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Friday, August 12, 2016

Columbine Lake, Part II... Dehui's Second Wind

Now that you've had a few days break from this summer's Wildflower Spam, I will attempt to put the wraps on a season of wonder and begin the inevitable transition to (gasp) fall in the Rockies. All the signs are here... the chill in morning air, preseason football on tv, alpine meadows going from green to blond. Yes, as summer's incredible crop of incandescent candles go to seed, so does the end of our condensed summer hiking season draw near. While the rest of the country sweltered, there was skiff of snow on the peaks above Lovely Ouray after Monday's storm lifted.

As I was saying before our brush with death by electrocution, we were escorting our friend, Dehui, to Columbine Lake. The demands of finishing up a Phd requires a lot of time in the "saddle," so Dehui had warned us that he was somewhat out of shape. Nevertheless, he wanted to experience more emerald lakes like the ones that enthralled him in years past, namely, "Ice" and "Island" lakes. We thought he would enjoy Columbine Lake. But at nearly 8 miles with 2500 feet of elevation gain, we wondered if it was too much. Dehui wanted to go. "You can always stop or turn back," I told him. Yeah, right. 

Recall that I had pulled ahead of Bobbie and Dehui. After a couple of years with an assortment of medical adversities, I'm finally returning to form, fitness-wise, anyway (knock on wood). I could see them below, however, and noticed rest stops becoming more frequent. We had told Dehui to take his time; evidently he was. 

I popped over the last rise that separated Columbine's blue Lake from my blue eyes. It had been a punishing aerobic ascent of 2 hours and 5 minutes that left me shaky, so I plopped my butt on a patch of tundra and munched down a couple of protein bars... shooting photos and cursing light-sucking clouds that purloined most of the emerald-blue magic. Could it be the weather guessers got it right this time? We might be dodging lightning (again) hiking down in a thunderstorm above timberline.       

Light is everything, be it photography or ogling. The normal glow was absent... rust colored rocks didn't "pop;" the lake didn't "shimmer." I waited around for about 40 minutes; still no Bobbie or Dehui. I climbed a knoll that afforded a long view down stream... looking for some sign of movement. But, as Mom always said, "a watched kettle doesn't boil." Just as I grabbed my pack to start down, the missing duo trudged into view.  Dehui says, "I take a nap."

The real story came out later, in the car, on our way to pizza and beer at the Avalanche Brewery.

It turns out Dehui "hit the wall" about three miles in... or should I say "up." His heart was racing and he was feeling dizzy. Bobbie told him to sit down, maybe eat something. She ran ahead trying to catch up with me. After a couple of bends and rises I was nowhere to be found. She pulled out her emergency whistle and blew three long blasts, our signal to reconvene ASAP. Of course I didn't hear it.  

Bobbie then ran back down to check on Dehui. He had downed a power bar in the meantime, and, more importantly, his heart rate had dropped. Bobbie thought they should head down and set about making arrows pointing out of rocks in hopes that I would notice. By the time she finished, Dehui was standing and insisted that they continue. He wanted to see Columbine Lake! "But," he added, "Don't tell Mark what happened." Men! 
They took it slow, and you know the rest of the story. 

Back in the car, Dehui confessed that he almost didn't make it. I felt bad that I had run off and wasn't there to aid and assess with Bobbie what was probably a mild case of Altitude Sickness. Indeed... men! 

Dehui, arms raised in a tribute to wildflowers, emerald blue lakes, and success.

The long trek down... 
 We had left at the crack of dawn in case the forecasts were correct, "Thunderstorms in the mountains likely by 1:00 pm!"
Instead, skies cleared and ole Sol kissed the landscape. Color returned to the mountains, as well as Dehui's face.


  1. Poor Dehui! But what a determined young man to continue. Yes MEN!! Glad Bobbie was near to help. The lake is spectacular even if the light wasn't perfect. And the wildflowers are just so beautiful:) Thanks for sharing:)


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