Monday, June 29, 2015

Sunset Over Holy Cross - June, 2015

Stunning sunset sky over Mt. of the Holy Cross as viewed from Notch Mountain in the Sawatch mountains of Colorado
Sunset over Mt. of the Holy Cross - Prints available

"What fortune lies beyond the stars
Those dazzling heights too vast to climb
I got so high to fall so far
But I found heaven as love swept low

My heart beating, my soul breathing
I found my life when I laid it down
Upward falling, spirit soaring
I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground"
                                                                   - Hillsong United

The Holy Cross Wilderness is a special place.  Unique from the rest of the Sawatch Range, there is a wild nature to the area.  I climbed the 14,005 ft. Mt. of the Holy Cross 7 years ago as my first solo hike with my puppy Molly.  She was probably a bit too young at the time to do such a strenuous hike, but she made it alright.  A little pooped on the summit.  

Molly on Mt. of the Holy Cross from 2008
On our way down after that hike we were followed by a hungry fox (or something like a fox).  It was a large gray dog related animal with black spots on it.  I remember having to chase it off multiple times when it would come close.  I'm pretty sure it thought Molly would make a nice lunch.  It would run away from me after I would shoo it off, then come back and try to get at her from a different angle.  Fortunately for Molly, I was more persistent than it was and it finally gave up after I chased it all the way up a hill.

This outing was to be our first solo overnight backpack.  Molly is now a veteran mountain dog.  She's climbed more than half the 14ers and numerous other 13ers.  I've even had friends borrow her to go hiking with them when they need an experienced partner. 

Molly with her "backpack"

I've been wanting to summit Notch Mountain for a while now, but there's always a short window of time between when the Tigiwon Road is open and when the snow in the Cross Couloir is still present before the summer heat melts it out.  This summit of Notch Mountain is the spot where you can get the classic view of the cross from where Henry Jackson took the famous first photograph of the peak in 1873. 

The plan was to pack in to Halfmoon Pass and camp, then wake up early the next morning before dawn and summit Notch Mountain for a sunrise photo shoot of Holy Cross.  We reached Halfmoon Pass around 7pm.  I decided to drop my big pack and climb up and see how high I could get before the sun went down.  Turns out the climb isn't very hard.  There were a few snowfields to cross, but no major difficulties.  I was able to reach the top in just over an hour from where I dropped my pack, just in time for sunset.

Mt. of the Holy Cross on the approach to Notch Mountain
Holy Cross on the approach

God put on one of the best light shows I've seen in a long time. I wish I had a camera that could capture the 360 degree view in all directions.  The entire sky was lit up with vibrant warm colors.  It was totally calm and peaceful on the summit when the sun danced around the clouds.  There is a lot of creativity in photography, but in many cases, a photo is not the work of the artist behind the camera.  Instead it is the the work of the artist in front of it.  These images are only humble copies of the Lord's awesome handiwork:

The entire length of the gore range mountains in the distance panoramic image from Mount of the Holy Cross
The entire length of the Gore Range in the distance

The sun dips below the horizon behind Mt. of the Holy Cross in the northern Sawatch Range, Colorado
The sun says goodnight between the clouds and the horizon

Beautiful sunset colors behind Mount of the Holy Cross with the Jackson group behind in the Mt. Holy Cross Wilderness near Minturn, Colorado
Sunset colors over Holy Cross and the Jackson group - Prints available

Though not super excited to descend back in the dark, I was elated to have witnessed such a rare scene.  Once I reached my backpack, I thought, "Hey, those sunset photographs were really good.  Why would I need to go back up there for sunrise?"  Molly didn't object to the idea of hiking out and going home, so we started down the trail.  I decided that sleeping in my own bed and getting less sleep would be better than a full night of restless, uncomfortable sleep in a tent.  So we packed out and headed for home.  Hiking back in the dark is kind of an eerie thing.  I understand why people aren't nocturnal creatures.  We drove home and I surprised (or confused) my wife by crawling into bed at 3am (she was expecting me to come home the next day).  It was an awesome and quick 13 hour trip!

On a side note: I find it interesting that, historically, this mountain was thought of as a holy place for people to come to pray and worship.  Why people call the cross holy is hard to understand.  A cross was considered all but holy.  It represented shame, punishment and torture for those who had done evil.  Christ, though he was blameless, only "endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." It's the man who volunteered to die such a horrible death that is holy and worthy of worship.  I guess people just look for icons or symbols to elevate and worship.  Hopefully, when people see a crucifix it reminds them of what the Lord did rather than thinking that the symbol itself has any sort of power or holiness.  I hope people can see Christ as he is now, having "everything under his feet" and "given all authority in heaven and on earth" because of his willingness to be tortured on an ugly instrument of death to pay for our sins.  

In conclusion, I say it should be called "Mount of the Cross that the Holy One was Crucified On, But Now He is Lord of Everthing."  Or...maybe that's a bit too long...

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