This year has had some ups and down. Things haven’t gone exactly my way no matter how hard I’ve tried to control them. A wise friend always reminds me though, that’s just the way life is, you can’t control everything. I struggle with this. This kind of leads me into a habit of over planning. Thus, when it came close for me to go to Colorado, I tried to plan out the entire week. When I say “try” I mean I actually wrote down the days of the week that I’d be there and wrote ideas down for what I could do day by day. I think this behavior comes from my absolute need to enjoy every inch of an experience as much as possible. So much so that prior to even experiencing the thing I am looking forward to I am shaken by planning anxiety. I am working on this flaw. Emma, my friend living in Vail, same friend who is always reminding me to not be a control freak, said “dude, just get here.” I knew she was right. So, I went with it.
I’m not going to get into how my flight was or give a comparison contrast of the Austin Airport versus the Denver International Airport. They are literally a means to an end. I will say though that the shuttle which leads passengers from the airport into downtown Denver is pretty bad ass and affordable at $9 a ride. We definitely need a system like this in Austin. When I did get the Union Station, the very last stop, It was around 10:30pm. My friend Erin who used to live in Austin but has been living in Denver for several years now, called me an Uber and I met up with her at a dive bar called “Barricudas”. My Uber driver was eccentric, a middle aged dude wearing a full fledged suit. He waved his non-driving hand in the car as he told me about how Denver is similar to Austin. Now, I was fresh off the plane, but I found that really hard to believe. Especially since the comparison he was making was particularly on the music scene. He did, however, tell me some very good insight about drinking my first night. Denver is 5,280ft (one mile) above sea level and this can affect ones booze tolerance. So, I made sure to drink a lot of water and beer. Erin, James, and I sang various songs on the kareoke stage. James is Erin’s boyfriend, a dry comedian. He’s funny. Eric Meckel, Jeremy’s roommate in Minturn, came and met up with us as well. He did not sing karaoke. WHAT A WUSS. He did kindly give me a ride the next afternoon to Vail though. This was conveniently unplanned.
The drive to Vail was scenic to say the least. The territory in Colorado almost completely contrasts that of Texas. Every horizon has mountains, each valley is a lush paint palette of green hues, and the creeks actually flow with water as we passed over them. We drove I-70 all the way to Avon, where Emma is living. It was great to embrace her after what felt like a whole era of my life that I hadn’t seen her. That night we went to some folk’s apartment where we BBQED, made cocktails, and played cards against humanity. They were all truly genuine and inviting.
The next day Emma put her Juiceland skills on and made me a delicious smoothie after we ran some errands together and before I drove Eric’s Van to Beaver Creek. What a great dude for letting me borrow his other car. I met up with Jeremy and he gave me a ski lift pass to get up to the Royal Elk Trail that eventually led to Beaver Lake. I wanted to keep the first day of hiking light since I was adjusting to a new elevation once again (Vail sits at about 8,000 ft high). It was a five to six mile hike round trip to get to the lake and then back down to the village. It was perfect!
When I got down from the hike, I met up with Jeremy again and we chilled in his bike cave for minute where he works on the mountain bikes that get rented to tourists. We shot the shit then made plans to go climbing. I’m not much of a climber. Actually, I’m not a climber. I’ve had an irrational fear of heights pretty much my whole life. Yet, sometimes I trick myself into believing I don’t so that I try new things. Plus, vacation kind of brings out a more risky and adventurous side to me. I drove myself, Jeremy, and Vestale to a spot called “Roof Rock”. They assured me it was a great place for beginners and it has an excellent view. They weren’t wrong! The evening ended a delicious burger and a beer in Minturn at Magustos, a spot Emma was working at. It was actually her last night of work when we went! I met some other new friend folks and made plans to hike the next day with Jeremy and Eric’s roommate, Elliot, who so luckily for me was free the next day!
Elliot recommended that we do a hike which would lead us up to the Tuhare Lakes. I had never heard of it and was actually suggesting we do a different hike, one called Booth Lake. Once I learned that he had been living in the area for over five years though, I figured It would be wise to listen. We didn’t set out in his jeep until about 10:00am. I wanted to go earlier but, I managed to get locked out of Emma’s apartment and that delayed us some. In my defense, within the first few days of arriving it appeared that n one locked their doors! People would literally just come in to the Minturn house all the time without warning. Small town stuff, ya know? I didn’t. So, I kind of just assumed that Emma’s door would be open when I tried to get in to change for the hike. My bad, she lives in Avon, 10 min away where people do lock their doors. Haha.
The drive to the Holy Cross wilderness was super cool. It also felt really exclusive since there was literally no way that the van I was driving was going to make it up the rocky unpaved cliff hangers that we drove up. We got to the Fall Creek Pass Trail-head to begin our hike which is accessible at Half Moon Campground. We were anticipating to spend at least seven hours hiking the 12 mile round-trip trail. Hiking is probably one of my favorite ways of getting to know someone. I feel like you really get a sense of someone’s character. You tend to coordinate with each other on hikes. Directions, water breaks, pictures, comfort, and even on whether or not something is edible. Which, for this hike, the subject of edibility came up often. Elliot had some previous experience picking King Bolete mushrooms on the trail when he would do the hike for work. He shared a lot of his insight with me and he filled our bags with mushroom. I eventually had to cut him off. (He doesn’t even like mushrooms).
The hike to the first lake, Lake Constantine, and then later towards the Tuhare lakes was absolutely beautiful. Everything was so vast and appeared to have no limits. The mountains enveloped us. The sky disappeared behind them, the left over snow rested in the middle like sand traps on a golf course and the lakes melted between them. I even thought to myself if a dinosaur had appeared it would be fitting. The area was untouched by man. Of course, I wanted to take as many pictures as possible, but I found myself in a new situation. It was difficult to convey the same beauty that I experienced through the limits of a photograph. The accidental grace of the natural silence, the seemliness of infinity, and the feelings of humility could not be translated. But really, I had never heard such silence as I did in the mountains of the Holy Cross. It was as if when Elliot and I weren’t speaking, we were deaf. Nothing was echoed when we stood before the lakes. There seemed to be an agreement that no living being would dare interrupt.
I was pretty exhausted when we got back to the car. I also staggered a bit behind Elliot the last hour because my ankle was hurting. He told me later that he thought he may have had to carry me. This made me laugh. I didn’t tell him this but, I would never, no way, ask a man to carry me down a mountain.
This is what I meant by mentioning earlier that people really get to know each other on hikes. There are times you feel like your stomping all the way to the top with a skip to my loo kinda tude. Then, there are moments when you’re tired, you get rained on, drag your feet, and even lose your footing. You may even stumble and trip! It’s true. Sometimes the mountains can make you feel defeated. Hiking shows me that there are literally ups and downs in life. We gotta take the good with the bad. My ankle stopped hurting though. Probably, because my stomach was doing the talking in the end. We drooled about all the things we would eat when we got back into town. After a quick trip to the grocery store, Elliot and I manifested a pizza for dinner. My half had the mushrooms on top. What a reward it was. That night, I slept deep.
In the morning, I was sore. Very sore and stiff. I was in desperate need of stretching. I suggested to Emma we soak in some hot springs that she had told me about before. So, she drove us over to Glenwood Springs where we would quench our thirsts for a scalding hot bath. I ate half a weed cookie from Denver, stretched, and dipped into all the different temperatures of pools. OH MY HOLY CROSS, it felt amazing. We didn’t stay very long though. There were a lot of families hanging around and the cafe was not only pricey but had everyone and their mom in line. Quite literally. It seems when you live in a mountain town and you have parents that come to visit and aren’t much into hiking, you take them to a hot spring. I would take my parents there too.
Sunday, we went to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was about a four hour drive and we left kind of later than we anticipated but I didn’t mind. It felt great to not be a hurry. We drove through the whole park to get a view of it before going to Bear Lake where we planned to do a short 4 mile hike to Lake Haiyaha. Rocky Mountain National Park proved to be even more limitless than the hike I had done in the Holy Cross. Everyone knew it too. It was PACKED. People everywhere. They were stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures of elk and posing in front of overlooks. In my head I was thinking “Jesus, what a bunch of tourists!”. Then, almost immediately after the thought, I reminded myself that we’re all tourists here.
This whole time by the way, while we were driving, I was trying to keep in contact with Erin. She had been texting me and expressing on and off about meeting up with us in the park. When we left the car at the Bear Lake lot and started the hike my phone actually rang. I thought there wasn’t any service, but I picked up and it was Erin saying she was close. We set a meeting at Lake Haiyaha, and hung up. Then, like a little over an hour later, Emma and I are hanging out under a tree and someone comes up behind her and says “Hey freaks”. It was Erin! So naturally, we asked the nearest bystander to take our photo in front of the beautiful lake of Haiya-haaaaa. I had doubts that we would find her but I’m glad we did!
It was a long day in the Rockies and we got back pretty late. We (Erin, myself and Emma) also messed up. We left when it started raining but forgot to tell Eric and Jeremy that we wouldn’t be driving back with them. WHOOPS! So, they kind of freaked out for the hours that I didn’t have any service. Note to self: If plans change and there is a chance that someone might think you’re in danger or alone, leave a note or tell a ranger. Always. Thankfully everyone was safe. We all met up at the Minturn house later on after a sleepy ride back.