Living Between the Summits

A few years back, my husband and I visited Colorado Spings for the first time. As we left the airport and drove south toward the city, the snow-covered beauty of Pike’s Peak came into view. And as most likely with first time visitors, it’s summit beckoned to us. We needed to get to the top of that mountain.

Once we got settled and unpacked, we drove the short distance to the Cog Railway, and purchased our tickets. Before long, we were shuffled into the rail car, and took our spots on the wooden seats. I don’t recall much about the ride to the top except trees. Lots and lots of trees – up close and personal. There are about 9 miles of track on this railway, and all but the last three miles are engulfed in forest. “You can’t see the forest for the trees” came to mind several times. That said the final stretch of scenery was pretty spectacular.

When we arrived, we were the first to step off the train, and were instantly blasted by a sub-zero wind. It was bone-chilling and took our breath away. Buttoning our coats, and pulling on our hoods, we trudged to the best vantage point to see the amazing view below. The wind-chill factor of 17 degrees below zero was almost paralyzing. I didn’t take time to snap a photo; I looked quickly and then bolted for the guest shop where I had been told hot coffee awaited.

The delight of that warm beverage was short-lived as I was soon dizzy and nauseated from the high altitude. We stayed at the top for about 30 minutes that day, browsing the gift shop, looking at trinkets we cared nothing about just to elongate the time. After all, we had come all this way to experience the summit. But finding nothing more to do, we caught a quick photo by the sign, and then jumped on that downward train.

As anxious as we had been to get to our destination, we were even more impatient to get going and move on.

The summit just wasn’t what we had expected.

Sometimes life is like that. We want the next high point. High school. College. Marriage. Homeowner. Parenthood. Retirement.

We are anxious, possibly even discontent, looking toward the next peak of our lives.

Yet when we get there, it doesn’t quite satisfy as we thought it would and before long, we are looking around and ready to move on.

We went back recently, and spent time in Colorado Springs, visiting our daughter’s family. Two days into our visit, and my husband was talking about that peak again (funny how time makes one forget.) We bundled our 4 year-old grandson into winter garb, and set our sights on the mountain, choosing this time to take our car for the trek.

At every hairpin turn, David’s curiosity about what he was seeing was punctuated with “what’s that? where are we? why? and how?” And at one point, on a hairpin turn on that treacherous mountain road, full of “different car inquisitiveness,” he popped opened his car door. Both Papa and Gramma called out simultaneously, “David, what are you doing?” Only a bit shaken, my husband found a sliver of shoulder and pulled the car over to secure the door. Before pulling back onto the road, he talked to the wide-eyed boy about the safety of NOT playing with the door handle. A lesson learned.

Onward up the mountain.

We slowed down a couple of times to take in the view. Incredible beauty surrounded us at every turn. No trees blocking the forest on this way up the mountain. I snapped photo after photo, not wanting to forget any part of this journey.  


As you can see from the photos, we made it to the summit again. And you know what? It was absolutely freezing. And windy. So windy! And I did indeed get altitude sickness again, but it didn’t matter because we had already had a lovely trip and enjoyed the drive up to the top, and we weren’t focused totally on the summit.

Ah, the journey, not the summit, often reveals insight and beauty. The long trip allows time for questions to be answered. And the hard trek teaches us lessons. It’s often full of twists and turns, ups and downs.

Of course, I believe in setting goals, and we should always have targets ahead of us, but what about the space between the peaks?


Can we slow down long enough to see the forest?  

When I get to my next goal or destination, I want to enjoy the victory, but I don’t want to disregard the whole mountain that brought me to that point. I want to fully experience the expedition.

After all, the expedition is my life — that space between the summits.








If you are observant, you may have noticed that the signage at Pikes Peak changed between our two trips to the summit.  How high is that peak?  14,110 or 14,115?   Check out some history about the peak here:  Fun Facts About Pikes Peak.


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