When we decided to visit Colorado to visit extended family, Cute W set to work looking for a good hike for just our little family of four to do on our own one day.
He was remembering the big, ambitious hike he and J completed in Colorado years ago, which culminated in a visit to a beautiful pristine lake in a landscape still dotted with snow. Ever since, the two of them describe that hike as “magical.” He was hoping to revisit the magic and bring along M and me, since last time we’d opted to take the slacker’s hike.
Cute W found a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. First we’d head up to Ouzel Falls for a bit of fabulous scenery, then we’d continue our trek upwards to Bluebird Lake. In all, it would be about 12 miles round trip. This was a little ambitious for me, but I didn’t want to prevent the family from finding magic up in the mountains again.
I didn’t do great. The hike was beautiful. But I managed to get a blister in the first mile of walking. Which made me feel really, really stupid. I was wearing hiking boots that I’ve worn plenty of times before, but they were a little too loose at the beginning. By the time I realized it was a problem, it was already a problem. I had brought along some of that glide/anti-chafe stuff, but by the time I added it, it was too far gone. And the band aids that we’d brought to Colorado didn’t make it into our backpacks. Altogether, it was not awesome.
The real problem, though, is that hiking as a family just isn’t what it used to be for me. When the kids were little, they meandered and played, they stopped to examine things, but mostly. . . they were slow. Now I have two unbelievably fit teenagers, and I am utterly, irretrievably the weak link in the group. The thing is, even when we walk a city block, every other person in my family walks faster than me. I have to consciously walk extra-fast or occasionally jog to keep up with them. It’s frustrating. And it’s worse on a mountain. At the beginning of the hike, M in particular was very goal-oriented. She knew we wanted to make it to the lake 6 miles up, so she started just booking up the mountain. I’d rather pause and look around, and even Cute W got annoyed, “Can you pause and take in the view once in a while?” But that was not her jam.
I am a person who could enjoy a 12-mile hike. Just not–and I know that this sounds terrible–with my family. A few other middle-aged women who would take lots of breaks and chit-chat and stop for snacks? Yep, that’s more my speed.
As it was, I was pretty much pitied by my daughters as I minced along painfully on my blistery foot and gratefully agreed when they took on my backpack when the original plan was that they’d switch off being the backpack-free ones. It was very kind of them, but demoralizing for me. I felt like, “Yep, I have outlived my usefulness and now it’s just a matter of time before you start wiping my drool mouth and changing my diapers.”
But I am painting an all-too-gloomy portrait of the day. Again, it was beautiful. After higher-than-average rainfall this spring, the falls were rushing like crazy. Here’s J building a rock tower near the water.
Here’s a picture she took of her completed rock tower.
That J is a nature girl.
Now, here’s the bummer: we never made it to the lake. As we got up higher, we were excited to see some snow. And then, as we continued, we saw more and more snow. Until the trail was just complete snow. Slippery, sometimes hard-packed and sometimes collapsing piles of snow in a steep ascent to our destination. It just hadn’t occurred to us that there would still be so much snow along a well-traveled trail, and we weren’t prepared. If we’d had Yaktrax for traction, if we’d brought along trekking poles, or if we hadn’t already hiked several miles, we might have given it a shot, but Cute W called it. I kept saying yes, sure, I can do it, but this was mostly because I didn’t want to be the one holding everyone else back and ruining it for them. But Cute W rightfully pointed out that the remaining climb would be tough and miserable, and the coming back down would be super-challenging as well. Instead we made a picnic on a big rock before heading back down the mountain.
When we got back to the trailhead, we were really grateful we’d arrived early that morning. There were so many people hiking on that lovely Saturday that the parking lots were jammed. Some folks were probably walking more than a mile just to get to the trailhead! A group was just arriving in late afternoon with plans to hike to the lake we’d been aiming for, and I almost snickered as the park ranger tactfully tried to dissuade them.
I got in the car and was super-excited to take off my boots. Frankly, I was a little disappointed when I pulled them off, though. I was fully expecting the heels of my socks to be drenched in blood, because that’s how it felt like they should look. But even if I was underwhelmed, the rest of the family groaned in a satisfying way when I displayed the tattered flesh where the blisters had formed.
The hike wasn’t entirely as magical as we’d hoped, but we were glad we’d made it, I’d logged a bunch of steps (30 K +) for the day. And we spent the next day lounging by a hotel pool, recovering.