Since I live in New Mexico I go home twice a year; Summer and Winter breaks. That means I either stay on campus or nicely ask a friend to stay with them. This past weekend was the three day Easter Weekend and since I was on duty (and because I had nowhere else to go) I stayed on campus. This is a hard thing to do, especially when the majority of your friends have gone home to be with their families for the weekend. Fortunately, there are several groups on campus that put on events for those of us who have to stay because we live so far away.
My weekend began with a trip to the cliffs, a beautiful location just north of campus. The rocky outcroppings jut out into a canyon through which the Juniata River runs. In the fall the leaves on the oaks, maples, and elms are shades of red and orange so vivid, that when the wind blows through the trees it looks like a raging wildfire has engulfed the canyon. My friends and I wandered down to the cave at the base of the third cliff and then continued exploring down the lower path, picking our way through brambles and dead bushes. We got to the fourth cliff and I suddenly had the bright idea to climb up instead of walking back along the trail.
There is something strangely relaxing about doing something risky after weeks of stress. My friends and I climbed up the wall of thorns and rotten logs and loose rocks half hoping, half praying that we wouldn’t fall. It was nice to get back to the simple things, to just focus on where we were and where we were going. When we finally reached the top we just sat, relaxed, watched the sun set over Huntingdon, and of course took new profile pictures.
After we had got all the right angles for our new profile pictures and captured as much of the dying sunlight as we could, we continued on down the trail to the fourth, fifth, sixth cliffs. When we finally reached the end we realized that it might not be the best idea for us to walk all the way back through the dark along the trail so we bushwhacked our way through a bramble thicket and back into civilization. We ended up several blocks away and down a very steep hill from our car so it took us another couple of minutes to actually get back to campus.
One of the best things about Juniata is its proximity to beautiful places in nature. The cliffs and the Peace Chapel are the closest of these, but if you ever get a chance, take the drive out to A Thousand Steps. The climb up all of the steps can be difficult and long but all of that is worth the views from the top. It is easy to get lost in your school work and clubs and sports teams and social life, and all that is well and good for being a successful college student. But sometimes you just have to take an evening, afternoon or an entire day to just go out into nature, take a breath, and just enjoy the sunset.
Oh Jeff, I could just see me there as you took the risky climb … I would be just going “tsk tsk” with my hands on my hips saying, “This is a really dumb idea.” But that’s me, kind of risk averse … I’m old and feel my mortality.