Lost on a mountain in the Colorado Rockies as the sun set, he began to pray.
Posted in , Jan 24, 2020
My date, Lisa, and I were huddled in the pitch black on a wooded ridge in the Colorado Rockies. All around us were rocks and sheer drops. We’d lost the trail. We were still a mile or more from the car. And it was getting colder by the minute.
I couldn’t believe I’d gotten us into this mess. I’d met Lisa through a family friend and invited her to hike Eagle Peak with me as our first date. I felt responsible for our safety and guilty that I’d put both of us in danger.
After all, I should’ve known better than to hike so close to nightfall without any flashlights or heavy jackets. I was a junior at the nearby Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. A former Eagle Scout too. But I’d been so excited for our date, I didn’t think twice about heading out for the hike a little later than I usually would. I’d taken this trail before, and it was sunny and unseasonably warm that November day. I felt I had little reason to worry.
The hike had started out great. Lisa and I traversed a ridge densely forested in pines and firs, hiked over a saddle and climbed to the peak. We paused there to take in the glorious view, the brilliant trees, hawks wheeling on the updrafts, the setting sun…Wait a second. I checked my watch. Four o’clock?! Somehow we’d lost track of time. I suggested we head back, struggling to hide the worry in my voice. I hoped if we hurried, we’d make it before the sun went down and the temperature dropped along with it. But it was slow-going. By the time we finally arrived at the wooded ridge, the sun had set. The tree canopy blocked out the stars and the moon. When we could no longer see in front of us, I made us stop.
Now here we were, stuck on this ridge, immobilized by the darkness. We were both shivering violently, our teeth chattering uncontrollably. Lisa wore a sweater, and I had given her my light jacket. We were both in danger of hypothermia if we didn’t get off this mountain soon.
“We might have to crawl down,” I said to Lisa.
“Okay,” Lisa said, crouching to the ground. “I’ll stay close.”
I started out and immediately slipped on the scree. I caught myself. Lisa gasped and stopped behind me. Rocks clattered over the edge of the ridge. Who was I kidding? I had no way of knowing if we were heading toward a drop or even in the right direction. I felt utterly defeated. The only thing I could think to do was pray. I squeezed my eyes shut.
God, we need light, I prayed silently. It seemed like an impossible request in the given circumstances. Still, I didn’t know what else to pray for.
I am the light of the world.
A voice responded. But I hadn’t heard it out loud. It seemed to come from within, from my heart. I didn’t understand what the words meant. I stood up. Without understanding why, I knew that I needed to repeat these words to calm down and clear my mind.
“Lord, you are the light,” I whispered to myself.
An incredible peace filled me. As if somehow I knew everything would be okay. I took a deep breath, then glanced down. I gasped.
Surrounding my feet was a circle of blue-green light. It was faint, similar to the soft glow of an illuminated watch face. I could clearly see my shoes and was relieved to find that we were standing directly on the trail. But where was the light coming from? Was someone shining a flashlight? I looked around but couldn’t find the source of the mysterious glow.
I took a cautious step forward.
The glow moved with my feet. I took another step, and it moved with me again. I had an innate sense that this light was for me, that it had been sent to lead us.
“Lisa,” I said. “Follow me. I think I can get us out of here.”
We edged forward slowly, Lisa’s hands on my hips so we wouldn’t get separated. With every step, the light stayed at my feet. I was tempted to ask Lisa if she could see the light too, but I worried that if I spoke about it, it might disappear. Just keep following it, I thought. We moved along. The feeling of calmness stayed with me.
After an hour of walking, we emerged from the trees. The light of the stars and the moon illuminated the scenery around us. I could now easily see the trail and the car at the trailhead. We’d made it! I looked around for the strange light, but it had disappeared. I never saw it again, but the feeling of comfort it brought me hasn’t faded, even in my darkest moments in the many years since.
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