Ever since I was a kid I’ve hiked in the mountains, taken pictures, and written for publication. But not until June 2007 did I begin to combine my three loves.
I bought a couple of digital cameras for my wife, Catherine, soon after they became available. But I didn’t get my own digital camera until June 2006. That was a couple of years after we moved to Boulder, Colorado, which is just below the Rocky Mountains.
This is one of the most beautiful areas of the world — and I have seen a lot of it in my travels. Before June 2007 arthritis in my left knee kept me from the mountains. Once I reversed the arthritis there was no stopping me.
This message tells about my experience as I started back on the trail with my camera and notebook in hand:
I have had a really busy couple of weeks. First consulting in Boston with Joslin, then preparing for the ADA in Chicago, then follow-up articles and playing catch-up back home. But now I am practically back to a normal pace, and yesterday I rewarded myself with an hour of massage with my great massage therapist. And today I rewarded myself even further with one of the great hikes of my life.
A ranger had warned me that to get a parking space at the trailhead on a weekend day like today I would need to get there early. “There” is the Long Lake Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, an hour east of Boulder and just south of the Rocky Mountain National Park. I did get myself out of bed before 7, left the apartment at 8 and arrived at the trailhead at 9. I got the very last parking place.
Believe it or not, on this last day of June, this was the first day the parking lot at the trailhead was open. Otherwise I would have to have hiked miles up the paved road. And if I hadn’t got the last parking spot today I would have had to park at least five miles down that paved road.
So I was lucky. I guess. Or maybe “Chance favors the prepared mind,” as Pasteur said. Or the prepared body.
It was a perfect day to be in the high country. Already it is 95 degrees here in Boulder, going to 97. A clear sunny day — and in the mountains, not too hot; perfect for short sleeve hiking. I was indeed in the mountains. The trailhead is at 10,500 feet. My climb was gentle, rising to 10,700 feet. It’s at the highest elevation I have ever hiked — higher even when I hiked down from the Haleakala summit, 10,023 feet. I was a bit apprehensive that it might be hard for my old lungs to breathe — something that I certainly noticed my first year in Boulder — but I was only moderately short of breath. Part of that, of course, was because I had no hard climbing to do.
Months ago a friend had recommended Long Lake as a place I would enjoy when I told him that I like to hike near water and to hike on loop trails. He was so right to recommend it to me, because this has both. Lots of water. In fact, one of my hiking books says, “This subalpine zone — from 9,000 to 11,500 feet — gets more moisture than others areas of Colorado.” Consequently, the wild flowers were blooming in profusion. I especially love the purple ones and the red ones that bloom along the muddy trail. Somehow it reminded of the words from T.S. Eliot’s Burnt Norton, “Garlic and sapphires in the mud clot the bedded axle-tree.” That’s one of my favorite poems, and I don’t pretend to understand that phrase, but it sounded appropriate!
The hike was only 3 miles roundtrip on a nearly perfect trail. Just wide enough at 3 to 4 feet, well maintained, not too rocky. But since it is early in the season for the high country, there was a lot of mud on the trail at the south side of the lake as well as some huge snowbanks that I had to detour around where possible and to climb over when not. The ranger at the trailhead warned me of difficult conditions on the trail and asked me specifically to report back to her. I reported that with hiking boots and trekking pools it was easy. Still, several people whom I met on the way to the muddy parts of the trail said it was bad, slippery. Only one man in his 60s said it was easy. He is a positive person like you and me.
According to my map, I came within 1.5 miles of the Continental Divide at Pawnee Pass, elevation 12,541. Someday soon, I hope to hike the trail there — perhaps with you?
According to one of my hiking books, the trail to Pawnee Pass is 4.6 miles — each way — from the trailhead where I parked today. But I will work up to a hike that difficult only slowly, and in the next few days plan a hike up to Lake Isabelle, which is halfway to the Pawnee Pass. On Monday and Tuesday the temperature here is predicted to be 98 degrees and full sun, so one (or both) of those days it would be great to be up high.
Catherine, Ember, and I had driven up to Brainard Lake, which is just before Long Lake, but doesn’t require any hiking exactly one and one-half years before she died. So it did remind me of her. She wasn’t able to walk even more than a few steps even then, so I didn’t even consider a hike with her.
At that time, and then exactly a year ago when Catherine and I drove the Trail Ridge Road up and over the Rocky Mountain National Park I was not aware that there was such a thing as a Senior Pass (formerly the Golden Eagle Pass). But when I went a couple of weeks ago with Al Weinberg to the Wild Basin area of the Rocky Mountain National Pass and he got us with his pass, I decided to get one, and I did a week or so ago. For $10 it gives lifetime access to all National Parks and Wilderness Areas. What a deal! If you don’t have one, you certainly might want to get one.
What a day today! Wish you were here!
Anyway, here is one of the pictures that I took so that you can be virtually here: