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.