T.S. Eliot once said, “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”
About 3 years ago today I was incredibly sick in bed back home in Virginia with a tenacious bout of Lyme disease. I was miserable, lost, unfocused, and in the worst place of my life. I could barely move in any sort of athletic manner and seemingly had a fraction of my normal mental function accessible.
Miraculously, what I did have was transparency. Being an extroverted male in my mid-20’s and being in the lowest place of my whole life fostered an environment of true introspection and a circumstance where I naturally unveiled what meant most to me in this thing we call life. Love.
Now I know that's exceptionally vague in many respects, but I knew that was it. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for my passions and interests, and truly compassionate love for myself.
When the tick bit me in May of 2014, it was just prior to a wonderful family trip I would go on to the Adirondack Mountains in the small mountain town of Lake Placid, New York. Before the disease had a chance to take a full grasp of my life, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the trip with my family. And for the first time ever I got to understand what it meant to truly explore in the mountains.
While I was there I climbed Mt. Marcy and Whiteface Mountain, two of the famous "46ers" well known to many who live in the area. Both days were magical. Physically and mentally exhilarating in a way that created a marriage between two of my favorite things to do, explore and exercise.
Once I got back home, Lyme began its slow death grip as I sunk into the abyss of my new definition of suffering and misery. During the worst weeks of the fight against this subtle soul crusher, I vowed to myself that when I improved, I would go explore in the Rocky Mountains with all of my heart as a celebration of life and perseverance.
Fast forward 3 years and I am here writing to you all in my yellow 1972 VW Transporter I named “The Pilgrim.”
As I sit in a remote area outside of Creede, Colorado along the meandering Nutras Creek, I am gratefully and intensely present during the final third of my vowed adventure I call the “Colorado Centennial Project.” The idea is straightforward. I am climbing, summiting, and exploring the top 100 peaks in Colorado as well as many of the surrounding proximate mountains.
As I write this, I am 31 summits away from completing this goal I conjured up when I could not even do a single body squat without the assistance of grabbing anything I could to avoid falling over. This is not an adventure designed to stroke the ego of a sea level dwelling, Norfolk, Virginia native looking to make something of himself. This is an authentic exploration of the human spirit at one point along the continuum of what it means to be truly be alive and live a life deliberately.
Since June 1st I have climbed over 200,000ft., summited over 75 mountains, and explored places like the Sawatch Range, Tenmile Range, Elk Range, Front Range, Mosquito Range, Sangre de Cristo Range, and many more.
For some these figures may be daunting and to others not so impressive, but again, to strictly look at this experience through that lens is to completely miss the point. I am living my life in what many may view as an unconventional manner. However I am so entrenched and present in this experience of challenging myself mentally, physically, and emotionally that the spiritual experience unfolding before me is worth every discomfort, inconvenience and hardship I face.
I can truly say that virtually every single day I am blown away by the awe inspiring beauty created by my unique nervous system through the conduits that we call our senses. The Colorado Rocky Mountains have provided me an a venue to view the world around me and explore the depths of myself in a way I could not have ever imagined in my wildest dreams.
Through my social media platforms I regularly use the term “Colorado Mountain Fever” to help articulate my consistent fascination with this beautiful state and the state it creates in my heart. But no matter how witty and corny it may sound, it is truly an impoverished illustration of what is actually unfolding in my mind and soul.
The sights, the colors, the sounds, the chills, the fatigue, the frustration, the exhilaration, the levity, the tranquility, etc. could never even slightly be understood even through the most eloquent organization of words. It is like going to a restaurant and thinking you will get to experience all the wonderful tastes by trying to eat the menu.
I am the flowing ice melt that is rushing through the creeks and rivers, the unforgiving rock along the picturesque ridge lines, the multitude of wildflowers illuminating the hillsides like a rainbow waving in the wind.
Although I am not physically attached to these things in a traditional sense, they are an inseparable part of my experience. It is on this adventure this summer that I have realized my personal philosophy as an expression of this planet. Moving forward I will continue to do my best to live congruently with this philosophy as long as it fully resonates with me. So as I conclude, be passionate, be kind, be loving and let it rip. #coloradomountainfever
Facebook: James Hitch