"Father!" I said, "I've got nothing, here!"

Trail Running Pike's Peak With God

By —— Bio and Archives--April 23, 2018

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Trail Running Pike's Peak With God
I had all sorts of material available for a Sunday morning story. And I decided it was time for another personal piece about the author’s ongoing weird life. I am ecstatic to report that I have received several letters from people who follow my writing. I guess I can call them ‘followers’ - and they have informed me that I have a following! Before I had been writing for a while, I had no following as a writer. As a portrait-painting and wildlife artist, I still have quite a following. But, back when I had not written anything, most people didn’t care much for my writing. The years have changed all that, as letters from my followers have confirmed. Ah, but I repeat myself.


Many of you (especially my followers) are aware that I used to run (jog) Barr Trail on Pike’s Peak, back when the earth was still cooling, when I was living in Colorado Springs. Barr Trail is the old forest service trail that originates at the base of Mount Manitou and winds its way up through the Pike National Forest to the summit of Pike’s Peak. I was then a framer by trade, a ‘wood butcher’ as many in the carpentry profession humorously refer to themselves. And I was part of a crew of nail pounders who skillfully assembled beautiful cabins up in the mountains between Denver and Colorado Springs. But at least one day of every week I laid off work to jog, as fast as I could, up that beautiful, tree-engulfed climb. It was really before running and jogging, on that trail at least, had become very popular (except for the famous yearly Pike’s Peak Marathon attracting runners from around the world). And so most of the time in my run up there, I rarely met another person. The round trip, from top to bottom, is about twenty-seven miles. Going easy on myself, I could usually do the whole thing in about 5 1/2 to 6 hours. Being six-foot 10 inches tall certainly added to the ground-consuming stride needed to achieve a decent time - though that was not my goal. I just really loved being there.

On one particular day in the spring of 1974, after waiting all winter to do a run, I started out midmorning in a T-shirt, cutoffs and a brand-new pair of hiking boots. I did not wear tennies on that trail because I had calloused my feet to bear the extra weight for my intended leg conditioning. This particular morning I stuck a small bag of trail mix in my pocket and began at the bottom of Mount Manitou in a fast hike. Many of my good readers may remember another story I recently wrote about a weekend camping trip on that trail, which included a night’s stay at Barr Camp. I’m sure that most of my ‘followers’ are also aware of the fact of my belief in Jesus Christ. My story at Barr Camp included a miracle that happened, that everybody really seemed to enjoy. And so for this Sunday’s story, rather than talk more about the untiring battle of the liberal left to take down our current president, I thought I would happily do a memory of another miracle that happened to me on that mountain. As I go through life, doing bad or good things (and I am ever-capable of both), I habitually carry on a steady conversation with the Lord. When I was running, it was especially easy to do that since I had no one else to talk with (or, for that matter, anyone then who could keep up with me).

Camp Barr Trail

About lunchtime on that particular trip, I was running past Barr Camp. I would have stopped there to eat, but I had already thoughtlessly devoured all the nuts, berries and M&Ms in my trail mix bag. The sun was warm in a clear blue sky. And as I plodded along, all I could hear was my breath whistling through my nose, and the occasional whisper of the big breeze through the pine and aspen trees surrounding me. It is entirely another world up there in those mountains that people down in the towns below don’t have any idea of. Above Mount Manitou there are groves and verdant meadows with fresh water springs that roll on for miles through the mountains surrounding Pike’s Peak. The blue sky can be as clear as glass. And the sun up there can be particularly merciless on a cloud-free day. Several times as I ran that trail, I would think about how poor Zebulon Pike might have felt on any day that people were running or driving to the top of the mountain named after him - especially after, legend has it, he had once so resolutely declared that no one would ever scale to the summit of that mountain. I felt like Zeb and I had that in common - minting monumental moments of glory for ourselves, just as American ‘hero’, General George Armstrong Custer, had so confidently declared that Jack Crabb was destined to be a mule skinner. One had to be there to understand that kind of glory.*

Past Barr Camp I ran on for miles until I was leaving the trees and facing the switchbacks towering above me on the crumbling granite of the Eastern face of Pike’s Peak. It’s a place called ‘timberline’ where the air becomes so thin that it restricts most plant growth. From below the mountain looks bare because, beyond some ground-hugging grasses here and there, and a few bushes, there is only bare rock. As I stopped and looked up reverently at the face of Pike’s Peak, I found myself suddenly reminded of several things at once: (1.) That the callousing I had worked so carefully on my feet, from the year before, had disappeared during my winter of inactivity. (2.) That the shoes I had worn those strategic, runner’s calluses in were at home on the floor of my closet. (3.) The brand-new shoes I was wearing, regardless of my love for them or the dizzying pile of money I had plunked down for them, had been wearing brand-new contact areas (often called ‘blisters’) on my feet. (4.) (And this part I could have checked for from down below before I started my intended journey.) Most of the face of that mountain was still covered in snow. And, (5.) My feet had been reduced to two, 3 pound packages of ground beef.

Nevertheless, I was committed to finishing my task. And the zigzag, steeply descending final ascent to the summit seemed to be clear and lay before me as a challenge I could not ignore. So on and up I ran, hoping to be at the top in another hour or so. When you have left timberline below you and are up on the steep face which is plastered on every postcard of Pike’s Peak - where you are now rising much faster than traveling level distance - there is a feeling of commitment to which you are resigned. About halfway up the face it is nothing but a nearly vertical wall of scattered gravel and boulders surrounding the jagged trail. (And in the summer it is not that unusual to see mountain lions sunning on those big rocks.) As I was getting closer and closer to the top, something above me was happening that I had not at all bargained for! Storm clouds were moving in and I was - with the summit only about 70 yards straight above me, and the city, looking like a postage stamp, several miles below me - suddenly being pelted by snow, sleet and some actual big drops of icewater rain. It was at that moment that I realized I was effectively half naked. The temperature was dropping fast. And the storm which had moved in had encompassed the entire mountain’s face. The cold, steel-gray clouds were thick as pillows. And I could no longer see the trees and rolling meadows that I had left far below me. I could no longer see Colorado Springs or the State of Kansas out on the eastern horizon. It was all just solid cold and gray.

All the partially snow-crusted granite rocks and big boulders I had been running through were now shiny, wet and nearly black from the pouring, freezing moisture. And I was so cold in my cutoffs and T-shirt that I was shivering almost to breathlessness. My knees ‘smote, as it were, one against another’! And I was feeling real faint and blurry from having had nothing to eat for the past couple of hours. Then I remembered I hadn’t even had breakfast that morning! I looked at my hands and arms, and they were blue from a lack of nutrition, energy and oxygen. I felt pretty stupid. More than that, I felt really mortal. Before I could think of any way of saving myself, things suddenly got worse. A bolt of lightning struck a pillar of rock about 20 yards to the south of me - and just at the same altitude I was standing! It sounded and felt like an buzzing electrified cannon had exploded. It was then that I realized that ‘Big Dave’ (all my friends called me that) was at that moment nothing more than a two legged, soaking wet, lightning rod. I knelt down next to a grouping of boulders, hoping to find a little shelter. Immediately following, somewhere not so far up above me, another bolt of lightning crackled and exploded. It was right at that moment (this was way before the advent of a cell phone so I couldn’t call any rescue group), I realized that I had somehow, after timberline and before I had started up that face, ceased in my conversation with God. That had to be resumed immediately.

Crouching next to that cold and wet rock, with my head bowed, I cried out to the Lord. “Father!” I said, “I’ve got nothing, here! I want to again see the girl who is waiting for me in the Springs! And I was just kind of beginning to enjoy the life you’ve given me up in these mountains!” I felt fainter and then, what most frightened me, I felt like I wasn’t cold anymore. Instead, I just wanted to lie down and go to sleep. I was exhausted and just wanted to rest. That right there is the predecessor to the closing grip of the bony death fingers of hypothermia. And in my lethargy I again cried out to the Lord. “Father, what can I do?!” At that instant I had a peace in my heart. And I knew that God was telling me to get up and run. Up by the summit there had been several more crashes of lightning. The storm was worse than ever. Nevertheless, I had the distinct feeling that I was to start running back down those trail switchbacks toward an old ‘lean-to’ at the base called “A-Frame”. I knew it was going to take me, as weak and wobbly as I suddenly was, maybe an hour. And I honestly didn’t know if I could make it. In Colorado Springs, miles away from me, I knew that the oblivious pedestrians downtown could see only little spidery threads of light and hear faint thunderings of the flashing hell of deadly cannonfire I was running through.

Going downhill my wet feet inside those new leather shoes were getting blistered up pretty bad. I stumbled and fell headlong several times as I was running down the rocky trail. I only knew that I had to keep running. At one point I nearly blacked out. I had tunnel vision. And the tunnel I was running down was encased with rocks and ice-covered, dirty snow on all sides. Finally, I think after about forty-five minutes, I saw the old, red-painted, open-faced shed called ‘A-Frame’. There was no warmth inside that A-shaped pile of wet wood. But I knew that, for whatever reason, a mind bigger and clearer than mine had told me to come here. I fell down on the wet wood inside the shack and drew myself up into a ball back in the corner. But the rain was still pelting me. At that moment, very nearly at my end, it felt like I saw in my mind’s eye a perfectly clear vision of the area behind that shed (where I had never been before)! Just as clearly as I had been told to come to A-Frame, that quiet, loving presence inside my heart told me to go back behind that shed, and look down amongst some tufts of tall green grass that I - sure enough, when I got back there - found to be growing!

Running my now trembling white hands through that patch of green mountain grass, I found an aluminum foil-wrapped object that looked like a smallish football. I tore open the foil and found inside a perfectly baked, GIANT potato with a half-stick of butter stuffed into the deep cut made by my benefactor - obviously, some well-fed camper who didn’t want to back-pack it down the trail with him. I was so weak I barely had the strength to lift that lifegiving meal up to the rainy sky above my head, and weep out a prayer of thanksgiving! I knelt down there in the grass and devoured that potato and butter like it was the first thing I had eaten in several hours - which it was! It was delicious! Someone had even salted and peppered the potato beneath that big chunk of what had to be real butter! My strength returned to me in minutes. And I squeezed a drink out of a handful of icy slush I scraped out from under a nearby rock. And I stood up, refreshed, and just started running downhill again.

I loped along for thirty or forty-five minutes until I was back down under the clouds and getting to the edge of timberline again. There, a big gash in the sky above allowed golden warm rays of sunshine to pour down upon me. I soon found myself next to a big soft mattress of what looked like Kinnikinnik or bearberry - a high mountain red berry bush. And I laid down in those soft, spongy leaves and fell into a deep sleep. I woke up after about a thirty minute rest, and resumed my long trek back down to the town of Manitou, which is where the trail begins at the base of Mount Manitou.

This has been a necessarily long-winded alternative to my ordinary rant in defense of the president who is the best thing this country has seen since Ronald Reagan. But, as I intended, it was another opportunity for me to share with my friends (especially my followers who have informed me of my following) of the living faith I have in the living God who created us. I have many such true stories, miracles, that He has performed in mostly saving me from myself and my own foolishness. I certainly didn’t always believe in Him. In fact, I had little time for the people (I thought were simpletons) who would actually believe in a ‘Son of God’ or that He had died and then rose again from death! But I know in my heart now, that he did precisely that. He allowed himself to be slaughtered for me and anyone who would humble themselves enough to agree with His truth to the point of placing all their trust entirely in Him. Trust me when I tell you that you really need to do that.

In future articles I look forward to, here and there, taking the time to recall more of the many MIRACLES that he has done for me and the ones I love, my fellow brothers and sisters, family members, in Christ.
Thank you for spending the time reading my story. And don’t forget to become a part of my following which originates here at Canada Free Press, the best online news site on the web! Have I told you about my following?

*For those of my good readers who haven’t seen Dustin Hoffman in “Little Big Man”, you really should, just as soon as you finish discussing my story.


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Dave Merrick -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dave Merrick, Davemerrick.us is an internationally known and published artist whose works reach into the greatest diversity of audiences. Known primarily for his astoundingly lifelike portraiture, Merrick’s drawings and paintings grace the walls of an impressive array of well-known corporate and private clientele. Many of his published wildlife pieces have become some of America’s most popular animal imagery.

He has more original work in the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame than any other artist. His wildlife and Southwestern-theme work is distributed internationally through Joan Cawley Galleries of Scottsdale AZ.

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