|Long's Peak from Deer Mountain.|
I got an early start this morning to climb Deer Mountain - a park ranger told me there is a great view of Long's Peak from the summit. It was three miles to the summit, making it the longest hike I've done with my paint pack. The hike up was strenuous...it felt the hiking equivalent of biking up a hill. Really the same kind of cardio exertion but with weight on my back instead of my bike. I think I prefer hauling stuff on my bike...but, so much closer to nature by hiking. So I like them both but biking is my first love. Anyway enough of my biking hiking pro con list.
I survived and made it to the top, greatly motivated by a group of retired aged individuals that I passed and then had to stay ahead of to keep my street cred. Was also complimented by a nice southern couple on my "pace." "You have such a great pace, wow!" Again, had to keep moving to maintain street cred. Awesome view at the top. It was worth the hike. I sat and ate lunch with some very familiarized chipmunks...they know people eat lunch up here. One was a foot away from me and stuck his little nose right in my lunchbox. They come up and you can see them sniffing with their little noses...it's cute but then you want to shoo their nosy butts.
At the top, there were some (apparently avid) (apparently sans heavy packs) hikers saying this hike was "a good warm up." Umm this hike was THE hike, the warm up was the first 10 minutes of the hike. Anyway, this speaks to how active people are here! There were two hiking groups with women of all ages, out for about 8 miles. I talked to one of them and she said that's what people do here. Sign me UP! Another woman, when I said I was from Ohio, said "I'm sorry," which prompted a surge of Midwest pride that I suppose only a Midwesterner could understand. My hiking bus driver the other day is from the Midwest and said it's a good place to be from, and Colorado is a good place to live. Luckily Army Dan will have us living all over the place!
The clouds shifted frequently and cast shadows on the scene I was painting. That was challenging. I had to look around to other peaks and valleys (there was a great panoramic view at the summit) to reference the color and light. I'd been painting along for quite a while, getting close to finishing, when a man asked if I could take a video of him and his girlfriend. Video? I can just take a picture. No, we can just get a still from the video. Really? I can just turn the knob and take a photo. No, a video. By this time his girlfriend says, I think something crazy is about to happen. And, *lightbulb* OMG HE IS ABOUT TO PROPOSE AND I AM BEING ASKED TO FILM IT OKAY GO. So he said this whole sweet speech and got down on one knee (I think, it was all a blur and I was praying I didn't mess up and not record this momentous occasion) and got out a ring he MADE out of some branch type thing with a seashell on top. So cool. She was crying and so happy, they kissed and hugged and it was so fantastic. They were super nice and great to talk to beyond the whole engagement thing. Ahh! Love! Kept thinking of DAN and his perfect proposal. I couldn't stop smiling the rest of the time I was painting because I was just so happy for them. Congrats cool outdoorsy couple from Maine!!!
I packed up my things after I finished painting and there was a black sky looming behind me as I started my descent. Hmm three whole miles down this mountain and a storm is coming. About half a mile into my quickstep I saw a mom with a baby and an older boy, maybe about five. I said something to them about staying dry. The sky was getting more ominous and I was terrified. *Pardon my french* but I hauled ASS down that mountain. I had wings on my feet. Thunder cracked, I whimpered, and continued my flight. I was frantically praying for the mom and her baby, that they had some sense to turn around. In the end, it didn't rain very hard on me and the rain gear I had did its job. Crazy what threatening weather can do to your adrenaline - had a similar experience on my bike trying to get in before a storm and I don't think I've ever ridden my bike so fast.
|He's clearly modeled before.|
|Range of snow-capped mountains.|
|Beautiful hike...steep with many switchbacks.|
|View from the summit of Deer Mountain. Worked hard for this view.|
|Very panoramic...great 180 degree view.|
|I mean this was my office today!|
|Long's Peak from Deer Mountain.|
|View of Estes Park from the summit.|
|Seen on my way down...a comforting sight to a hiker with 2.5 miles away from her car...|
|Estes Park, Long's Peak by Albert Bierstadt in 1877.|
After it stopped raining, I drove around the park for a while and stopped at Hidden Valley. It really is hidden, with a footbridge above a wetland leading to a beautifully clear stream. Ah, I had found a "pocket of solitude" in a very popular park. (The rain and late time helped this too). I felt like a traveller, not a tourist in the park...practicing the art of seeing and being. Just to be in a place so rich with life and nature is enough. This is one of the gifts of traveling alone...existing in a space by yourself, on your own time, or perhaps adhering to no time at all. Just existing in the world.
Ending on another wonderful Annie Dillard quote:
The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera, I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment's light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer.
|Rain in the distance.|
|Sunset behind the mountains from Many Parks Curve.|