August 8 was the day to tackle climbing Medicine Bow Peak, the highest peak in Wyoming's Snowy Range at 12,013 feet. Meeting at the church at 6:30 am on a Saturday caused some grumbling, but leaving early was soon rewarded because we saw these three moose on our drive up to the trail head. (This has definitely been the summer for moose sightings! A couple weeks ago a young moose trotted right by our church, and then two days later B. saw two moose in our backyard and followed them through our neighborhood for a while. He said they were so big they didn't jump fences, they just stepped over them.)
The wildflowers were magnificent. Though everyone grows columbine in their backyards in Laramie, the domesticated flowers are never as beautiful as the wild ones.
Here we are taking a break to catch our breath. The lady beside me, Sophia, is 55 years old. I hope I am still climbing mountains at that age! The trail starts out nice and flat, but it quickly gets steep. Though only 1.8 miles from the trail head to the top of the mountain, it's a 2000 foot gain. We had to stop every 10 minutes or so for a quick breather. Near the top, I started to feel light-headed. Sheila and I standing at a magnificent overlook - Lake Marie at the base of the Snowy Range.
Here is Treva scrambling over boulders, near the top. At this point the trail completely disappears - it's just a boulder field, with rock piles or cairns to mark the direction.
Bouldering is hard work! Treva and I decide to take the easy route along a ridge of snow.
At last! Despite Sophia's claim that someone kept moving the top of the mountain back, here we all are finally at the very top! I did this climb about 12 years ago with my dear friend Karen, but I had forgotten how amazing the 360 degree view was! We also lucked out this time that it wasn't even very windy.
This mountaintop experience was more than just a great view and feeling of accomplishment. Before we started, Treva had given us each a card with these verses for us to memorize and meditate on during our trek.
1 Corinthians 15:1-5
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
While we sat around on the boulders at the top sharing trail mix and other goodies, some of us recited these verses from memory and then Treva talked a little a bit about how important the Gospel is, but how we are tempted sometimes to try to "dress it up" to make it more appealing as we try to share it. But really it is powerful all by itself.
It started a great discussion with Sheila's friend Mehrnoosh, a Muslim from Iran who is a graduate student in Engineering here at the University of Wyoming. She is very smart, a real thinker. She shared that she has many misgivings about Islam, but she couldn't see that Christianity was all that different. She sees Christ as a prophet, and so views him the same as the Muslim prophets. We tried to explain how Christ was different from the other prophets because he was both 100% God and 100% man - basically God becoming man, just like us, so He could experience what we experience. Because He was a man like us, he encountered all the same temptations we face, but because he was God he was able to overcome these temptations and never sin. And because he never sinned, He was therefore able to a "perfect" sacrifice for our sins, so that when we believe in Him we are saved - rescued - from the penalties of our own sins.
She also asked us how we could believe that what our Bible says is 100% true, because she feels things have been added to the Quran over the years to corrupt it for specific purposes (suppression of women, for one. I was pleased to hear that Iran does allow women to vote, but of course their last election was completely bogus. Mehrnoosh was very upset about that). So then Treva gave this truly inspired description of how the Bible was written by over 40 authors over a thousand years and yet none of it contradicted and all the prophecies about Christ came true. And to top it off, the another hiker came along and overheard our conversation and then proceeded to add additional arguments. He was a believer too. (Praise You, God for sending him along too right at that moment!)
Treva also asked Mehrnoosh if she remembered the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice Isaac. She said yes, this story is in the Quran too. Then Treva said, "do you remember how at the last minute God told Abraham to stop, and that God provided a ram as a sacrifice instead? and she said yes. "That's Jesus," Treva said. "the sacrifice was Jesus."
I don't know if that made any impression on Mehrnoosh, but we were all thrilled that we got to have a discussion with her about the Gospel and "plant seeds." I don't think she felt threatened by us - even though there were 7 of us Christians and only one of her - I think everyone was respectful to let her share her own beliefs and doubts. I think she is probably the first Muslim I have ever met that I've had a chance to really talk to. We had all sorts of questions for her about what life in Iran is like and it was fascinating to hear her answers. I asked what she thought was the strangest thing about Americans, and she said that we eat so much fast food! But she also said that she was surprised by how family-oriented Americans are. In her country they have spread propaganda that we are anti-family.
The hike back down was harder for me than going up, as it always is - hurts my toes and my knees something fierce. But we were well rewarded back at the trail head because Treva provided lunch for all of us! Sandwiches (garnished with fresh veggies from her own garden), hummus and chips, cookies and fresh peaches. My mouth is watering just writing about it. Simple food becomes a feast after a hard workout like that!
Photo credits all go to Heather. many thanks!