on petty things.  We couldn’t haul around rocks and we couldn’t argue.  It quickly became apparent to their little minds and bodies that the only way we were making it to the peak was working hard and working together.

The higher we climbed, the more we could see.  The beauty was overwhelming, almost impossible to take in.  Mountains all around, and we were higher than any of them.

The summit loomed ahead of us, always just out of our reach.  There were times when each of us felt like we would never make it.  The child on my back had never been heavier.

Somehow, though, we each wanted it.  We needed it.  We kept going.

The summit, when we finally made it, was victorious.  My girls threw their bags on the ground and danced.

They each added their name carefully and with pride to the register of those who made it.

We stayed at the peak for an hour at least.  It was too sweet to leave it in a hurry.  From where we stood, we could see Yellowstone Lake.  We could see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  We could see everything.

It was incredible to look down from so high on all of those places, those dozens and hundreds of places where I have lost and found myself in Yellowstone.  Down in the trees and canyons, by lakes and rivers.  I could see myself and all of the places I’ve been and all the prayers and sorrows and joys and thoughts.

Perspective is an amazing thing.

I had no idea how much I needed a summit, a place to work so very hard to get to, a place to want to be badly enough to make it through hurt and tiredness, a place to gain such immense perspective.

I did need it, though.

Going down was hard.  We were tired and the trail was steep.  Rocks constantly slipped beneath our sore feet.  But our new-found perspective was with us as we went down, and I hope we’ll carry it with us wherever we go.

The sun set right before we made the trailhead.  Perfect, perfect day.

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