Snowshoeing On The Mogollon Rim

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I'm standing at a trailhead on the Mogollon Rim, which I've done several times before; only it was during the summer months. This time is different, it's winter and the Rim is covered with snow. I'm head-to-toe in winter clothes. Finally, I'm about to do something I've wanted to do since moving to Arizona; I'm going snowshoeing on the Mogollon Rim.

I step off from the trailhead into the winter wonderland of the Rim Country. It has been snowing for several days and the snow is knee deep. As I make my way down the snowy trail I realize that there is not another soul out here and that I'm truly alone. There is only an occasional set of deer or elk tracks that have been covered by a light dusting of snow. A slight lump develops in my throat and I experience a tinge of anxiety at the very thought of being so isolated.

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Alicia Keller waited years before she could live out one of her dreams -- snowshoeing on the Rim. The wet winter last year made the Rim trek possible for the author.

As I continue my trek down the trail the beauty of this magnificent place begins to consume my thoughts. I start to feel more at ease as I let myself experience my surroundings.

The clouds are forming overhead and a light powdery snow is coming down. As the wind blows, it causes miniature blizzards that envelop the trees and then blows across the trail. The sun shines delicately over the newly fallen snow. It's like I am looking out over a field of perfectly cut diamonds. The brilliance is breathtaking. I stop every few minutes to take a picture, the kind that you might see on a postcard.

This is what puts life into my soul, a soul that is lifeless so much of the time. The farther I trek on, the more alive I feel. I no longer feel alone. In my hunger to consume this awesome beauty, I feel the presence of the Creator of the Universe (which is God for me). He is here beside me. His energy fills me. He enhances my senses. I now mellow and the anxiousness that I felt earlier has left me.

I'm now into a rhythm with my snowshoeing -- my heart, lungs and legs are working together in harmony. I've worked up such a sweat that I have to open up the "zippits" on my jacket to let the steam escape from my body. God I feel great!

I reach the turn in the trail that takes me to Woods Canyon Lake. I stop, grab an energy bar from my backpack and drink some water. I've used a lot of energy getting to this point. I want to continue to the lake, but the clouds overhead are black and ominous looking so I decide to turn around. As I head back, I realize that I made the right decision to turn around. It really starts to snow now. The wind picks up and moans eerily through the pines. The temperature is dropping.

The rough tracks my snowshoes made in the snow earlier have now been softened with new snow. The wind blows harder. It is getting much colder. I tighten my hood around my face to keep the snow out. The cap on my water bottle is frozen in place; I have to really work to get it off. I don't want to become dehydrated. I continue to make my way back to the truck. Now my tracks from going out aren't even visible. The snow is intensifying.

For some reason, none of these changes in weather worry me. I am focused on absorbing every change going on around me. My senses are heightened. I am feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting the world around me with a clarity I have never experienced before. I think of how awful it would have been to miss this snowfall, to miss feeling snow on my cheeks, to miss smelling the pine in the air or miss hearing the wind sing, to taste freshly fallen snow mixed with my own salty sweat as I wipe my lips with my tongue.

As I trudge back to the truck, the sun peaks through the clouds and shines on the aspen grove in front of me. Its rays spotlight the snow as it falls, making it look like metallic glitter falling from the sky.

The sun illuminates everything around me. I feel like the forest is smiling at me, so I smile back.

I reach my truck, take off my snowshoes, get in and just sit for a while. I reflect on what I have just experienced. The only word that comes out of my mouth is WOW! If this is what a mystical experience is all about, I think I just had one. One I will cherish forever.

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