Farewell to Lei

The past few days yielded some great hiking and even a taste of adventure.  At the beginning of this year, I had the pleasure of meeting a young man, Lei Zou, through the Confucius Institute at Colorado State University where he was a teacher.  In short order, we got along really well.  With his appointment ending very soon and his return to China, we decided to spend a few days together in a celebration of our friendship.

Last Friday, we went on an 11-mile loop hike at Red Mountain Open Space.  About one hour north of Fort Collins, this area is characterized by lots of red bluffs, canyons, and washes, punctuated with open expanses of grassland.  The fall weather alternated between sun and snow as we circled from Colorado, into Wyoming, and back into Colorado again.  The only company on the trail were cattle off in the distance … this area is that remote.

The next day was a far taller task, entailing a logistically difficult, lengthy hike I had been longing to do ever since I arrived in Fort Collins last summer.  Early in the morning, we successfully convinced an Uber driver to drive us several miles west of Loveland.  We set off along the Devil’s Backbone heading north.  Lei is a really strong hiker so the pace was quick.  We passed tall cliffs to our right and zigzagged along the flanks and the bottom.  After several hours, we crossed into Horsetooth Mountain where the terrain opened up quite a bit.  The sun came out and warmed us as we continued north.  Eventually, we crossed into Lory State Park and walked past Arthur’s Rock and Horsetooth Reservoir up to the visitor’s center.  All together, I’d guess this to be about a 17-mile hike, at least the way that we came.  Lightning struck twice as we were lucky enough to find an Uber driver willing to come out from Fort Collins to pick us up 🙂

Saying goodbye, at least temporarily, is never easy.  However, I could not think of a better way to say goodbye to Lei than putting in some miles on the trail in the beauty of Colorado, basking in juicy conversation and plain silence.  We spent a lot of time together this year as Lei learned to drive and taught me Chinese.  I can get a good read on people, especially when I spend this much time with them.  While there are many positive qualities about Lei, two of them consistently shined brightly.  First, I have always been impressed with his integrity and commitment to his values.  He is unique in the sense that he really stops to think about what he stands for and what type of future he envisions for himself.  There is, and will be, no aimless drifting through life with him; he has goals in mind that are fueled by his values and is keeping the target squarely in his sights.  Secondly, Lei is the rare, young person who is mature beyond his years.  He is progressing in all three phases of the game — mind, body, and spirit.  Beneath the surface of his calm demeanor, I can truly see someone who is starting to develop self-awareness and depth of thought, and will continue on this path.

Sometimes in life, you are blessed and the right people come into your life at the right place, the right time, and, most importantly, for the right reasons.  I got lucky this year.  Time is flying by and, saying this respectfully, I am careful about how I spend this most precious commodity and whom I spend it with.  Thank you, Lei, for adding to my growth and making me better.  May the Universe bless you always …


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