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Adventure and Travel / Featured News

OFF THE PAVED PATH: FINDING WONDER IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

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It’s a 16 hour, 33 minute drive from Bloomington, Indiana to the mountain town of Frisco, Colorado. Frisco sits on the Dillon Reservoir, along with the towns of Dillon and Silverthorne, each of which are about 20 minutes from Breckenridge. My husband, father, 10 year old nephew, and I left at about 9:00 PM and drove straight through the night and the next day to reach our destination, stopping only for bathroom breaks and cheap gas station food. Our maroon Jeep Wrangler, with bulbous tires and a removable top, would be more of an essential character on this journey than I realized as we passed the flat, dusty Kansas landscape on I-70.

It was July, and as we progressed through the plains that stretch down the center of the United States, the air sweltered to 100 degrees. When we finally reached the border between Colorado and Kansas, I felt as though I had been camping for a week. Leaving the Denver sprawl behind, the temperature dropped into the high 50s and the air seemed to lift as we wound into the rocky foothills, becoming cool and crisp. We were finally drawing near to what we had come to do: drive more.

Believe it or not, we had driven over 16 hours to remain in that Jeep, bumping slowly along the numerous dirt roads that surround the area and lead upward into the heart of the mountains. Calling them dirt roads is not entirely accurate, as some of them were littered with rocks larger than our tires. They are off-roads; roads very rarely used and only so by those who have a vehicle that can manage it. In fact, as we initially approached the mouth of Webster Pass, a large sign warned not to go any further if you were not in an off-road vehicle. Suddenly our Jeep was not just for getting from point A to B; it was our magic vessel to get as close as possible to the rugged landscape that surrounded us.

We drove slowly, inching around boulders and along ledges, through deep streams, between tight spaces and up sharp inclines. As we rose higher, the sky shifted from cheery sun to deep, grey mist. We saw several marmots scuttle into hiding at our approach, many of which seemed to reside in the boarded up mines we passed along the road. The way the cold wind howled through the remaining walls of those abandoned mines left me feeling aching and lonely. A few times I got out of the Jeep to walk as my head spun, feeling as though we may roll all the way back down that mountain at any moment. By the end of the day, our bodies were sore from the jostling motion of the drive, and we did little more than collapse in a hotel room and prepare for the next ascent. This may not sound like a dream vacation, but I hope the pictures show that the journey is entirely worth it. A long drive crammed in the back seat, bumping slowly up a mountain, led to moments that literally took my breath away and filled me with wonder.

This feeling of wonder speaks to why my greatest passion is to travel. Traveling is a search for wonder. The journey usually includes discomfort and several moments of almost turning back, but the result can be life changing. It’s why we humans keep pushing through the long drives, the endless hours on an airport floor, or hiking a trail until our toenails fall off. This particular journey, as uncomfortable and exhausting as it was, left me standing among the mountains breathing in their solidity and certainty. My eyes drink in their magnificently varied textures and colors. I felt filled with abundance and significance, yet also humbled and silenced because in this place I was a guest and an observer. The mountains stand firm everyday, the wildflowers grow and animals complete their daily rituals, all without my input or admiration.

Jon Kabat-Zinn described the scenes I found myself in well when he reflected on mountain meditations in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are. “Mountains are held sacred,” he said, “embodying dread and harmony, harshness and majesty. Rising above all else on our planet, they beckon and overwhelm with their sheer presence.”

Standing among these mountains, I too was filled with paradoxical feelings of dread and harmony, harshness and majesty as Kabat-Zinn describes.  My lungs filled with cold air and my eyes took in the scenery like they were seeing for the first time. This is the wonder I seek when I travel. This is what I had come all that way for. The feeling changes me every time by showing me a little more about the world and about myself. My goal as a traveler is to continuously search for and explore that feeling, and maybe capture a glimpse of it in my photographs as well.

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Author: Molly E. Schoberg
Email: mollyeschoberg@gmail.com
Author Bio: Passionate about photographing, traveling, hiking, and universe pondering.
Link to social media or website: https://www.instagram.com/mollyescho/

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4 Comments

  1. ♡ road trips just to drive some more. sounds like us. Terrific read.

    Reply
    • Thank you!

      Reply
  2. Which roads did you take? Beautiful photos, I live in Denver and Summit County is one of my favorite places in CO 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you! I can’t remember all of the names but two that stuck out were Webster Pass and Red Cone.

      Reply

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