Monday, November 19, 2007

Walking Colorado: Crater Lakes

James Peak Wilderness. 11-2007
This area is about 30 minutes from home, it is a favorite. Today I met an older couple in the backcountry on my hike to Crater Lakes. They seemed European and must have been in their late 70's to early 80’s. I have discovered these types before in the backcountry and always consider it a joy. One instance was in Alaska on the Chilkoot trail, day 4. It was a big helping of humble pie for the green horn I was at 19. That meeting has shaped me to this day. These people inspire me.
What stands out most when I meet these very special spirits is the amount of life and energy they possess. Their cheeks glow with it, having smiles that engulf their entire faces. Winkles, smile lines and hands that reveal the magnitude of their character and rigger in which they live life. Their gear is from last century, lots of wool and leather. They have a quiet calm that is both soothing and human on the mountain's rock and snow. It seems to shed the wind.
I wonder what things they’ve seen, what places they’ve been and what has their time here taught them.

On this occasion the gentlemen spoke about the trail system in the area 40 years ago, or should I say lack there of. He mentioned how he always follows the drainage to the lakes even with its steep grade and water falls. His eyes lit up when describing the pitch. For a long time it was the easy way to navigate to the lakes but the hike is pretty steep. A more gradual, maintained trail has been put in since. Making it easier for most visitors. He called the trail a super highway. I usually bushwhack anyway because the falls are so cool, apparently so does this couple. In fact on this trip I picked up their trail about half way up the 3.5 mile hike.
We always yield to these folks when we see them, waiting till they stop before passing or approaching. This higher level of trail etiquette is reserve for special occasions. I think they have earned it by simply being out here. The bar has been set high my friends.

If I'm still doing this stuff when I'm 80 I'll die a happy man.

Half Winter half Fall.
Winter just can't get a grip this year.

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