Posts Tagged ‘San Juan Mountains’

Sherrylee in the Colorado mountains

Sherrylee and I love the mountains! She grew up in Florida, so she loves to wiggle her toes in the wet sand and to walk the beach. Of course, I grew up in Fort Worth with no water in sight and in an era when good Christians did not go mixed swimming, so I’m just not much of a water person.  And everyone is more aware now of the dangers of too much sun, so Sherry and I don’t really long for beach vacations.

(By the way, I was at a Texas Ranger’s baseball game with a friend who is married to a dermatologist. He kept us in stitches telling us about what pool parties are like for a bunch of dermatologists! Think about it!)

Anyway, so Sherrylee and I almost always choose mountains over beaches, if given a choice. When our dear friend offered us the use of his company’s lake house in Colorado this week, we re-arranged everything to make it happen!  Let me tell you about Pagosa Springs, Colorado!

The city itself is about 7100 feet above sea level. As I sit here by a small little lake, I look out the window to the east and see snow-covered, rugged mountains—part of the San Juan mountain range. Just about ten miles up the road is Wolf Creek Ski area at Wolf Creek Pass. We drove up there yesterday to have a look at the Continental Divide. The lifts were not operating, but the pass was open and so was the Divide, so we stood near the very top of the continent. where the mountains send the rivers in opposite directions.  All the while, I kept thinking how grand it must have been to be an angel and watch God raise these mountains up by His Word! Our God is a Mighty God!

One of the most beautiful surprises of mountains are the beautiful valleys and mountain rivers that produce the breathtaking mountain lakes. You almost always get this 3-fer when you go to the mountains!

At the Continental Divide

The San Juan River runs through Pagosa Springs, but interestingly enough, it is not the most important water in the area. No, the hot, mineral springs are what put this spot on the map.

Pagosa probably comes from a Ute Indian word meaning healing waters. Perhaps as early as 9000 years ago, but certainly 1000 years ago, native Americans discovered the hot water rising from the center of the earth and made this a sacred place of healing.  The Utes and the Navaho Indians seem to have been the most populous tribes in the area in more recent history.

The story is that these two tribes fought over access and rights to the healing waters so often that finally the two tribes decided to settle the matter permanently by having a duel of champions.  The Navaho were bigger, so they really liked this idea. The Utes decided to pull out a secret weapon and asked a white man Colonel Pfeiffer, who had married a Ute woman, to be their champion. He wasn’t a big guy, but he had a big knife—a Bowie knife.

The duel was held a good ways from the springs, apparently not to defile the springs with human rancor. The Navaho brave and the skinny, white man circled and parried, but Colonel Pfeiffer was quicker and killed his opponent. Thereafter, the Navajo never again made any claim to the hot waters of Pagosa.

I’ve been thinking about sending this story to the president to see if it might work in Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the other places the U.S. is involved in armed conflict. Perhaps if we just used Bowie knives and sent our champion, we could settle things without so much loss of life—and do it away from all holy places!  What do you think?

One of my favorite books of all time is Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I brought a copy with me to read on this trip. In the very first chapter, Dillard contrasts creeks with mountains:

Valleys, mountains, and lakes near Pagosa Springs

The creeks. . . are an active mystery, fresh every minute. Theirs is the mystery of the continuous creation and all that providence implies: the uncertainty of vision, the horror of the fixed, the dissolution of the present, the intricacy of beauty, the pressure of fecundity, the elusiveness of the free, and the flawed nature of perfection.  The mountains . . . are a passive mystery, the oldest of all. Theirs is the one simple mystery of creation from nothing, of matter itself, anything at all, the given. Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.

Sherrylee and I love the mountains, the quiet, the coolness, the majesty. I’m pretty sure the River of Life in heaven flowing from the high throne of God is a mountain river!

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