Fall is fleeting up here at 9300′.
It blows in overnight, flexing its artistic vein as it paints the hillsides in shades of gold and red and fiery orange.
It drops gilded carpets of Aspen leaves on forest paths as though laying down a golden carpet fit for mountain royalty.
I like to pretend that I myself, am the aforementioned royal visitor. I stroll between seasons on a long Aspen leaf lined carpet into my kingdom of statuesque trees, waving to my Mountain sentinels as I go.
I wrap myself in Mother Nature’s earthy perfume and memorize the tune bellowed from deep within the woods–the hum of the bees, the whisper of the wind, the trickle of water, and the cracking of wood as my woodland neighbors wander invisibly among the swaying trees.
Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park, Keystone, Breck, Montezuma, and Summit Cove.
The other day, my buddy Nate, convinced me to join him on a 14 mile hike deep into Central Colorado’s Gore Range. Considering the Gore’s close proximity to Vail and Summit County, it’s amazing just how remote this mountain range really is. Its rugged peaks and rocky trails seclude it from some of the more popular ranges in the area, making it fairly unforgiving and pleasantly serene.
Nate and I began our trek at 5:00am, utilizing the parking area beside the Piney River Ranch just outside Vail. Our goal, though more of guideline as Nate was more interested in using this trip to scout climbing routes along Peak C’s huge granite face, was the summit of Mt. Powell (13, 580ft) and if there was time, a quick jaunt down to Bubble Lake for a high alpine swim.
As we reached the saddle at Kneeknocker Pass, we quickly came to the realization that we were most interested in exploring the adjacent ridge-lines of Peak C and beyond, and explore is what we did.
Truly one of the most epic days of my time in Colorado, I absolutely recommend the hike if you are up for a long and challenging day of scaling pinnacles, glissading down behemoth snow fields, and marveling over the beauty of mother nature and the mighty Rocky Mountains.
I’m surrounded by wildflowers.
The rainbow blooms waving in the wind as though they are swaying to their own personal orchestra, encouraging me to free myself from my heavy pack, to let my body and my soul open up in the midst of their dance.
I catch the scent of the pine needles that blanket the neighboring forest floor and catch the urge to run.
To sprint as fast as my legs, weary from the climb, will carry me.
I hesitate for a moment, not wanting to look silly in the midst of my audience of chirping birds and whistling marmots, and then give in.
I open my lungs and stretch my legs as far as my hips will swing, and I run.
I run fast and I run far.
Through the field of dancing flowers, letting each bloom touch my arms and legs and face; sometimes they caress and sometimes they strike, stinging my skin with the whip of their touch.
The sun penetrates the skin on my face and the hair on my head. I let it soak in and feel my soul burst with warmth.
The leaves of the flowers tangle my hair, tugging a bit as I glide through their field, not stopping, not slowing. Just embracing the feeling of freedom.
“Whoever stays up the longest, wins!” shouts Nate over his shoulder as he jumps into the long “ski” down the permanent snow fields that cover the back basins of Kneeknocker Pass.
Giggling, I watch him slide all the way down, gracefully making turns as though his boots were a pair of short skis strapped to his feet.
I wait for him to come to a complete stop, just short of a large boulder field, before squealing and angling my own booted feet down the slope. I stay upright for about three seconds before crashing to the ground and sliding the rest of the way down the hill, the palms of my hands on fire from cold and friction as I grasp at the snow frantically try to slow my speeding body down.
As I reach the bottom of the pitch, I come to a stop, my stomach aching from the peals of laughter that came bursting out of me as I hurled myself down the snow as though I were on a steep, wet water slide.
As a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up; to run my own household and to dictate my own daily adventures. I spent inordinate amounts of time playing imaginary games about saving the day from all the bad guys that plagued Wilmette and wrangling wild mustangs out on the ranch. I always imagined that the freedoms of adulthood would be far better than being a kid constrained by household rules and responsibilities.
Little did I know that as an adult some of my most memorable experiences would revolve around the carefree feeling of games in my own outdoor playground and quenching a thirst of curiosity that is prevalent in a naive child exploring the hidden secrets of their front yard.
As I have aged, I have come to the realization that some of the things that are viewed as childish are sometimes the very things that help me cope with the pressures of adulthood; the ugly side of responsibility.
Sometimes you can’t help but be a kid.