Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Denver area for some much needed R&R.  The plan was to spend some quality time with some wonderful friends that I have out there and sneak in a sporty mountain bike ride.  Being a rookie to the sport, I had no idea what to expect when the tires beneath me actually met a mountain – but I anticipated it with excitement and determination.

I landed in the Mile High City late Thursday night.  Eric, one of my hosts for the weekend and I stayed up late watching the Avengers and playing iPhone games.  By 3 am (Rocky Mountain Time) we decided it was time to hit the hay.

Friday came earlier than expected.  No matter how long I slept, I felt like I needed to sleep more.  Nevertheless, noon rolled around so we got up and ate a sandwich.  Our big plans for the day were to go pick up the bikes that were generously being loaned to us and conquer some mountainous trail.  We managed to be motivated enough by mid afternoon to tackle the first phase of the operation.

The bikes were as good as new after some fresh air was pumped into the tires.  The brakes, chains, and even the pedals felt fit for the ride.  We rode in the convertible with high spirits for the afternoons adventure.

When it came to mountain biking experience, the world couldn’t have picked two guys with fewer badges in the sport.  I’ve recently picked up the hobby, but between midwest weather and heavy colds – my riding season has been about as consistent as the New York Jets 2012 season thus far.  Both are looking for some sort of miracle.

Regardless, we arrived at our destination within a few minutes of leaving town.  We took off on our bikes without any hesitation, and only once did I look back.  “Hrmmm, we don’t have helmets..” and “what about water?” were two thoughts that I simply put aside to pursue the moments of glory that awaited us.  We cruised down the path that twisted and turned on top of rocks and gravel – only once did we have near tragic crashes, but both of us escaped with minor bruises.

Still persistent, we followed the trail on and on.  Neither had much experience biking, and Eric had only been on this trail a few times before – but never to its fullest extent.  Without any knowledge, we continued on our adventure.  We focused only on the next big rock or obstacle in front of us – not thinking much past it.  After a few miles we stopped and took in this exceptional view:

The end, although out of site, was still within reach (or so we hoped).  We wanted to say we conquered the trail even though I was completely up for merely saying we had.  Like lemmings, we pursued after our goal.  Down and down the mountain we went until finally arriving at the parking lot at the bottom.  Being a rookie to the sport, I was used to my local trail being in a loop.  It had never occurred to me that some trails might just be between two points – like a rally car race, or a Dunder Mifflin 5k.

I quickly pulled out my phone.  To my horror I had realized what we had just done.  We had rode 3.8 miles down an 1,750 foot descent in about an hour.  Where to next?  Exactly the way we had just came.  For the next three hours, Eric and I hiked our bikes back up Mount Falcon.  I’ll be honest, I hated every minute of it.

Locals with their dogs would come running by us.  It seemed as though every step was going to be our last.  Although we had no water, neither of us found ourselves thirsty.  That was a blessing, because that was the least of our worries.  The biggest worry was breathing.

Breathing is one of those skills that each of us don’t have to be taught.  We just breathe.  In fact, while reading this you’re doing just that!  And yet I couldn’t believe how difficult that simple task had become on our climb back up the trail.  I had to even take breaks from walking – I was way out of my league.

And then worst of all, darkness began to set in.  Geography was not on our side, as our descent and climb back up occurred on the east side of the mountain – which, of course, is the side that the sun leaves first.  We frantically pushed ourselves up the trail to arrive at the car just minutes before utter darkness.  We had made it.

We pushed the bikes back into the car with what little energy we had left and sat down with the refreshing taste of Gatorade in our mouths.  We had finished the trail.  Thinking back on the day, we began laughing at what we had just done.  How foolish were we?  No helmets AND no water?  And yet we arrose to the occasion with hardly a scratch or bruise.

Our laughter stopped short as again we found ourselves breathless.  Altitude, we decided, was not our friend. Once we gained enough energy to focus on the drive back home, we set off down the mountain – this time knowing our path.

It seems crazy to think that this is just a story of how stupid Eric and I were just 6 days ago.  And as foolish as it seems, I’d do it all over again if I could.  Mount Falcon left an impression on me and one that I won’t soon forget.

Our spiritual journeys have often been compared to that of a mountain-top experience and the lows of a valley.  Just like the top of Mount Falcon was the fun, fast, and exciting part of our 4 hour adventure, the valley had more significance and required more focus.  So much focus, in fact, that every step was used in a strategic manner to arise the next few feet of elevation.  How much more focused can you get?  With blurry eyes and breathless lungs, we just kept moving.

Our lives in the spiritual realm aren’t much different.  We get excited about the easy going “trail” and the beautiful views, but do we know where the trail is headed?  Not exactly, and yet we trust that the “trail” leads somewhere.  We don’t know what tomorrow or next week has in store.  It could be a great fun-filled ride, or it could be a 3 hour, 4 mile hike up “Mount Falcon.”  And yet, no matter what, we had better focus on that next obstacle to go over lest we be led astray.

How will you conquer the mountain in your life?