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Touched by an angel

Have you ever seen an angel? I have. Lest you think Iím a wacky mystic, let me explain.To encounter this angel you have to go to higher country. You canít have a personal experience with her from the roadside. You have to work for itóliterally climb a mountain.I am referring to the Angel of Shavano, a shallow, snow-filled gully, with two diverging branches at the top ó and two upstretched arms in the center of Mt. Shavanoís (14,231 feet) east slopes. The angel is a herald that directs the way to the top.†The body of the angel rises from 12,000 feet to 12,800 feet. As you ascend her snow slope (she doesnít mind, really, although it may feel a little improper), at the top of the body, you must choose an arm. The southern arm leads to a 13,380-foot saddle; the northern arm leads directly toward the summit. Both point the way to the top of the mountain and the clouds beyond.This mountain is part of the Sawatch Range that runs through the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Both the northernmost and southernmost Sawatch fourteeners, Mount of the Holy Cross and Mount Shavano, have snow features with religious significance. For both peaks, it requires an effort to locate these symbols on the mountainside. Theyíre not Indiana Jones-like discoveries, but seeing these natural treasures on the sides of mountains is still an extraordinary experience.†Whether hiking through woods, trekking across rolling hills or flower-carpeted meadows; or climbing mountainsides; every turn in the path on these journeys can offer new and different views, varied and fresh perspectives, beautiful and wondrous things to see and do. But the wilderness doesnít give up these experiences without an investment. We make the effort, and the reward isnít just in reaching the destination, but also in the joy of discovery along the way.†Cherished outdoor experiences await us. But I wonít find them sitting on my couch, nor from the National Geographic Channel, and not by cruising past a scenic location at 75 miles an hour on the highway. True discovery in the wilderness requires getting out there to explore ó putting some distance between ourselves and noise and sight pollution, taking the time to walk a path to a panoramic vista, turning a rock over to look under it, sitting so still in the forest that a woodland critter doesnít even know we are there.On a mountainside, or back in the valley with the civilized, if Iím not making new discoveries every day, maybe Iím not making the effort. Life is ready to reveal itself. Itís a sacred promise. Perhaps I need to get my rear end off the La-Z-Boy more and prepare to go deeper, higher, farther. Who knows what grand views, surprises and adventures are waiting around each next bend?T. Duren Jones gets out into the wilderness as often as possible, and does he have stories to tell! Heís hiked hundreds of trails, completed the nearly 500 miles of the Colorado Trail, and has summited all 54 of Coloradoís 14,000-foot peaks. He loves the outdoors, especially the higher places.

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