Aging is an interesting thing. You wonder as time goes on if you’re capable of doing things that you really want to do and even things that you did once before.About twenty years ago, we went on a hike up to Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs here in Colorado. At the time, we went with my sister who was in really good shape, especially compared to me and she pretty much ran up the mountain with our then ten year old energetic daughter. Me? I dragged my out of shape self behind them. Way behind them.
We’re currently planning a big move to be closer to our grandkids, so one of our hopes was that we’d see the magical place of Hanging Lake one more time. And not just because we’re moving, but mostly because we’re getting older and as arduous as that hike is and these old(er) knees of mine, it was now or never.
Life gets rather busy and trying to get away proves to be a challenge most of the time. So we tend to do short trips on a pretty spontaneous moment. And with the internet, it makes it a lot easier to find where to go. It led us to a really great campground at the foot of Mt. Sopris to the south of Glenwood toward Aspen. Turned out to be a fantastic campground, which you just never know until you get there.
We got set up by evening and relaxed to be ready for our big hike in the morning. That is key, well, the first key, to this particular hike. Before I go further, I want to mention the second key: and this is the most important key: TAKE PLENTY OF WATER! More on that later.
We managed to get to the trailhead about 8:30 which was good. Only a few cars there and it has limited parking and with it being such a popular place, well, go early. It was a spectacular morning. Clear, bright, just a little cool like the mornings usually are in Colorado. I even had a sweatshirt on. Perfect.
Now, when you’re excited to do something, you just don’t think about how difficult it might be. Excitement steps in and off you go. We were very prepared, which maybe comes from experience. Age equals wisdom? Well, I don’t know about that, but we at least were ready with supplies. We had two Camel Bak water backpacks, another backpack with granola bars and sandwiches, sunscreen, hats, good shoes!! Gotta have good shoes. Maybe that’s another age thing…
The first quarter mile is on sidewalk to get to the actual trailhead. Strolling along next to the river, you can see parts of the highway, but it’s peaceful. There were lots of flowers blooming when we went too, so that just added to it. Ah, the blissful feelings of enjoying God’s creation.
|Yes, that is the "trail"|
Down a ways you come to the big sign tucked under trees showing the actual trail head. Beyond that sign, rocks littering a “trail”, that goes up. And up. And…yep, you guessed it. Up. Now the hike is only a mile or so. But the elevation climb is a thousand feet. That’s a lot of up.
As my opening paragraph stated, you wonder, can I really do this? Am I out of my mind? I’ve had two knee surgeries, could probably use another one with the way my knee tends to give out sometimes, but I was so determined to do this. We decided to take our time, unlike my sister who ran up mountains, that was not happening this time. We’d stop and…smell the…fresh mountain stream since there weren’t roses. We were early enough, we could take our time. We had nothing else to do or somewhere we needed to be that day. Perfect.
So we took a deep breath and headed up the trail.
You’d think by going slow, enjoying the sights around us, it wouldn’t be so bad. Wrong. Well, it wasn’t bad. It was strenuous. Very strenuous. And we just started. The trail is very rocky, so each step needs to be carefully planted or you’re going to twist an ankle. We even brought our walking sticks and I was very thankful to have it several times when it helped catch my unsteady step.
Despite the serious expending of energy, it was amazing. There weren’t too many people on the trail yet and it was beautiful. The trail follows the stream that comes down the mountain, so there were a lot of spots to stop and take pictures. And those of you who know us, know we take a lot of photos. We stopped often for more water and after a while, needed a granola bar.
A few things that really stand out, besides the scenery, was people watching. And especially how very unprepared they were. We saw more than half the daring hikers go up with NO water. I’d never make it. That really is just plain foolish. As the day goes on, it gets hotter and hotter. Then top that off with a strenuous work out and you are about guaranteed to have a heat stroke. Saw a few dads carrying their toddlers up the mountain. I could barely carry myself. Then you have to love the ladies in dresses and pumps carrying their purses. Yep. Really? And no water of course.
I love when you get talking to others on the trail and find out where they are from, switch off taking photos of each other by trading cameras. It’s all part of that stop and smell the roses thing. Find out what’s going on around you. Then the ones that are stopped, flushed and breathing heavy, we checked on a couple of them. Oh and wearing all black to absorb all that heat, also might not be the best idea.
They were kind enough to put signs up at the quarter mile, half mile, then folks
|"I still have that much farther to go? I shoot your sign |
with my walking stick!"
As we neared the destination, there started to be more areas of water coming off the mountain draining down from this high mountain lake. It’s fairly heavily wooded all the way, and the water comes down a very mossy area and is fairyland’isk. It was amazing. The sound of the running water over the rocks, spilling and cascading, lighting up the green that practically glowed in the broken sunshine.
Just when you think you can’t possibly get more tired, then you face the stairs. Stairs!! Well, if you can call uneven rocks stairs. Up you go for I don’t know how many more feet. Almost there. I can do this. I can. I hope. Please don’t give out on me, knees.
This mountain top staircase is pretty narrow, so when some would come down, sharing the space can get tricky. But there always seem to be better manners on the trail. Well, most of the time. Then there’s this big tree you have to skirt around. Then you get to the top and as you round the corner, there it is. An emerald lake literally appearing as though it is hanging off the mountain. Hence the name.
As you wander along this wooden pathway, you can get a glimpse of the even taller waterfall up beyond these. WE MUST GO ON. That’s the problem with Colorado. Just one more hill, one more curve. We just need to see a little further.
|I love getting behind a waterfall.|
|Look around more than the obvious. This is what|
it looks like behind the falls. Cool rocks that were eaten away.
Not wanting to completely leave, we made our way down the trail back to the benches to just soak in all of the scene in hopes of burning it into our brains so that someday when we need an escape, we could close our eyes and pull it up again on the backs of our eyelids and just breathe. We sat there watching more and more people file by. A group of high school choir members gathered on the far side of the lake. Apparently they all sat together and had a short Bible study which was totally cool. We had fun talking to some of them on the way down. Cuz’ we just wanted to chat. It wasn’t that we were tired and needed to rest for a minute… noooooo.
Thinking that it would be easier to go down the mountain was total disillusionment on my part. Anybody with bad knees is already shaking their head. Bad knees going downhill is just miserable. And sure enough, it was for me. But again, we just took our time. Honored the unspoken rule of yielding to uphill traffic. Gladly. Pulling our bodies off to the side of the trail so those struggling to make it to the top could get by. The problem was, those inexperienced or out of state hikers, had no idea what that meant. We had so many push past us to go down, even though others coming up clearly needed to get by. Oh well, what can you do.
Again, so glad I had my long walking stick to lean on as I went from rock to rock. It took a long time. But, we had more time than money that day.
|A lot of rocks to go down on.|
|The river! We're almost down! We did it!!|
Yep. It was a good day. God has created some pretty amazing areas that are far off the beaten path. If you are able, get out there and find them. This world is an amazing and beautiful place. Discover what’s around that corner! And sometimes, your age and your physical limitations can be overridden. Go for it!