Friday, August 15, 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park- Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2, we learned that hiking at high altitude is hard, and that Colorado has more than its fair share of beauty.

In Part 3, we'll learn that maps lie, mountains are big, and listening to your stubborn wife is often a mistake.

Our final hiking day was also the day we flew out. Our flight wasn't until 6ish, so I did some math and figured we needed to be back in the car by 2:30 or so. Nick wanted to do some driving around after that, and I thought, hey, no problem, we'll have time to spare. Nick chose Deer Mountain as our final trek because it got great reviews, was convenient, and seemed like a good distance that would fit within our time constraints (3 miles up and the option of 4.5 back if we took an alternate route).  We got a not-detailed-at-all map from a park ranger and headed on our way. The trip up was uneventful and very pretty. We also got an early start so we were alone for the majority of the ascent.
Nick got lots of pretty flower pics on the way up.

The summit. Great 180+ degree views

I would like to live in Colorado. 

After the ascent, I talked Nick into taking the long, back of the mountain, way down. We should have known when the VERY FIRST SIGN we came to was unclear that this wouldn't go well. My argument was 1) getting a little more time on our feet for our upcoming Italian hiking vacation and 2) see the other side of the mountain. Who doesn't want to see more scenic vistas?

At this point, it was nearing noon. The weather was gorgeous, but warming up quickly. The way down was entirely on the exposed side of the mountain without more than 10 seconds of shade. The trail also seemed to be doing things that weren't indicated on the map. Instead of heading back toward  the parking lot, it was curving away, out of the park and toward the nearby town. So we set some distance goals- if the trail doesn't start going the right direction in a mile or 1.5 miles, we'll turn around. We didn't consider that that first 1.5 miles was steep, rocky, switchbacks. That would have been horrendous to go back up. Luckily, we found a runner and a hiker who both confirmed that we were going sort of the right direction, but one warned us that we had many miles ahead of us, despite what the map said. 

Pretty descent picture.

We just kept going and going... we skirted multiple mountains and wound our way around Deer Mountain and its neighbors. When I thought we had no more than 2 miles or so left, we saw a sign that said 4.2. Ugh. That was disheartening. 

No shade. none. Not even a little. 

In the end, we survived. Obviously. Total distance was between 10 and 11 miles- far more than we had planned on. Time was short and we were both grouchy. In retrospect, we should have gone back the more easily-traveled way and saved time to drive over the Continental Divide, but obstinate me had to see the other side of the mountain. We did end up seeing it, but it wasn't worth the stress of feeling lost for an hour or so.

And so ends our Colorado trip. We both fell in love with the state, got some good exercise, got to see one of my middle school friends (We're adults now! When did that happen?), and learned some valuable lessons. The end. 

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