Colorado Vacation: The Hike

I couldn’t write about this trip without dedicating a whole section to the hike Lee, Dad and I took one day. It’s a hike my family did when I was 11, and I remembered it as gorgeous, but a bit tough, with fairly steep sections and at an altitude where snow fields can often be seen near the path.
The park rangers warned us that the trail was more challenging this year because there was more snow pack than usual, but that only enticed me further since I’m from the snow-deprived south and love the white stuff. So we took off, all feeling quite ambitious about our adventure.
The trip up the mountain was exhilarating. The scenery was amazing and worth every upward step, and I was happy to see snow fields along the edge of our path.
Yeah, my pants legs are rolled up in that picture like a big dork, but that’s because as we got closer to the top of the trail, the snow got deeper and deeper and crept over into the path. I was trying to keep my pants dry. Try being the operative word, and I did not succeed. Soon we were trudging through the snow in our jeans and soaked tennis shoes, often taking sinking steps that found us in thigh-high drifts. We lost the trail a few times because of the snow, but thankfully Dad had done the hike in recent years and knew which direction to follow.
We finally reached the summit after considerably more time than we expected, but the views were a great reward.
We sat on a rocky overlook, hanging on to our hats and bags as the wind whipped down from Notchtop Mountain. We could see lakes and other mountains below, and felt nearly even with the clouds.
As much as we enjoyed our hike up, we didn’t relish the idea of battling the snowfields again. We ran into some cross-country skiers who told us if we followed the trail down the other side of the mountain instead of retracing our steps, we’d probably encounter less snow pack. It was a longer trek, but we figured we’d make better time anyway without the snow.
And the skiers were right – to a point. Eventually there was less snow on the other trail, but the first part of that downward trail was really tricky. The path gripped the side of the mountain with a steep drop to one side. To make matters worse, the little bit of snow pack we had to traverse crossed this part of the path. That meant we had to find our way across the narrow, snow-covered trail, hoping the few footprints in front of us were on track. The path cut across some steep spots where, if you slipped, you’d likely roll like a snowball until you were stopped abruptly by the rocks below. This picture does not do it justice.
After several tense crossings, the snow began to disappear, but we weren’t out of the woods yet (pun intended). The trail was considerably longer than we expected (7.5 miles), and what we thought initially would be a 4-5 hour trip took almost 8. Toward the end, I was sure my shoes were made of lead and that my legs would surely fall off. We didn’t bring nearly enough water, and I was so thirsty by the end of the hike that it was hard to speak. I’d never been so happy to see a shuttle bus as when one pulled alongside the road to take us to our car (and our extra bottles of water).
But despite the rough ending, it really was a thrilling hike up the mountain. And I won’t soon forget how it felt to sit on that rocky overlook at the top and feel like I’d conquered the world with my two favorite men by my side.
Our Colorado adventure was a great trip, and since Camille is too young to remember any of it, we’ll just have to do it again someday because these are some sweet memories.