The View from Here

Precipice Peak in the San Juan Mountains
Precipice Peak in the San Juan Mountains

The first time I saw the outline of Precipice Peak was maybe 7 years ago, on our way to visit Ouray and Ridgway again to look at parcels of land. It was among a cluster of peaks to the left (northeast) of Ouray that were part of the San Juan mountains. You can see it as you approach Delta, and it gets darker and clearer as you drive south on Hwy. 550 into Ridgway.

Precipice reminded me of a droopy soft serve ice cream cone. It was unusual and unlike the smoother, broader mountains of the Front Range. It was jutting and had “character”. It was instantly one of my favorites, after Mt. Sneffels.

We have a view of Precipice from the deck of our house, along with Courthouse Mountain, the Cimarrons, Chimney Rock, Coxcomb and others. My eyes are instantly drawn to the floppy peak every morning as I’m sipping coffee and looking east from my living room. It’s a 13er, so it’s towering and visible for many miles.

What came up for me on this hike was the correlation of an imagined future and a distant mountain I’d never seen up close. We just moved to the small town of Ridgway, a move that’s been in the planning and dreaming stages for 6 years. Back in the city, I used to imagine what that life in the country would be like. I imagined the access to nature, the quiet, the solitude, the lack of traffic and industrial noises. I imagined being able to hike out my front door and seeing wild animals daily. I imagined the privacy I would enjoy.

The view from around Courthouse and to the Sneffels Range from the trail.
The view from around Courthouse and to the Sneffels Range from the trail.

I also looked forward to the day I would drive the 20+ miles up a 4WD road to get closer to Precipice. Would it be mind-blowing and towering and lush with flowers? Would I been in awe?

The day I hiked up Courthouse Mountain, I rounded a bend in the trail and was surprised by clear, unobstructed view of the face of Precipice across the narrow valley below. It didn’t appear any more breathtaking than the other views from the trail, but this was the mountain I had been gazing at from afar for year. There it was!  At this closer distance, I could see things I couldn’t from 20, 50 or 70 miles away: waterfalls and craggy spires, the delicate green, mossy texture of the uppermost slopes. It’s not just a big, rocky ice cream cone. It’s something old and eroded and teeming with tiny grasses and delicate flowers. It tells the story of ancient volcanos and impossibly high winds. It is scarred by the freezing and melting of miles of snow and ice.

The parallel is that, in life, when we finally experience that which we have been anticipating for a long time, it’s not exactly as we imagined, because it is far more complex, beautiful and surprising than we could ever imagine.