Total Miles: 352.1
A few years ago, I came to a simple realization that if I had time to hike, to cook, to read, and have a project to dedicate myself to, life would be pretty satisfying. Those felt like the minimum ingredients for happiness, everything else being more or less superfluous. Distilling priorities in that way was my way of answering big questions like “who am I?” and “what do I want?” You know, the light stuff. I guess you could say that's my identity—a hiking, cooking reader who needs something, anything, to throw my mind at. Put that way, I'm simpler than I thought.
All of this was drifting through my mind as we started walking this morning alongside a river whose water was slack and framed by yet more hillsides of lodgepole pine devastated by the mountain pine beetle. Wondering what this glassy river was named, I was surprised to find on the map that it was actually the Colorado River, albeit a far less striking version of itself than the one I always picture carving its path through the Grand Canyon. Maybe its identity is more complicated than I'd thought.
The trail too seems to be posing questions about its own identity, struggling to come to terms with what it truly is. Some days I think it's downright schizophrenic, others just beautifully complicated—single track, dirt road, well marked, poorly marked, beautifully graded, brutally steep, it's all there. It's a trail now in its adolescence, and I wonder what it will evolve to be years from now. Perhaps the study in contrasts that we see everyday is precisely what it is and will remain.
Following the Colorado, it soon widened into Lake Granby where we stopped along the shore of nature’s laundromat to do our daily sock rinse. For the first time in memory on this hike, we weren't plunging our already cold hands into an ice bath of a stream, the shallow warm waters of the lake being a very pleasant change of pace.
Of course, seemingly no day would be complete without a few miles of navigating blowdown across the trail. Rising above the lake on a section of trail that seemed to get lost itself before finding its way again, it was like someone had spilled the world’s largest box of matchsticks and we had the pleasure of navigating the resulting adult-sized jungle gym.
To make matters worse, in the span of perhaps an hour we'd gone from warm hats and mittens to pleading for mercy from an unrelenting sun. Reaching the end of Lake Granby, we found a sandy stretch of beach along the shore that was the perfect spot for both an early lunch and a swim. The water was the perfect remedy for the heat of the previous miles. It was like the memory itself of how hot we'd been only minutes earlier had been completely washed away.
Tearing ourselves away from the lake and after the usual afternoon sprinkle had come and gone, we started the long climb back up into the high country of the Indian Peaks Wilderness while the next few days will take us even higher. Watching the sun fade below the distant ridge line, the colors of the sky becoming ever more muted, one thing I understand with certainty: to know these hikes is to know me.