Recently, it has been so smokey in Colorado and I’m assuming most states in the west are experiencing a similar forecast. As wildfires rage in California, the smoke is settling across the west bringing Denver’s air quality to top the charts among the worst air quality in major cities across the world. It stinks (literally and figuratively) when the air is smokey especially when weekends are for getting outside and enjoying fresh mountain air. This last weekend, not only did I want to enjoy the mountain air, I also wanted to enjoy the tail end of wildflower season here in Colorado.
Wildflowers are gorgeous anywhere you go in the higher alpine regions here but I have a few places that I especially enjoy going to for picture perfect viewing of Colorado’s wildflower painted mountains. The most beautiful display of wildflowers I’ve ever seen was in Crested Butte, Colorado last summer. It was during our Aspen to Crested Butte hike and it was exactly a year ago from last weekend! This last weekend I only had time for a day trip to the mountains which brings me to my second favorite spot to peak at wildflowers: Vail, Colorado.
I headed up early on Saturday morning to hike a trail to Pitkin Lake. It’s about 10.5 miles and 3,000 ft elevation gain. When I drive a little ways to do a day hike, I typically like to make sure I get a good amount of miles in to make the drive worth it. My rule of thumb is that my time on the trail should be longer than my drive to and from the hike! Despite the smoke and skipping my morning cup of coffee, I was so excited to get on the trail and see wildflowers. The first part of the hike was a steep incline for about a mile, I was out of breath and my body felt fatigued. The first part of any trail is always the hardest for me and until I find my stride and adjust to the altitude and the hiking environment, I have to push through a lot of head chatter to keep going. This was especially true for this hike. I didn’t know if I felt so tired because the smokey air, my skipped cup of coffee, the 10.5 miles with some good elevation gain ahead of me or because the early morning but I felt like I was dragging that first mile. I receive this life lesson at the start of EVERY hike I do: When you try something new, starting is always the hardest! Don’t let the doubt and struggles at the start get in the way of discovering the greatness you’re surely headed towards.
The trail mellowed out a bit after the first mile and the incline became less drastic. The smokey air made for a beautiful hazy sunrise over the mountains. We hiked through the most beautiful fields of wildflowers, hopped over babbling brooks and made our way to the serene Pitkin Lake. We only saw a couple other hikers on trail and a curious mountain goat at the top. This hike was everything I wanted that morning and as always I walked away feeling grounded and refreshed. The mountains seem to do that for me and I enjoy every moment I get to spend in them. As wildflower season in the mountains winds down, I’m looking forward to some cooler weather and fall. This year has seem to flown by but I’m thankful I have hiking through the changing seasons to help me mark time.
Until the next tale… Happy trails.