Bobbie and I got together for one last hike with the peripatetic "better half" of Life's Little Adventurers, Gayle. With Jim on Injured Reserve from a Pickle Ball mishap, we were free to wander around at timberline to our heart's content. :)
It was decided that we'd do a portion of the Colorado Trail from Little Molas Lake. Jim and Gayle didn't get very far when they last tried to hike there as they were turned back by thunderstorms. It's an exposed "Far View" timberline trail that allows mountain bikers as well as hikers, and one of our favorite places to snowshoe while we're home for the holidays.
Ms Autumn is at her glorious peak, and the scenery colorful and crisp on the drive over to Little Molas Lake. Clouds drift low, snaking through dark timber before settling into basins.
Gayle pulls in right behind us. The first mile of trail is shaded and cold—cloaked with heavy timber, the kind that eats morning sunlight and has you reaching for a headlamp. Our conversation hangs visible in puffs of steam. Yesterdays rain drips from loaded pine bows. A lone backpacker leaves trail of fresh boot tracks in mud.
Soon we are released from darkness and it jolts the senses. Now bathed in sunlight, we are solar collectors... warmed from the outside in. There is a distinct aroma of damp vegetation; the smell of decay and fall is in the air.
"Life is Good," we agree. Trail-talk soon turns to age and illness and how "Good" could be undone in the blink of an eye. Conversation ebbs, giving way to thoughts and unbridled silence. There are palpable feelings of gratitude at the luck—and it is LUCK, after all, to a large degree—of our being right here, right now.
The trail is kind. We are soon overtaken by bipods on bipeds, "out-and-backers" from Taos, New Mexico riding bikes that cost more than the GNP of most third world countries. They inquire about the trail. I issue a warning to beware of overindulging on the downhill once they break over the ridge. Coming back up can play Hell with legs and lungs at 11,500 feet. But off they go, overjoyed to be here and riding new territory on new bikes.
It wasn't the last we'd see of 'em...
This is such a wide-open hike...on top of the world, no obstructions excepting a string of puffy clouds and a ring of distant mountains seesawing into a cerulean sky. My mood soars with this sort of visual "input." I'm like ET, "Need more input!"
We seem to catch the bikers at the top of every uphill...trying to reclaim their breath and dignity. "It's quicker to hike, apparently." I let them off easy by sharing my mountain bike mantra: There's no harm in having to push your bike, it's part of the gig. In fact, if you aren't pushing your bike at some point, you probably chose the wrong trail.
They agree, happy to be pedaling in such a vast see-forever landscape, giddy from lack of oxygen and surreal surroundings.
We meet a through-hiker, on his last leg (literally and figuratively) of the 490 mile Colorado Trail. He's been dodging lightning, waking up to 8 or more inches of snow, and enduring soaking rains. He's ready to be done after 41 days, but still has 3 or 4 more to go. We pelt him with encouragement and wish him "good beer" in Durango.
The only way I know to top a perfect day after hiking above timberline, is to stop by the Avalanche Brewery in Silverton for a Sultan IPA washed down with their Mediterranean thin-crust pizza.
Peace out from somewhere very near to Heaven,
Mark, Bobbie, and Long-Hiker Gayle...