11:21 a.m. on 1/4/14

Okay, I have a confession to make. This Moment in Time was intentionally scheduled for my birthday. And I had a pretty good feeling I’d be doing something amazing in an incredibly beautiful place at exactly 11:21 a.m.

And I was.

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My first trip up Mt. Garfield with my family in 2007.

I climbed Mt. Garfield for the first time seven years ago, on my 41st birthday, about a year after moving to Grand Junction. My children were younger then, 8 and 10, and I knew it would be challenging for them. Heck, it was challenging for me. But as we got it accomplished I remember telling my family that I wanted to do this same hike every year on my birthday. Doing so would prove to myself that I was still young and healthy and willing to have some fun in life.

Of course, I haven’t been able to climb Mt. Garfield every year on or near my birthday. My birthday’s in January and it snows around here and Mt. Garfield has a few treacherous spots. And there were years when climbing Garfield wasn’t a priority. I think I’ve climbed it four times now for my birthday, counting yesterday, and on numerous occasions during the spring, summer, and fall months.

But yesterday’s climb was just epic. For starters, there was a group of nearly 20 of us–my daughters, Jim, and so many good friends. Friends who enrich my life in small but priceless ways and made my day all the more special, friends who think climbing a steep, slippery mountain sounds fun, friends who show up despite the freshly fallen show and daunting weather.

The weather. Yes, the weather was another factor that contributed to the grandeur of the day.

When I awoke yesterday morning, big juicy flakes were falling outside my window. It wasn’t cold. 25 degrees. A wonderful hiking temperature, really. But I couldn’t see Mt. Garfield, which on most days is a prominent landmark across the valley.

I sent out a message: The weather is a little iffy and I’ve never hiked Garfield when I can’t even see it, but let’s do this! I can’t call off my birthday hike due to a little weather; that wouldn’t bode well for the year!

The weather made the climb all the more memorable, not just because of the management of layers, hats, and gloves as we moved between sunshine, windy spots, and in and out of clouds, but because of the impact it had on the scenery. The fickle sunlight, low-lying mist, and larger cumulus clouds cast interesting light upon the impressive topography. The colors of the landscape–the dull gray of the clay soil, rusty rock outcroppings and cliff walls, the muted leftover greens of summer’s minimal vegetation–were amplified by the juxtaposing white of the snow fallen just that morning.

And then, of course, there was the timing. It’s the new year and everyone–even if they haven’t made any formal commitments–has plans for self-improvement and living at least a wee bit more than they did last year. There’s good energy in the air when a group of friends embarks up a mountain in the beginning of January.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. I don’t know where I was exactly at 11:21 a.m. or to whom I may have been speaking. It doesn’t matter. I shared a whole collection of birthday moments with nearly 20 special friends, including my daughters, who did this not because they were dying to climb a mountain on a snowy Saturday morning over Christmas Break, but because they knew how much it would mean to me to have them along. Because they knew, themselves, how invaluable the memory of the day would be and how accomplishing a feat like this can empower one to go out there and really live the rest of the year.

Thanks friends. Thanks family. And a big shout out to life and a new year.

2,000 feet up in two miles.

2,000 feet up in two miles.

The pilgrimage to the summit.

The pilgrimage to the summit.

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Heading toward a cloud.

Heading toward a cloud.

Our favorite section, walking along the cliff wall.

Our favorite section, walking along the cliff wall.

The views, always amazing, made better by the weather.

The views, always amazing, made better by the weather.

Waiting for everyone to get up the icy backside.

Waiting for everyone to get up the icy backside.

Looking down on I-70 and across the valley.

Looking down on I-70 and across the valley.

Me, on my 48th birthday, near the summit of Mt. Garfield.

Me, on my 48th birthday, near the summit of Mt. Garfield.

Making some noise on the summit with my daughters.

Making some noise up top with my daughters.

Friends.

Friends.

Wild horses in a draw below us.

Wild horses in a draw below us.

I see blue sky.

Panorama

Now, go climb your own mountain.

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This is what one more minute of daylight will get you

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand (2)

This week’s photo challenge is GRAND and though I’ve already posted once, I must post again, for I live in the GRAND VALLEY with the GRAND RIVER (changed to the Colorado River in 1921) running through it, the incredibly grand Colorado National Monument to the south, and the 10,000 foot GRAND MESA (largest mesa in the entire world) directly to the east.

The Grand Valley, in the fall, with Mt. Garfield on the left and the Grand Mesa in the distance.

The Grand Valley, in the fall, with Mt. Garfield on the left and the Grand Mesa in the distance.

My daughters and friends climbing Mt. Garfield, high above the Grand Valley.

My daughters and friends climbing Mt. Garfield, high above the Grand Valley.

Another view of our Grand Valley, with the vineyards and peach orchards in the foreground.

Another view of our Grand Valley, with the vineyards and peach orchards in the foreground.

This view of the Grand Valley was taken from the incredibly grand Colorado National Monument.

This view of the Grand Valley was taken from the incredibly grand Colorado National Monument.

Taken from the Colorado National Monument, with Independence Monument in the foreground and the Grand Valley beyond.

Taken from the Colorado National Monument, with Independence Monument in the foreground and the Grand Valley beyond.

Following my dog down the Colorado River, which was formerly the Grand River. It starts high in the Rockies at Grand Lake.

Following my dog down the Colorado River, which was formerly the Grand River. It starts high in the Rockies at Grand Lake.

The Grand Valley from Powderhorn Ski Area on the Grand Mesa.

The Grand Valley from Powderhorn Ski Area on the Grand Mesa.

Cross country ski trails on the Grand Mesa.

Winter splendor on the Grand Mesa.

Lake kayaking at 10,000 feet on the Grand Mesa.

Lake kayaking at 10,000 feet on the Grand Mesa.

My daughter snowshoeing across Island Lake on the Grand Mesa.

My daughter snowshoeing across Island Lake on the Grand Mesa.

Fall colors on the Grand Mesa.

Fall colors on the Grand Mesa.

Life is grand here in the Grand Valley. So lucky to live and play here!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Morning!

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Sure, there are mornings when I’d rather sleep in

When I’d rather write than run

But I’ve made plans

That I must keep

With my running partner, Dawn.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/photo-challenge-morning/