Three Generations on a Mountain Peak


Standing in the shadow of the 13,376-foot peak of Mt. Guyot, we had a family picture made. There are eighteen full smiles in that picture that will remain for me the snapshot of a Christmas together, a week of family fun, a symbol of family unity. 

Three generations of Deans, and the spouses and dates suggesting a fourth generation is yet to be, posed gleefully after making the climb up. We had sailed effortlessly through woods and glades, following a snow-packed trail on a cloudless Colorado day, winding snowmobiles through more back country terrain in the Rocky Mountains than my octogenarian parents had ever seen, much less experienced in-person.

There was not a fake grin among us.

In the crowded headquarters, 90-minutes before, we had geared up: one-piece snow-suits, boots, helmets, goggles, gloves – all this on top of layers of thermal. In the yard our guides introduced us to the high-octane, high-tech iron horses that would be our steeds for the next two hours. These were ten-thousand-dollar purebreds, trained and groomed for tourists just like us, flatlanders willing to pay to imitate rugged Westerners, real-live mountain adventurers, if only for a day. We mounted a dozen of these beautiful brutes and took our instructions before heading to a little makeshift racetrack that was carved into a grassy flat and designed to give novices a feel for their sleds. After a dozen rounds, drivers and passengers were ready to run.

An hour later we rounded that final curve … and the world opened up below us. Mt. Guyot loomed impressively to the right. Pike’s Peak rose up impressively on the horizon to the far left. An expanse of snowy peaks and rocky magnificence stretched impressively between the two. Dismounting, we struggled to catch our breath. The combination of altitude, exuberance, and beauty is a recipe to take your breath away.

It’s a breathless high every family ought to be able to experience.

According to the U.S. Census, however, the median U.S. household income for 2015 was $56,516 per year, so if you do the math for a trip to Breckinridge, you can pretty quickly see that this is, unfortunately, not a trip for the median, American family. When you add it all up, per person: airfare to Denver, shuttle transfers/rental cars to the mountain, house rental for 18, skis and lift tickets for two days on the slopes (even with significant discounts provided by our two family members calling Colorado home these days), an over-priced, horse-drawn sleigh ride for a serving of peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate and Christmas carols sung by a Nashville has-been with a guitar, a grocery store run to feed 18 for a week, and that two-hour snowmobile ride to the top of the world… Well, that amounts to more than a week’s worth of income for that median U.S. household. For our extended Charlotte clan, two boys and their two girlfriends, we spent more than a month-and-a-half… in five days.

Which might just be a sin.

I am reminded, though, of that episode when one of Jesus’ disciples self-righteously criticized that woman who spent a year of income to lavishly, “foolishly” honor Jesus. She poured out an expensive perfume, just to bath his feet. “What a waste,” the religious disciple sniped, “We could have fed the poor.”

Maybe I’m just trying to assuage my guilt. Maybe not – because two questions haunt me from this story: Am I actually feeding the poor with the money I do have? And, am I wasting enough money, appropriately, on the ones I love?

Like the poor, that first question is always with us. One day on a high mountain in Colorado, I’m pretty sure the Deans answered the second question, appropriately, foolishly, wastefully … just right.


(Dr. Russ Dean is a graduate of Clinton High School. He co-pastors Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte with his wife, Rev. Amy Dean, a native of Clinton and also a graduate of CHS.)

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