The sun has set on our summer in Colorado, at the Collegiate Church Network’s Estes Park Leadership Training. I can hardly believe that the image above was our everyday reality! The chapel on the right was one of my primary workplaces, and the cabin where our family stayed is nestled in the shadows of those mountains, in the center of the image (if one knows where to look)! What a crazy-cool opportunity!
We’re back in Ohio now — still, we have a lot of photographs and a lot of memories that remain, and I wanted to share some of my favorite images (and their associated memories) before things stacked up here in Kent.
The natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain National Park was truly breath-taking — and I took advantage of opportunities to get out in it as much as possible. I hiked almost 200 miles this summer (197.47, to be exact), in addition to quite a bit of running, cycling, and even some fly-fishing. Hiking was my favorite, though, and the view from the top of Powell Peak (pictured above) was probably one of the most unforgettable: my back pressed up against the cairn at the summit, taking short breaths, and laughing nervously with Nathan Ference about the precipitous drop in front of us.
Just as much as the hikes themselves, however, I have fond memories of the people with whom I enjoyed those experiences. At the beginning of the summer, a group of us trudged through deep snows all the way up Glacier Gorge to Black Lake. Along the way, we marveled at the scenery around us and shared our life stories with each other. There were so many good hikes involving so many good conversations with so many good people.
The crowning achievement of the summer was a ten-hour round-trip hike to the top of Longs Peak — the tallest mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park (at 14,259 feet above sea level). Stephen Campbell, AJ Ozanich, and I started with star-studded skies above us, at 2AM, and joined a pilgrimmage of head-lamps drifting up above tree-line. The Milky Way faded as the skies started to color, and then we watched the sun rise over the Boulderfield, just below the Keyhole. Afterwards, we scrambled around the mountaintop until we climbed over the top and looked down at the world below us. It was truly awe-inspiring.
One of the more enjoyable hikes of the summer was the one that Marci and I got to do — just the two of us — summitting Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak, and Otis Peak, all in one morning, before descending via Andrews Glacier and hiking out through Loch Vale. It was such a privilege to be able to bring my family along with me on such adventures.
Other hikes were memorable for different reasons — like the 45-60 MPH winds we faced on Mount Chapin, Mount Chiquita, and Ypsilon Mountain (a.k.a. “CCY”) — but they were all special in their own ways.
We also got to see a bunch of old friends and make a bunch of new friends this summer — from across the country and around the world. A “Top Ten” photographic compilation does not allow for anything approximating a true representation of all the relational experiences we had throughout the summer, but I loved this one particular image from the evening that we spent celebrating the birthday of our dear friend Naomi, together with a collection of other friends both old and new.
Another unique experience of the summer was watching my favorite basketball team — the Cleveland Cavaliers — win their first championship. In some ways, I felt disappointed to not be in northeast Ohio for the experience. But in other ways, it was special to cheer the team on from afar: where the crowd was more mixed (equal portions Warriors fans and Cavaliers fans), where about 75 people crowded around one relatively-small television, and where the strange setting of the log-cabin-style Rustic Cafe allowed for a more-unique memory of the big win. Go Cavs!!!
We saw some crazy stuff this summer, like the massive piles of snow on Trail Ridge Road in the second week of June (pictured above). We did some crazy things, like chasing after rainbows and catching hummingbirds.
The most-meaningful parts of the summer experience, however, were also the hardest to capture on film: the Gospel conversations we developed with the guests and with the other seasonal workers at the YMCA of the Rockies… the friendships we forged with other missionary families from our network of churches… the deep work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the students who came out with us from Kent State University… the ways God impressed Himself upon me throughout the summer… It was a powerful spiritual environment — and even though the above image from our end-of-the-summer baptism celebration is not the greatest photograph, and even though it can’t come anywhere close to capturing the sounds of that moment, with all our voices singing and praying together in that building, it conveys at least a trace of the spiritual power of this summer.
We’re glad to be back in Kent, and we’re looking forward to everything that God will do here in the weeks and months to come — but we’re also glad for the experiences we got to have this summer.