Sweat beaded my brow despite the coolness of the mountains of southern Colorado. We had been on the trail for hours. My lack of physical preparation coupled with a zeal for packing more than I needed resulted in tired muscles and a dull mind.
My companions and I started the morning hike to Archuletta Lake full of excitement. You know excitement…it’s the emotion you feel when you don’t fully understand what you are getting yourself into? Yeah. Thought so.
After a few miles hiking uphill with a seventy pound backpack, our excitement began to wane. One of my companions…younger and in better shape than the other two…was also born with a larger dose of optimism than we had. He encouraged us along the trail. His method was to hike ahead of us up the trail and then take a break with his hands on his hips and a smile on his face. When we caught up with him, our sea-level lungs burning from trying to distill oxygen from the thin mountain air, he would turn and head farther up the trail. I don’t curse, but I was saving some choice words for him. I don’t think he ever even broke a sweat.
Our goal was to reach a small alpine lake, and to camp there for half a week, while fly fishing for trout. It was my first trip to this area, but my companions had vacationed here frequently.
The scenery was beautiful, but I began to fail to notice due to the severity of my exertion. Six hours on the trail passed. Then seven hours. We began to give up hope of finding the camp shown on our map by sundown. Our cheerful companion Reagan said;
“c’mon guys, it’s gotta be just around the next bend”.
My leg started to cramp around the 9th hour of the hike, and my rest breaks became more frequent. Reagan kept encouraging…
“it can’t be much farther, let’s go around the next bend”.
Around the next bend we went, and the next, and the next. Then my other leg began to cramp. I thought about pitching my tent by the trail to spend the night, rather than trying to continue. Reagan went on ahead, where finally he located the campground, and shouted more encouragement to us, guiding us in.
Kevin and I drug into camp and we pitched our tents together. The days that followed are etched into my memory, and we three share some inside jokes and stories from that trip that now are only shared by two.
You see, Reagan has gone on ahead of us on the trail. He is in the campground and is shouting encouragement to us with the saints of heaven…if I look and listen I can see and hear him just now…
“Come on y’all…it’s not much further…it’s just around the bend”.
In Memory of Reagan Center; February 22, 1971 – July 29, 2009