I take a long, trembling gulp of air. Every breath I take makes my lungs burn, and my muscles feel tight and achy, like acid is running through my veins. The wind is powerful, growing stronger as I climb. It feels soothing against my hot, sweaty face. The elevation is approximately 8,930 feet. By the time I complete the climb, I will have hiked an extra 1,083 feet. I stop to take a swig of my water; I can barely swallow because I am so winded. I take a look around. It is quiet; the only sound is the wind through the trees. The birds that could be heard singing at the base of the mountain have long since gone silent. There is not much to see. The trail is completely sheltered by trees, making the view totally obscured, but I do not mind. The sight of how far I have climbed would feel wonderful, but I know I still have quite a daunting climb still ahead.
I place my water bottle back in my pack, and continue to climb. Suddenly, I seem to walk through an invisible barrier, and the wind ceases. The air suddenly becomes warm, not in a way that is suffocating, but comfortable. My tired legs receive a break as I now begin to hike on level ground, instead of up. After about 15 minutes, the ground begins to ascend steeply upwards, and I once again begin to climb. There is no turning back now; the trees are beginning to thin, and I know that I have almost reached the summit. The ground grows rockier as I climb, as if nature is attempting to prevent my completion of the hike.
Abruptly, I come upon ancient looking stone steps. They have obviously been here for years, for nature has begun to reclaim them. They are covered in moss and dirt, and their edges, though probably once sharp, are now rounded and smooth. As I begin to clamber up them, I see a stone archway, and I suddenly feel that I am ascending to the Pearly Gates, and climbing into heaven. The back of my shirt is sticky with sweat under my pack and drops of perspiration have begun to drip off my nose. But my muscles no longer ache, and I fmally feel that I am catching my breath as I climb the stone steps, higher and higher. Unexpectedly, the stairs end, and I am standing on even ground. The wind comes up so strongly and swiftly, that I feel it will carry me away. I push my long hair out of my face and stare ahead at the sight that I have been waiting to see since making the decision to hike Deer Ridge in Boulder, Colorado. The sight takes mybreath away. The tops of the mountains are still covered in snow in mid July, and from this distance it looks as if they are covered in powdered sugar. Below, I can see the town that is almost ten minutes away by car, and the river that runs by it, ending eventually into a small lake. The distance to the ground is so far that I can barely see it, and I almost cannot resist the feeling of wanting to jump off the side of the mountain.
I walk to the edge and sit on a large boulder. Slipping my pack off, I am unable to tear my eyes away from the spectacular sight before me. As a stare at the beauty around me, I realize how much I have accomplished today. Against all odds of exhaustion, altitude sickness, or any other obstacles, I have made it to the top of one of the most beautiful mountains in Boulder. I realize that I cannot stop smiling, and I never ever want to leave this spot. Up here, with the clouds, in a world that has been left nearly untouched by man, is the closest to heaven that I, or anyone, could ever get.