“I seek to lose the madness over the mountains and begin again.” – Colonel Ludlow’s quote to his companion, One Stab, in the movie Legends of the Fall.
After watching the butchering of Indian tribes in the U.S. for years, Colonel Ludlow resigns from the army. He moves to the remote frontier of Montana where he hopes to raise his three sons in a more just world of his own creation. The disillusioned warrior is soothed by the simplicity and silence of the mountains for years. The mountains also provide him the strength to survive a number of tragedies that befall the ones he loves the most.
While the movie is fictional, it illustrates how the mountains can heal the damaged hearts of men.
As a child, I was very inquisitive. I have no idea how many questions I would pose to adults who would pause while thinking of how to answer my relentless questioning. I was also anxious, knew nothing of peace, and already had a spiritually damaged heart.
However, I found peace and tranquility in a place on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains; Denver Colorado. My parents would take me and my three sisters to Denver every year. Their purpose was to ski in Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Breckenridge. While I loved to ski, I was overwhelmed by the peacefulness of the Rockies and its power to heal.
June 7, 1988 – Remote Area in the Colorado mountains – After landing and meeting up with instructors at Outward Bound, our group of young boys begin the trek that will take us deep into the mountains. We have backpacks, water, and little else. Over the two weeks of survival training, we hike miles a day, set up camp, repel from massive rocks, train in navigating snow (at the top of the larger peaks), and finally carry one of our bravest brothers who broke his leg in a canyon to base camp on the last day.
Many of my fellow 14-year-olds were ready to get to the airport and fly back to their homes. It was a challenging experience.
But, I wanted to do it again. Looking back, I believe that on the sixth day of the journey, I understood peace and felt peace. The sixth day was dreaded by many. This is because our guide would take each of us individually to remote areas where we would be alone for 24 hours and expected to set up a tent, cook with primitive tools, and spend the night alone in the wilderness.
I will never forget that experience. When I woke up the next morning, I left the tent and saw one of the most beautiful sights that God created; the Maroon Bells. The Maroon Bells are two large peaks in the middle of the Rockies. I experienced true peace for the first time in my life.
June 15, 1988 – When it was time to board the plane that would take me back to Atlanta, I noticed that it was hot, humid, and the sky was full of black clouds and thunderstorms. I knew that this was unusual for Denver in early summer.
When we lifted off the ground and reached 10,000 feet, other passengers began to panic. I opened the window shade and saw two massive funnel clouds that were spinning rapidly. While the pilot tried to calm many passengers, I just prayed.
The pilot circumvented perhaps the worst natural disaster in Colorado history. Six tornadoes formed throughout the afternoon and leveled a large part of Denver, Colorado.
While I was afraid, I also felt an inner peace that I cannot describe. After the skillful pilot navigated the plane to safety over Kansas, he flew us back to Atlanta.
The peace that God gave me in the mountains remained with me for many years. But, that peace slowly diminished with the passage of time. I had to return to the mountains.
April 22, 2022 – Kansas – My wife and I are on a Delta jet that resembles the plane from 1988. As we make the final approach into Denver, I open the window shade and notice a familiar sight; the eastern edge of the Rockies.
The peace that God gave me as a boy in the mountains returned during our short vacation.
Denver is very different today. Instead of seeing people with boots, cowboy hats, and strong conservative views, Denver has become a wealthy, sprawling city with people who have libertarian views and many diverse lifestyles.
Yet, there is one aspect of Denver that has not changed; the peace and serenity associated with the mountains. As we return to Atlanta, I am grateful that God has restored the peace He gave to a 14-year-old boy in 1988.