The Epiphany On Lost Mine Trail-Big Bend National Park April 2016
Each of us has special moments in life that forever change us. One of those moments for me was in 1966 when my parents allowed me to climb the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend National Park without adult supervision. In retrospect it was an important moment in my journey to adult hood so I decided to make the climb again to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this important moment in my life. This time- It was not an easy climb for me. At 66 years of age and after suffering 5 years of a non-life threatening disease that sapped me of all my energy, I took a chance and chose a non-reversible surgery in January 2015. If the surgery was not successful, the doctor said I would have no other options to enhance my quality of life. Fortunately, The surgery was a success! So one year after my surgery and rehabilitation, I was ready for this physical and symbolic climb.
The round trip hike is listed at 3 hours. In 1966 I ran most of the way and completed the ascent and descent in two hours. In 2016 the trip took 5 hours with many stops in which I was bent over -hands to knees.
This anniversary adventure began at 5:00 A.M. on April 3rd, 2016 with a drive to Fort Davis to see Glen Halsell - a friend since the 8th grade. Glen was an All American and Captain of both the 1965 State High School Champion Permian Panthers and the 1969 National Champion Texas Longhorns. During our visit, we shared a few stories and then said goodbye with a hug that reflected our mutual respect, common bond, and shared experiences. As we parted ways my belief that life has little meaning without family and friends was re-confirmed.
Two hours later at 1:15 P.M. I started my journey up the Lost Mine Trail. I use the word “journey” because this hike included some unexpected symbolic overtones that forever changed my perspective of life.
3 hours into the ascent and 15 minutes from the top a 14-year-old boy ran passed me. I said to him in jest “‘hey slow down- don’t you know you are in a school zone?” He smiled at me, and he said “I want to see how fast I can run the circuit.” I smiled at him and said “50 years ago I completed the round trip in two hours.”. He was oblivious to my comment, but as I watched him continue his climb I shed a few tears of joy remembering my special running ascent 50 years ago.
When I reached the top, the young boy was sitting on a rock.
I asked him what happened to his race against time? He said “I decided to enjoy the view and to wait for my mom and dad and to share this moment with them.” We spent 30 minutes talking to each other, and the more we talked the more impressed I was with his maturity.
When his family arrived he climbed down from the rock to greet them, and I took the opportunity to ask him to take my picture.
Summit April 3rd 2016 50 year anniversary of my first climb in 1966 @ 16 years of age. A moment of reflection about my life journey.
While you see my image, you can’t see the epiphany that touch my soul as the camera clicked.
It was a “stop and smell the roses” moment. For a split second, I saw the world thru his eyes -not mine- and I was full of hope and optimism for the future. This young boy started the day in a race against time, but decided to end the day by preserving a special moment with loved ones. A choice of family over personal goals is an important decision for anyone to make but this 14 year old boy's decision encouraged me to continue to see life thru his eyes.
I started up the mountain to complete a personal challenge, but I walked down the mountain with more altruistic goals. A passion to deliver this young boys message of love, family, and hope for the future.
The Lost Mine trail once again has impacted my life. In 1966 it was my pathway to adulthood, and in 2016 it was my pathway to enlightenment.
Billy Dale - Proud member of the 1967 Permian Panther Graduating class