Saturday, August 11, 2018

Colorado Account: Day 3

Day 3: Iconic Peaks and Sad Revelations
On Tuesday, July 24th I was on the Cascade Creek trail in Indian Peaks Wilderness at 6:00 a.m. Mirror Lake and Crater Lake were my destinations. Lone Eagle Peak, which I had wanted to see for ten years, sits enthroned above Mirror Lake. The lakes are eight miles into the woods.

To start off, you walk beside Monarch Lake which would be a nice destination by itself. See pictures 12, 13 and 14.

(To see pictures that go with the story, click on the Instagram header on the blog. The pictures are not in chronological order on Instagram, but if you click on a picture you will see a number in parentheses that matches the picture in the story.)

The plants and trees were drenched with dew, so my pants, shoes and socks were soaked. I wondered how millions of pounds of moisture form and how it disappears so quickly. I looked it up:

As a surface cools by radiating its heat, atmospheric moisture condenses at a rate greater than it can evaporate, resulting in water droplets. Then, when the relative humidity is less than the dew point percentage level, it turns to vapor. About 10% of the moisture in the atmosphere can be attributed to plant transpiration. As far as we know, this only happens on Earth. We live inside a colossal science experiment.

After 30 minutes of hiking the blister on my right heel from the day before became intolerable. So, I changed into my Brooks running shoes, which I had in my backpack for that reason.

It hurt my ego to wear Brooks on the trail. In my own eyes I became an illegitimate hiker. When I see people on a rocky trail in tennis shoes I judge them, and I trust they judged me. So, when I met people on the trail I pointed up at a tree and said “Look!” and ran by them so they couldn’t see my shoes.
That makes me wonder what I would say and how I would dress and act differently if I didn’t care about the opinions of others. I would cuss more, dress worse and be meaner. Maybe it’s good I care.

Let’s be honest, all our visible goodness is not Fruit of the Spirit. Some of it is simply conforming to the norms of a given culture and era and self-imposed standards.

I stopped to eat about two miles in and a couple in their 60s caught up to me. Seeing people twice my age on a trail gives me hope and frustrates me. It gives me hope because I think, “Wow, I might be able to do a hike like this in 30 years.” It frustrates me because if they can do what I am doing I think I should be doing something harder. It’s like climbing a mountain and seeing your Grandma at the summit. Suddenly, your feat seems smaller.

I asked the couple if they had done this hike before. The woman said they had not, but their daughter had. Her daughter said “the hike is epic and Lone Eagle Peak is iconic.”

It is true. It is exceptional. The cirque is jagged like a broken candle jar and Lone Eagle Peak looks like a theophany above stone still Mirror Lake. See pictures 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20.

On the shore of Mirror Lake, which is the size of a pond, I met a high school teacher from Denver. He was probably in his 20s. He was originally from Pennsylvania. We talked and looked at a map. He teaches engineering and computer science. He said school started in a couple weeks. He said, “I came up here so I can say I had an exciting summer when I go back to school.”
I thought about that and it made me sad he went there, at least in part, because he was concerned about what others would think of his summer and how fun it was. What a truly meaningless concern, which I could relate to 100%.

I pictured him telling his students and coworkers about his backpacking trip. He might stop short of telling them he went there so he could tell them he did.

His concern about what others thought reminded me of me and my Brooks. This is the part where I call that a sad revelation.

Planes using Denver International Airport must frequent the airspace above Indian Peaks Wilderness. You think you are alone and a 145 people fly over your head in a loud plane every ten minutes. This is a legitimate atrocity.

Since President Trump is pro-nature and anti-enterprise maybe I’d have his ear on that. That is sarcasm. Theodore Roosevelt might have cared. It seems essential our leaders have an appreciation for nature and want to care for it and preserve it. This is only one of our first God-given roles. Plus, Jesus often talked about us being good managers of what He put us in charge of and Earth is literally the biggest thing He put us in charge of.

The young teacher left to dry out his tent. I sat on the shore of Mirror Lake and looked at Lone Eagle Peak and ate a mix of walnuts, pretzels and cranberries. I tried to cram the moment into me. Soon, the couple I talked to earlier arrived at Mirror Lake. I said, “You made it!” There were narrow log bridges over streams I thought they might not be able to navigate, so I was surprised to see them.

She asked me to take their picture. I walked over to them barefoot and did. Then I walked .3 miles through the woods to Crater Lake, which offers a different view of Lone Eagle Peak. See picture 21. Then I headed back down the trail. I met several people headed to the lakes who sought my counsel.

A guy asked, “Did I get off the trail here?” as we met walking across a basketball court length boulder. I said, “Nope. Just keep walking straight and the trail continues over there.”

Next I met three guys. They asked how the lakes were. I said they were wet. Then I offered them secrets. I said, “You will come to Mirror Lake first. Crater Lake is to the right and Triangle Lake, which is not on every map, is to the left.”

I was useful because I had already been where they were going. People in life who have been where we are going are helpful too. We probably do a poor job of caring about what they have to say, myself included. We are too busy stringing together successful lives, and writing blogs, to listen.

The visits with the hikers made me think something else.

They were anticipating seeing Lone Eagle Peak, but my anticipation was over. They had more to look forward to, but I had more to look back on. Life is like that. The older we get the less we have to look forward to, but the more we have to look back on. Which is better, anticipation or hindsight? Sometimes the answer is anticipation and sometimes it’s hindsight.

Note to self: When you pour water from a gallon jug into a Camelbak bladder don’t watch the stream of water and think, “That looks like a lot of water. That should be enough.”

You need to actually look at the number on bladder to know how many ounces of water you poured in, because 60 ozs. is not enough for eight hours of hiking. I ran out of water with about six miles to go, which ruled out the possibility of attempting Pawnee Lake and Pawnee Pass, which could be reached by taking a fork in the trail. It would have added about six miles to the hike. I wish I would have done it despite not having water. But since I didn’t do it, I look forward to doing it another time.

I love the mountains and what a glorious hike, but the last four miles of the trail I spent thinking how much I hate hiking. Then my thoughts gravitated downward and I got in an emotional and mental funk.

I had a fruitful reflection on the funk the next morning, which will be included in Day 4. The reflection may or may not have been worth the pain.

I talked to my wife after the hike and told her I was discouraged. I said I was considering coming home a day early. She said since I was in Colorado I should stay and hike. Wise and reasonable, as usual, she was right.

Originally, I planned to stay at Arapaho Bay campground again that night. But I decided to find a place closer to the Junco Lake trailhead, where I would be leaving for Columbine Lake in the morning. I went to the ranger station in Granby. A ranger showed me on a map where there was dispersed camping near Junco Lake trailhead. Dispersed camping is free, spaced out and first come first served.

I had articles running everyday that week on the Athletes in Action website and I wanted to see how many shares that day’s article had. I had prayed for 20. I pulled over, sat on a rock and checked the website. It had 19 at the time and over 20 by the end of the day. At worst that was a comforting coincidence, at best it was history-altering.

A hummingbird wearing a green vest hovered near my left arm as I sat on the rock. I felt like God was with me. If my article had 2 shares and a crow landed next to me I would have felt abandoned by God. My wife calls me steady, and she is joking.

Meadow Creek Reservoir, which is near Junco Lake trailhead, is only 11 miles off the highway near Tabernash, but it took an hour to get there because the road is rough, windy and uphill. After deliberating, I selected a postcard pretty meadow to settle for the night. I had it all to myself. It felt like I could reach out and touch the spine of the Continental Divide, which was about three miles away.

I parked the back of the vehicle to the woods. I slept on an air mattress in the back of my wife’s parents SUV. This was was an upgrade from our SUV and was a fine companion. I hope our Ford Escape doesn't read this.

I looked into the darkening woods and every horror story about woods I have ever heard flooded my thoughts. I pictured a deranged ranger with bloody axes running out of the trees. He would know just where to bury me.

I was shocked I had phone reception. It was great to talk to my wife for 15 minutes before bed. When we were talking, a deer came out of the woods
and grazed by the tailpipe. It did not have axes.

I slept like a newborn and felt renewed when I woke up.

Coming soon: Day 4