Up was the only direction we went for four windy (directionally) and windy (weather-wise) miles.
See, last weekend was my first real Colorado hike. I let him pick the mountain; I’d just show up with the snacks. Around 9:30 a.m. we pulled into the South Boulder Creek trailhead, parked, tucked a fiver into the pay slot and started gaining straight away.
“Excited” wildly downplays my feelings going into the hike. This is what I came out here for! This is what I fantasized about while driving across long and boring Kansas on the last day of my Florida-to-Colorado road trip in October. I didn’t plan on having a someone to summit the climbs with…but it’s a wicked good bonus if you ask me.
Every once in awhile I’d crane my neck up and stare at the thick evergreens we’d eventually traverse through. He noticed. And about half a mile in (and up) he stopped.
“That’s where we’re headed,” he pointed to the highest point at the very tippy top of the mountain that we were still at the very bottom of.
“Oh. That’s not too far,” I matter-of-factly, optimistically, and very naively stated.
He knew everything I didn’t. And judging by the amused look that spread across his face, I decided it would be best to let it stay that way.
I like surprises, after all.
Two miles in and up even more, that’s when and where the work really began. Dusty, gravelly switchbacks turned into a rocky, technical, single track path that snaked up the side of the steep STEEP mountain. I’d guess we were somewhere in the 15% grade range. Gigantic rocks acted as stairs, tree roots ran back and forth along the forest floor, and dozens of hikers passed us going up and down, all at varying levels of out-of-breath.
One girl trekking down the mountain with poles stopped to let us go by. As we passed I heard her breathe out with a laugh, “My legs feel like they are vibrating.”
Fantastic. Something to look forward to.
We talked the whole way—when we could and between big gulps of oxygen which became more and more scarce the higher we climbed. Sports, books, podcasts, music, family, work, travel, Disney, dreams, fears, the future. We covered it all.
But never once, not even during my huffing and puffing, did I get a “how ya doin’ back there” in his thick Jersey accent which I’m mildly obsessed with. Not even during our water breaks or when I wanted “to stop and take pictures.” I think he knew I could do it.
And we kept going up.
More hikers. Tons of dogs. A lady in Birkenstocks. WTF. I was alternating between sweating through the long sleeve shirt underneath my jacket and teetering on the edge of frost bite. I think we experienced all of Colorado’s seasons on our way to the top.
“That’s it, right there.”
Mid-trail, I stopped, threw my left foot up on the boulder in front of me and looked up where he was pointing. The rock! The one we set our sights on 2000 feet ago. A weird combination of relief and sadness washed over me; I wanted to make it to the top, but I didn’t want it to end. “There’s still down,” I told myself.
About a half mile more, and we were sitting on top of what felt like the entire world. My ass hurt. My legs hurt. My calves hurt. My forehead hurt from squinting into the sun. And I hadn’t been so happy for it in so long.
Maybe it was the fact that we had spent the last two hours climbing. Maybe it was the fact that a wrong step in any direction meant…well, no more Lindsay. Or maybe it was just us sitting shoulder to shoulder 8500 feet above the earth picking out which mountain in the distance we’d climb up next. Maybe. But it was hard to breathe.
It was a real and true take-your-breath-away kind of moment. The one I’d dreamed about on those lonely Kansas highways.
Between my “OH WOWS” he pointed out each of the peaks, their elevation, and level of difficulty. All the while, the wind howled around us, blowing my hair into knots. A few minutes later we started our descent, turning our steep UP into a sweet, steep DOWN. Well-deserved.
Our conversation, this time, turned to where we’d eat once we made it back to the car. We both agreed on sandwiches at a little place near me.
Fueled by intense hunger, we made great time on the way down, finding our way back to the dusty, wide open trails and then the parking lot. We sat our tired butts down in the seats, high fived, and got on the road to Moxie.
The thing is, I feel like I’ve been climbing mountains for years—mountains I think I put in front of my own damn self. Some good: the marathon. Some bad: self-doubt. But I never felt like I made it to the top of any of them. Until this hike. Until I let someone in and show me how to get to the top and believe I could do it.
Up isn’t such a bad way to go, ya know.
Push on, PUSH ANIMALS >>>