Perhaps, I can blame my GPS.
I am looking at you, Apple Maps.
But, something felt off as I made my way to Pike’s Peak.
The exit Siri led me down was all kinds of, well, residential roads. I kept waiting to see the sign that screamed “Pike’s Peak This Way” with a large white arrow pointing the way. Alas, no such sign existed.
After meandering through neighborhoods, I eventually found a highway that looked liked it could lead to a famous mountain.
I began passing signs for The Garden of the Gods, a cave of winds, cliff dwellings, and other possible Coloradoan tourist traps. Unfortunately, when I approached the road to turn and begin heading up in elevation, the lane used to turn was blocked off with caution cones and a police car.
That should have been my first read flag.
Yet, I only came to the conclusion of, “huh, this is odd” and continued down the highway, as Siri demanded I make a u-turn and headed back to the base of the mountain road.
With so much traffic around every touristy spot in Colorado, from the Denver Aquarium to Rocky Mountain National Park, I should have noted a second red flag when the road up to the Pike’s Peak park entrance was completely empty. Even the odd 1950s-esque North Pole mountainside amusement park seemed vacant. Yet, I was too concerned with my phone not wanting to charge (I was beginning to fear it was not a problem with the charger) and filled with excitement to head up the mountain that I put little stock in these observations.
As I approached the entrance to the park on this particular early Sunday afternoon, there was only one car in front of me. But more alarming was that above the three lanes into the park, a red neon X shown brightly.
I drove up to the park ranger and listened as he informed me that I unfortunately had chosen the one day out of the year that the mountain was closed.
Some kinds of well-known mountain scramble event, which was unknown to me, clearly.
I tried to hide my disappointment, as he thanked me for understanding, and I turned around to drive away from the closed entrance.
I don’t know why it meant so much to me to drive to the top of the mountain. I just felt like I needed to. I felt a drive to do this thing that I had done as a child, and since so much has happened since then, I wanted a redo. I wanted a redo of that drive. That drive with my ten-ish year old self sitting in the back of a white van, surrounded by swirls of clouds as we climbed. A ten-ish year old self who could not possibly understand the journey ahead. A journey filled with heartache and loneliness and acceptance and denial and disappointment.
Look, I know I was putting too much importance into this summiting, but I couldn’t help it. It’s not like I am going to redo all of those meaningful life experiences I had before coming to terms with my identity. For starters, I can no longer fit into some of my amazing hide and seek spots.
But, this one, this one felt necessary.
Perhaps, because it was in Colorado Springs, where I was born.
Perhaps, because parts of the trip stands out so vividly. Like, waiting to get the all clear before we head up. Like, my brother slamming back cups of coffee like there was no tomorrow. Like, seeing the edge of the road while surrounded by clouds, feeling like we would roll off at any minute.
Perhaps, because every chance I have to enjoy nature feels like a middle finger to the 45th president’s administration.
Perhaps, I don’t need a reason. I just felt a drive to do it.
Yet, this would not be happening.
As I headed back into Colorado Springs, I saw a sign for The Garden of the Gods and took the exit. This wasn’t what I had planned to do, but it would suffice.