This trip to the Rockies was very different from the others for us. Different because two days before we set out, we had to bury a very beloved family member. Our cocker spaniel, Lacey. And oh, how beloved she was! Our hearts were broken! I suppose if you aren't very much of a "pet person", there's no way to get your mind around the loss we were feeling, but I tell you, we were grieving for Lacey every bit as much as I grieved when I had to say good-bye to my elderly parents when it was their time to go -- maybe even more because Lacey was our "child". And I suppose it is normal to grieve more for a child. The first day in Estes, we went up to Bierstadt Lake to acclimate. We both rather silently got tearful as we let it soak in that our baby was gone and wouldn't be there waiting for us when we got back, but we didn't talk much about it. The next day, we got up very early and hiked to Sky Pond -- which took all our focus and energy, so we didn't really talk much about it then either.
So Lake Agnes was our third destination. We were a little tired from doing Sky Pond the day before, so we decided it would be a good day to drive the beautiful Cache La Poudre Byway and soak up the majestic views of the canyons and gigantic rock formations that lined the road that ran alongside the river most of the way. Our plan was to end up at the trailhead to Lake Agnes -- chosen because it was a very easy 1-mile hike to the lake. Perfect for stretching our legs, seeing something different and RESTING, emotionally and physically. I have to admit we had fallen into a thinking that "if it's short and easy, the payoff won't be that great". But oh how wrong we were! Our first treat was spotting a Bighorn Sheep just begging to be photographed :) As we drove thru the country, we got a kick out of the "open range" way they keep cattle along those farms. We had to stop a couple of times because herds of cows were just making themselves at home right in the middle of the street, looking at us as we tried to pass like, "What. . . .we were here first, thank you!"
When we got to the turnoff to the trailhead, we had to drive a couple of miles up this dirt road. We were glad for that rough dirt road that we could DRIVE on rather than having to walk it :) But it was ROUGH. Matter of fact, we were glad we were in a little SUV rather than a smaller car because we may not have been able to drive it in a small car.
When we got out of our car, we were so happy that it was the first really cool, autumn-like day since we'd been there. For us heat-traumatized Texans, just that was the beginning of healing. We had to wear our jackets, and our noses and cheeks were cold. It was awesome. It was only .8 of a mile to the lake, but it was a quite steep .8 of a mile! The trail was so beautiful! Lush! Close to big jagged spiers. We loved it. And we talked as we walked. About how happy we were to be there. About Lacey. About how much it hurt to say good-bye to her. And the tears came. But good, cleansing tears that let us know we were going to be okay, and it was okay to cry for her. It actually felt good for the first time.
Then came the final bend to reveal the lake. Ohmygoodness. It was incredible. Dramatic. Picturesque. Rugged like when you're in the tundra. But right at treeline, so the lake was lined by trees and moss and flowers. . .and green. We were amazed. It was like a gift. I could almost feel God saying to us, "I know you're hurting, so HERE. . .enjoy THIS!" And enjoyment and healing did in fact wash over us as we took in the sights. What made it so striking was the enormous, majestic spires that surrounded the lake; but also, the shape of it winds around giving such pretty lines and shapes to the scene. There's even a little island in the lake at the far end.
We meandered all the way around, turned a corner, and found a big grouping of boulders that looked perfect for the best tasting picnic lunch I ever remember having: Trail mix and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Mmmmmmm. As we enjoyed, we noticed a little guest who invited himself to have lunch with us. We struggled over whether or not to share. . . ever conscious of the "don't feed the wildlife" rule in the mountains. But in the end, just this once, we decided that if Daisy could chase these little fellows and eat them like popcorn, we could choose the lesser of two evils and at least let him have a moment of sheer pleasure by enjoying our trail mix with us. He took it right out of our hands, and when he had his fill he started stuffing it in his pouches and rushing it back to his nest for the winter.
We probably stayed there a couple of hours. We were so content. So filled with God's beautiful handiwork. And His promise that tho grief and loss are an unfortunate part of this life, life IS eternal, and there is beauty and healing and joy even in the midst of the sad times. My memories of Lake Agnes will always be memories of wonder and healing and the presence of a compassionate and comforting God who, tho can't keep sadness and loss from visiting our lives in this fallen world, He CAN bring joy and peace. . .and BEAUTY in the midst of it!