Out West, Days 4&5

We really enjoyed the first part of our vacation in western South Dakota. Thursday was spent making the trip from Rapid City, SD to Estes Park, CO. We arrived in Estes Park about an hour before sundown. Driving in on Highway 34 was breathtaking with incredible views along the Big Thompson River. We were able to do a little shopping downtown before turning in.

IMG_0736Friday morning we had an early horseback riding tour of Estes Park…and it was awesome! We were each outfitted with our own horse and we rode about 45 minutes to a “cowboy” breakfast buffet with pancakes, eggs, sausage, OJ, and cowboy coffee. In the name of full disclosure, I have to tell you that we had a pretty rough start. I’m pretty sure at one point our guide was trying to calm down / coach all three of our kids at one time! But after the first 5-10 minutes, everybody got the hang of it and we did pretty well.

After our horseback ride, we spent the rest of the day at the Rocky Mountain National Park. When we were in the Badlands a few days ago, I remember thinking, “This will probably be my favorite part of the trip.” The Badlands just have a unique beauty to them that captures my imagination. But as much as I enjoyed hiking through the Badlands, nothing can compare to the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. It was a deeply spiritual experience for me.

IMG_0752Jackson started feeling bad on our horseback tour and by the time we reached the National Park, he was about to fall asleep. So rather than immediately hitting up the Bear Lake Trailhead like we originally planned, we opted to set out on Trail Ridge Road instead. We made a quick stop at Alluvial Fan and then began our climb up into the sky. (Sunny has a more detailed account of the drive at her blog.) There were a couple of scary places along the way, but those turned out to be nothing compared to our adventure the next day. (More about that in tomorrow’s post.)

IMG_0755The highlight of the day for me was a conversation I had with Joshua at Nymph Lake. After hiking all the way to the top, we each sat down to enjoy the view of the lake and the surrounding mountain peaks. Joshua sat down beside me and said, “This would be a nice prayer spot.” There’s a place near our house that he goes sometimes when he just wants to spend some time with God. It’s a quiet place near a little pond out the back of our neighborhood and I think Nymph Lake reminded him of that tranquil spot.

IMG_3116

The “prayer spot” at Nymph Lake

I told Joshua that he was right, such a quiet location would be great for praying. “Let’s take a minute and pray right now,” I said. Joshua led us in a beautiful prayer and he said something that I thought was really profound. He was thanking God for all the things we had been able to see over the past few days: the Badlands, the Rocky Mountains, Bear and Nymph Lake, etc. And then he said, “But, God, even though all of these things belong to you, you tell us that we are your prized possession. And that’s pretty awesome.”

And I couldn’t agree more with Joshua’s assessment: God has created some pretty wondrous things (which have been on full display for us these past few days) but He still considers us His greatest creation, His beloved and treasured image-bearers.

And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. — James 1.18

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