Earlier this summer we began our preparations for what would be an amazing eight day adventure to Durango, CO. The kids trained every day to get ready for what was going to be challenge of a lifetime for some of them. As the details started coming the anticipation grew stronger and stronger. And on July 18 everyone piled in the van with trailer in tow ready embark on the HFO’s longest road trip to date. By the time all was said and done we would be on the road for close to 45 hours and have logged 2500 miles on the odometer. After a full day of driving we stopped in New Mexico for the night. While in NM we were able to have dinner with Matt’s (one of our kid’s) family. This was a very special time for everyone. Matt had not seen them for over three years. Tears were shed not only by Matt and his family but by the rest of us that were able to witness the reunion and all the love that was poured out. That evening set a tone for the rest of the week and we couldn’t wait to see what else God was going to do in us on the trip.
We arrived in Durango and were once again blessed. This time it was by the kindness of the people at the First Presbyterian Church in Durango. They went above and beyond to serve us. They opened their church to us to sleep in which was wonderful. But then they decided they wanted to have a BBQ with us as well, so their church members could come meet us and hear about what we were up to. The kids enjoyed interacting with the members of the church, sharing stories, and getting advice on hiking in Colorado. I think the church members were quite entertained by our kids as well. After the BBQ it was time to get everything ready because in the morning we were catching the next train to “nowhere”.
That’s right, the next morning we woke up and boarded a train that stopped in the middle of the wilderness, no depot in sight, and let us off with about 25 other backpackers. The ride was an amazing experience in itself. We were on the train for about 2.5 hours and this old steam train was winding through some beautiful gorges giving us both heart pounding and breathtaking moments the whole time. When we got off the train we began hiking what would be the most challenging of the 4 days we would be on the trail. By the end of the day we had hiked 6 miles, mostly uphill, rising 4,000ft in elevation. With some encouragement we made it to our first campsite and settled in for the night. We were just outside of the Chicago Basin in what some called the Lower Basin.
Our goal for the next day was to make it to the Chicago Basin and set up camp early so we would have time to do a day hike up to Columbine Pass which is a Pass at about 13,000ft. It took some encouragement to get the kids moving but we got back on the trail. As the hike went on it became clear that they were not all going to make it to the top. Upon the suggestion of one of the kids we let them all set their own goals on how far they would get. Tavian, Dartanian, and Ariel all made it to the top. I was extremely proud of everyone though because even though some of them were not able to make it all the way they were still encouraging the others as they continued on. It was one of those moments that wipes away any frustrations that may build up along the way. I was proud! Ariel and I made it up last and we had about 2 minutes to enjoy the view before a storm began to roll in. It’s amazing how fast you can get down a mountain!
The next day was a relaxing day. Loren gave the kids the option of climbing Mt. Windom, which is one of three 14,000ft peaks in the Basin. There was one taker. So that morning Matt, Loren, Tim, and Ben conquered that mountain while the rest of us stayed back and played Uno and slept. It was an overcast day for us at camp but once all of our gear was dried out we decided to pack up camp head back to our first campsite. However, the weather was not very cooperative. As we got back on the trail we were hiking through heavy rain and hail, racing to get to the camp. This was another one of those moments that doesn’t go the way you hoped but in the end makes you stronger. In this hike I could see the kids working as a team to help each other across streams and setting up camp quickly. As we made it down the mountain off the trail the next day we were able to catch the train into Silverton and eat lunch and walk around awhile before we got back on the train to return to Durango. I think all the kids were ready to be off the trail and see a hamburger.
On Saturday morning before we left we were able to surprise the kids with a rafting trip down the Animas River. They loved it! The river was perfect and there was even a place where they could get out and swim, which of course they loved. After rafting it was time to pack up and get on the road again. We made it back to Opelousas Monday morning. After cleaning all the gear the kids were returned home safe and sound. Another successful trip!
We had many times of trial and many times of joy on this trip, but overall I think the kids grew closer together, began to trust each other more, and learned what it means to push themselves. We left with some kids excited about what our next adventure will be, some questioning if they even want to go on that next adventure, and some too overwhelmed to think about it. What a wonderful place to be able to encourage them through their struggles and to show them what they are actually capable of. I’m looking forward to the conversations to come with them about the joys and hardships and to continue to see God shape them through this trip even off the trail.