Best. Hike. Ever.
I’m grateful that since I moved to Nebraska, Tony and I have started a tradition of spending a week with friends hiking in the mountains of Colorado. We both love hiking, and that proved a difficult hobby during our grad school years in Missouri. However, our appetite was whetted again during my internship year in Oregon, where we enjoyed the Cascades and the Coastal ranges. So, an upside to moving to the very flat prairie of Nebraska was that it’s only a day’s drive to the mountains. This past week was our fifth trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, and it did not disappoint. I could have sat on the long covered porch all week long, drinking coffee and writing morning pages to start each day, then switching to wine and playing Yahtzee somewhere around mid-afternoon and continuing into the night. And while both of those activities happened with great frequency throughout the week, we were there to enjoy the trails.
During our first trip in 2008, our friends encouraged us to hike to Chasm Lake, a beautiful spot that sits right below Longs Peak. Sounded great to us. Then they added that it’s a showstopper if you get to the proverbial top at sunrise. Get there at sunrise? Meaning, start some time well before sunrise? Yup. That’s what they meant. So, we followed their advice and did that hike starting at 4am. I remember it being a-mazing. I remember it being worth every minute of sleep I didn’t get. And I remember that since taking that hike, I recommend it to every friend I know who’s headed to RMNP.
As we started discussing the hikes we’d take during this year’s trip, I suggested that we head back up to Chasm. It had been 5 years since we trekked up there in the dark and I was ready to do it again. I wanted to see if it lived up to the memory I’d made. And, I was wanting a little a-mazing. On Friday morning, if you call 2am “morning,” our alarms went off. I won’t lie and say it was easy to bound out of bed, but I got up, put the coffee on, and quickly dressed. The four of us gathered our gear — don’t forget the headlamps! — and made our way to the trailhead. While you may think this tale is crazy, the parking lot at the base of the mountain trail was FULL when we arrived at just a few moments past 3am. I can’t tell you how energizing it is to be with other people seeking a little magic in nature, awake in the middle of the night for a moonlit hike in the woods (well…it’s still really dark at that time of
night morning night and those headlamps are absolutely necessary, so “moonlit” might be a bit of an overstatement). So, we were off at 3:30am, in the quiet and dark beauty of the woods, steady climbing toward a mountain lake and the sunrise.
As we climbed, we stopped to look up at the starry night, to watch the trails of headlamps ahead of and behind us, and to glimpse the sky ever-so-slowly brightening. But one can’t dawdle on this hike as getting to the top before the sun peaks above the horizon line is pivotal. Trust me, you don’t want to miss the sun just coming up and the resulting alpenglow. That is what this hike is all about. So while we took some moments to drink in the moment, we also worked hard to hustle up that mountain and not miss “it.”
We got to the top at 5:24am, with a good 30 minutes to spare. We were able to catch our breath, snap some photos, and slowly watch the mountain change color from a wash of grayish-brown rockface to this…
Witnessing this magic in nature unfold before my very eyes is some of the best self-care there is. Trying to capture it through a lens is fairly futile, but it’s the only way to try to hold on to it, to revisit it when I need a little perspective and refocusing in the swirling that so often happens in my life. Overall, yes, the trek to Chasm lived up to my memory from 5 years ago. It was a-mazing. In other words… Best. Hike. Ever.
Thanks to Tony for the silhouette photo of me above. All 3 photos above are straight out of the camera with no filter or editing. And, here’s a self-portrait of how I looked at noon that same day…
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