Monthly Archives: December 2017

Peak Pics Series: Into Rocky Mountain National Park

This hike will always stand out in my mind. I remember the day before, trying to decide on a place to go, the forecast was supposed to be sunny and in the 50’s, a beautiful March day in Colorado.

When I woke up, I still couldn’t decide so I just…went. I took a shortcut into the park and just started walking.

I thought about the grandeur of walking through the park as opposed to driving through. Your feet hit the earth with each step and your lungs fill with this crisp air, and your vision is flooded. Your eyes can’t seem to focus on any one thing for very long, there’s too much to take in.

I walked through a valley and kept pushing forward, eventually finding myself following a small stream. What struck me was how clear it was, how serene. As I traveled, I stumbled onto the trail for Bear Lake. I remember being excited because I had a set destination now. It had been a couple hours and I was excited to see other people.

I followed this trail for a while, passing Cub Lake and Bear Lake but then coming to a point when I realized I wasn’t wearing the right shoes for this trail anymore. It had become steep and icy and I realized I had gained elevation, more that I thought I had.

I was staring at a canyon wall. It was rather confusing, how had I gotten here and where the heck was I? The next person I saw had snow shoes and walking poles, when I asked how far away I was from Bear Lake, he told me at that point I was closer to Fern Lake and that I should just keep going, so I did.

What was funny about this day, was that I remember how warm it was. Especially how sunny it was, and how much the sun reflects off the snow. Fun fact: I had one of the worst sunburns of my life after this hike.

I kept going, up a winding trail. It started as switchbacks but then seemed to go in a slow circle up a mountain. The frustrating part was the sun was melting the top layer of snow, so I fell in to my knees about every 4 steps. I would just fall through, have to climb out and it just kept happening.

When my patience seemed to be at it’s end, I saw the top of a sign buried by snow. I dug it out and found out that I was .7 miles from Odessa Lake. So I went.

It was unreal. The moment I turned the corner, it took my breath away. I just kept audibly gasping and muttering, “wow.” I had never seen mountains that looked that way, I had never felt like the only person in the world to be experiencing them in that way. I was blown away.

Three jagged, piercing peaks jutted out from the lake that had been frozen over, the sun bouncing off the white and almost spotlighting the mountains above them. I sat on a rock and ate an orange.

I breathed. Deeply. I can still smell that citrus filling the air around me as I sat dwarfed by rocks that had thrust themselves up from the earth millions of years ago. I still feel that small ping of vulnerability, how small we are, how grand they are. I sat there for an hour and a half, unmoving.

When I finally came to, I smiled and for whatever reason, saluted to them.

The hike back was elated, things seemed easier, the air fresher, my legs felt stronger. It was like I had been given a fresh start. Like, I hadn’t just walked 13 miles and had 13 to go, that didn’t matter. I felt so good.

I ended up doing a literal marathon that day, and to this day, I still don’t really know where I went. I don’t know which trail I was on, I do know I was at Fern Lake at one point. Regardless, I felt like I had such a beautiful moment in those mountains, and I wouldn’t have traded that in for anything.

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Peak Pics Series: Emerald Mountain

Emerald Mountain sat at the back of the YMCA’s sprawling property, it towered ever so slightly but not in a menacing way, somewhat of a gentle giant.

I first did this hike with two friends; Matt and Julian. We ate lunch together on a day off then set off around noon. Normally, this hike takes about two hours to reach the summit, but since it was our first time we had allotted ourselves a couple extra hours to catch the sunset.

I remember it being quite easy at first and then all of the sudden, becoming a scramble. We took the wrong path and since there was intermittent snow, we lost the trail multiple times, but we just kept aiming up.

We had so much fun on that hike, I remember it started snowing half way up and we just laughed and told stories. The sun shining on us while snowflakes fell around us.

We climbed rock formations and pretended like they were our homes, we free climbed and crawled through small crevices that the mountain seemed to be hiding. We reached a small lean to that had been created by other hikers at the summit.

By this point, a full snow storm was coming and the wind was howling. We stared into the Rocky Mountains and let the wind sing to us. It sang to the mountains, whipping around them like it was whispering to them as it passed.

Peak Pics Series

Hiking, climbing, lungs burning, legs heavy, my breath pillowing out in smoke as the cold air around me wraps me tight. Looking up, I see them. The mountains that call to me in a distant roar, that pulls at the bottom of my chest, like an inner animal that is fighting its way to get out, to be up there.

Living in Colorado, I hiked more days than not. I went as far as I could, as high as I could. I sat at the top where the only sound I could hear was my heartbeat in my ears and the wind twirling and swirling around me. I thought about all aspects of my life, thought about my past and present, about where I was going. I felt so clearheaded.

Hiking, putting one foot in front of the other, climbing up and up and up, made the world make sense. I saw these mountains that couldn’t be tamed in front of me, and I sat alongside them. I sat within them, feeling their pulse in a way that I can never put properly into words.

Life became full of possibilities. Which peak would I climb to next? Which mountain would make my heart sing that day? It became a beautiful symphony of longing and conquering. Wanting and doing.

The more I climbed, the less pictures I took. But it wasn’t always that way.

In the beginning, I was infatuated with getting the perfect shot. Making sure the composition was just right, the lighting was where I wanted it to be, the colors setting each other off in just the right way.

I put them up on social media, showed them off to the world as if to say, “Look what I did!” But more so, “Look at this picture, isn’t my life perfect?”

I was obsessed. I spent more time on my hike thinking about what I wanted to portray than actually looking around me. How could I make sure that everyone who follows me will like it?

Then, my roommate Miranda gave me a disposable camera and I made a promise to myself.

I would only take one picture, and I would take it as soon as I got to the top so I wouldn’t think about it while I was up there. No longer would the obsession be about the perfect picture, but it would be about enjoying the view at the top.

This was in 2016. I had honestly put this disposable camera in the back of my mind, had pretty much forgotten about it until a week ago, when I was cleaning out an old dresser and I found it. I was so excited.

I got them developed and wanted to show them to the world, but I wanted each one to carry their weight of the impact they had on my life. I wanted them to tell the story of each hike, of each peak.

Because these weren’t just pictures of mountains, they were a souvenir of a hike that I had done, that I had struggled through, that I felt my lungs burning, felt my legs getting stronger with each step. They were moments in my life that were important, that will always remind me of that winter.

I’ve traveled many places, I’ve seen so many faces, I’ve experienced so many beautiful things, but this winter, this was the winter that I became who I am today.