My Visit to a Naturally Spiritual Place
The world is full of spiritual destinations that can have a profound impact on those who visit them. Some of the best known and most visited are man-made structures, such as houses of worship, ancient buildings and even entire cities. The city of Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and is considered holy to three major religions — Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
In addition to man-made structures, the world is also full of wondrous, naturally spiritual destinations, which in some ways, transcend anything mankind can create because they belong to the earth and are eternal.
Recently, I visited one such site, and it was an awe-inspiring and spiritually enlightening experience. It’s called the Mount of the Holy Cross, and at over 14,000 feet, it’s one of the tallest mountains in the continental U.S. This majestic mountain gets its name because snow can get captured in a vertical ridge and a horizontal ledge in such a way that it forms a white cross that can be seen from miles away.
One of the earliest written accounts of the Mount of the Holy Cross was made by the writer Samual Bowles, who wrote in 1869:
“…Over one of the largest and finest, the snow fields lay in the form of an immense cross, and by this it is known in all the mountain views of the territory. It is as if God has set His sign, His seal, His promise there — a beacon upon the very center and height of the Continent to all its people and all its generations…”
In 1929, the mountain was proclaimed “Holy Cross National Monument” by Herbert Hoover, however it lost its national monument status in 1950 due mainly to budget cuts. This didn’t detract from this beautiful mountain’s allure, however. To this day, it is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, religious pilgrims and roadside tourists alike.
My journey to the Mount of the Holy Cross came about as part of a camping trip I embark on each year, and very much look forward to. I’m a lover of the great outdoors, and as a natural health advocate, I feel strongly that being connected to nature is paramount to understanding the true needs of your body and mind. Unfortunately, between my work and my family, I don’t get to spend as much time enjoying nature as I would like to. That’s why I always make sure to set aside one week every year to live outside, reconnect with the earth and myself, and to simply explore the wonders of the natural world. There’s something undeniably primitive and quintessentially pure about sleeping outside, eating outside and being solely responsible for your own sustenance. In fact, after college I explored a large portion of the country on my bicycle and lived outside for over 120 days – but I’ll save that story for another article.
For this year’s trip, I decided to spend a week camping in the beautiful state of Colorado, and I made sure that the Mount of the Holy Cross was on my itinerary. There are many ways to connect with the beauty of this natural landmark, but perhaps the most profound (and challenging), is to summit it, which is what I decided to do.
It doesn’t take advanced mountain climbing skills to accomplish this feat, but it does take a lot of physical energy and mental determination — and you need to be acclimated to the high altitudes. Along the way, I saw people of all ages making their way to the top, including a 72 year old man who was heading there for the 10th time.
It took me about 8 hours to hike from the trailhead to the summit and back. While it was very strenuous, I was rewarded with amazingly fresh air, the serenity of silence and the beautiful view of the Mount of the Holy Cross as I slowly made my way to the summit. Think of it less as mountain climbing and more of a very long walk up a steep incline. When I finally reached the summit, I spent some time sitting in contemplation on the rocky top of this spiritually powerful mountain, enjoying the awe-inspiring views.
If you live in Colorado or just plan to visit, I highly recommend that you head to the Mount of the Holy Cross. You don’t have to hike up to the summit to enjoy its spiritual significance. Even just driving by it is rewarding, and actually hiking in the many valleys around it is breathtaking. Regardless of what your religious beliefs or views on spirituality are, never underestimate the importance of connecting to nature, enjoying the beauty of the world we live in and challenging the limits of your body and mind. Of all the things you may do to stay young and healthy, these may be most important of all.
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Article updated on: October 11th, 2012