What’s the definition of success? My answer to this question: moving to Colorado. I firmly believe that all Coloradans are successful by virtue of living in that beautiful state.
On Friday, after my interview, I took off for Colorado Springs, about an hour south of Aurora. I made it to Garden of the Gods State Park an hour before sunset. There, huge rock formations shoot out from the ground and tower over the surrounding trees and shrubs. The scenery is composed of a desert dirt red. The rocks have pockets that make them look great for climbing. Indeed, there were several climbers at 5 in the evening. The state park feels surreal–like you were plopped into a giant’s land as everything else towers above you. (That or you were part of Honey, I shrunk the kids.) The state park is well-adapted for tourists in that many of the trails have been paved over as sidewalks.
On Saturday, I drove out to Boulder (45 min drive, NW of Aurora) to check out the Flatirons. CO has 5 Flatirons, which got their name from their semblance to either the iron or the Flatiron building in Manhattan. I read online that the Chautauqua parking lot is full by 8:30 on summer weekends. I arrived at 8:10 and found the parking lot already full. Following the other cars, I parked on the side of the road. It was a beautiful morning: crisp but sunny. As I started my hike up, I started to breath heavily. I forgot that I was at a higher altitude than my body is used to. I wanted to hike the 1st/2nd flatiron trail but I got a little off trail for a bit. The hike turned into a hiker’s scramble, but I made it to the saddle point. I wanted to take a different route down, however I couldn’t find where the trail led to. I was DEFINITELY off the trail for the first bit of my descent as I scrambled down on all fours. Eventually, I found the trail, which by then was PACKED with people. Seriously, everyone and their mother was out there on Saturday morning. People in Boulder hike/run the Flatirons like people in FL go to the beach.
When I got to the bottom, I saw the park had placed a representative at the trailhead with maps. I asked for a map and suggestions for other hikes from the Chautauqua trailhead. The girl recommended going to see the Royal Arch. Up again, I went. The royal arch is a pretty neat rock formation near the 3rd flatiron. On the climb up, I saw so many lovely, happy, big dogs. I pet all of them. One dog found a little pool of water and bounded off the trail. When he got to the water, he promptly sat in it. All the other dogs ran after him. When they got to the puddle (with dog 1 sitting in it), they all tried to drink the water around the edges of dog 1. Definitely need to move to CO.
After hiking in Boulder, I went to Glacier Ice Cream for ice cream, of course. Then I thought I’d check out Denver. I spent a good 40 minutes looking for parking. In the end, I found one lot that charged $7/hour, which seemed reasonable. However I got there after 4 PM, so the only option was evening parking for $20. Unwilling to pay the 20 bucks, I continued to drive until I found parking for 15. Sigh. It was still cheaper than uber into the city so I shelled out the parking fare. I walked down 16th Street, the outdoor pedestrian street. I was surprised to find it packed with people dressed like zombies. Very weird. I asked a person what was going on and they explained that it was the annual zombie walk. Ok Denver, ok. Since I’m not one for gore (read: world’s biggest scaredy cat), I promptly left. Especially when I saw a guy rev a chainsaw.
Sunday morning, I had an early start to drive out to Rocky Mountain National Park (1h40 drive, NW of Aurora). I wanted to see Emerald Lake, but heard that the Bear Lake Trailhead parking lot fills up by 9 on weekends in the summer. I got there at 8:40 and there were still plenty of spots. From the trailhead, I went to Nymph Lake followed by Dream Lake. From there, I climbed to Emerald Lake for great views of Hallett Peak. It was cold near Emerald Lake as the wind was strong.
From Emerald Lake, I backtracked to Dream Lake, then continued to Lake Haiyaha. It was also cold on Lake Haiyaha–exposure to the wind makes a huge difference! There, I saw a really cool tree. Someone told me the tree is ~500 years old, one of the oldest in the park!
I continued an easy 3 miles (all downhill) to a four way fork. I first went down (physically up) one path to Mills Lake.
On the trail map, I saw something labeled “Sky Pond” down the other path. It’s a cool name, right? So instead of continuing past Mills Lake to Black Lake, I went back to the fork. I went down (err, up) a different path. And goodness, up did I go. I didn’t realize Sky Pond required 1,650 feet of elevation gain. On the way, I passed by The Loch and Timberline Falls. From Timberline Falls, there was a sign for Sky Pond. There was no trail, there were only rocks. Scramble mode. I climbed up rocks for what felt like forever until I finally crested the edge and saw the pond. It was FREEZING, but I felt pretty accomplished. I was tired, so going down the rocks from Sky Pond back to Timberline Falls felt like a battle.
After climbing back down from Sky Pond, I realized I still had a long way to go from the parking lot. Thankfully most of it was downhill. I passed Alberta Falls and then had a short climb back up to the Bear Lake trailhead. All in all, the trail map indicates that I hiked ~14.5 miles with 1650 ft elevation gain (absolute elevation: 11,000 ft at Sky Pond). At my car, I ate 6 slices of bread, 2 packets of Justin’s Almond Butter, and a banana. It was a quality day on all accounts.