It’s hard to believe that we are already in the midst of September, finished our third week of school and fall is (almost) descending on us. Where did the time go? It seems like it was just yesterday when I moved back to Boulder, completed RA training, helped all the students move in and sat down in class for the first day of school. Time can move so fast, particularly back in the city and in the frenzy of life at school. After concluding that we all needed a break, a group of friends and myself decided to leave Boulder for twenty-four hours, camp and summit a fourteener. As great as it is to be back at school, we were all getting restless and needed to getaway! And, what better place to getaway then at the top of a 14,000 foot mountain?
My Friday morning started off in a bike accident with myself after avoiding a pedestrian on campus on my way to yoga at six in the morning, resulting in road rash on my shoulder and knee. I wish I could say that these accidents are a rare occurrence in my life, but as my friends will verify to you-I tend to fall and trip into a lot of things which always make for great future blackmail story material. If anything, it keeps things interesting and people laughing, myself included. After class, I hopped into the first car and we took off on the Road to Buena Vista complete with a stellar playlist, snacks and lots to catch up on. Well that was supposed to be the case, but I fell asleep immediately. Side note, I was not driving. One thing that is different about not living in the residence halls as a resident (opposed to an RA) is that you aren’t surrounded by all of your friends and can’t knock on their door at whatever hour of the day or night and go randomly play tennis, make cookies or cause other shenanigans.
There were seven of us on the trip and we all met last year during our first year at school in the same residence hall, same floor and all apart of the same academic program. It was time for a reunion!
After several hours of driving and a stop at our favorite coffee house in BV, The Roastary, we arrived at Collegiate Peaks Campsite and found a campsite to set up for the night. We winged it, didn’t make a reservation and still found a great spot despite the amount of people.
Camping amongst the Aspen trees, doesn’t get much better
The other car arrived a few hours later bearing gifts of pizza; we decided to make life easy for ourselves and not cookout. However, thanks to the talents of our fire breathing dragon, we created a glorious fire, roasted marshmallows and acted like hooligans around the campfire.
One of the best parts of camping and being in the outdoors is that rules, social structure and order seem to always be thrown out and you can show up however you want without any social repercussions that society has created. Want to wear the same clothes and not shower for two days? Acceptable. Want to dance around a fire chanting gibberish while listening to Frank Sinatra? Why not. Without the distractions of a cellphone and responsibilities of school/life, pretty much anything goes.
After hours of endless chatter and dancing around like no one was watching (because no one was), we called it a night in order to get a few hours of sleep before our early morning climb. A few of us slept outside under the stars, while others opted to sleep in tents. I slept in a tent, but the stars were absolutely glorious, clear and shinning bright without the smog of civilization. After getting a questionable amount of sleep, we woke up at 5:30 in the morning, filled our water, ate a light breakfast and headed to the trailhead of Mt. Yale which was only a five minute drive from our campsite.
To be perfectly honest, I was super nervous to do this hike as I have never done a fourteener before (I attempted one as a child, but weather and my “bad” twelve year old attitude forced us to turn back before we summited) and had a lot of trepidation. I do hike fairly frequently, but fourteeners can be quite the beasts.
Important to pay attention to the trail signs!
We hiked for a few hours in the trees as the sun slowly started to rise and light the path. I definitely felt the altitude increase and was constantly taking small sips of water; ain’t nobody got time to get altitude sickness!
We stopped way more than we should of on the way up, laughing and chatting. Fortunately the weather the entire day was perfect, but it would probably be better to summit the mountain as early in the day as possible to avoid bad weather later in the day coming down.
One of our longer stops was by two waterfall streams that converged into one that we crossed on a bridge; it was so peaceful and tranquil to listen to the stream of water and feel the light rustle of the early morning wind.
Early morning as we slowly pass the tree line, not a bad view anywhere!
After hiking out the tree line, the trail’s incline severely increased and the never-ending switchbacks started. After hiking an hour of switchbacks and barely being able to see the summit, you get exhausted! Mixed with the altitude, you feel completely leveled and owned by nature. It is a known fact that the closer you get to the summit, the harder it gets and it becomes a complete mental game of choosing to keep walking.
Up, up and away we go!
Mt. Yale had several hikers that day, but it was overcrowded at all. We also saw several dogs plowing up the mountain with little effort; if only we were dogs! The entire time I was climbing up the last mile and a half, all I thought about was reaching the top. Which is what you have to do. There are not quitters here! It’s also great to have so many wonderful and supportive friends to go up with you and crack jokes along the way. But to be honest, if you ever doubt yourself, all you needed to do is look around you at the absolute insane views of mountains and blue sky. Life does not better than this in these moments.
After completing the switchbacks, we got about five seconds of flat ground before you have to climb up and around rocks and boulders. Every time you step on another rock and get higher, you think you’re going to see the summit, and each time you never do! It was about another twenty minutes of climbing over pure rocks that we finally reached the top. And let me tell you, it is the best feeling ever. There is nothing else like it. It is pure happiness, relief, joy, gratitude and love.
Views on Views on Views
Just seven buffs at the top of Mt. Yale!
After laying down in between several rocks, one of which was jabbing me in the back, I fell asleep for a hot minute. The exhaustion is too real at the top! Honestly, anyone can do a fourteener if they adjust to the altitude, which is the biggest challenge besides the mental game to not stop and keep going. After celebrating at the top, snacking and snapping photos, we began the descent down. I’ve always loved going downhill hiking, but it is super rough on the knees and sketchy, especially given the loose rocks and intense incline. Even though you go way faster on the way down, it is way more dangerous than going up and you have to 100% focused the entire time. At the top of the mountain, we had joked that we wish we could have just zip lined back to the car! And after two hours of going downhill, the cursing slowly started; it seemed like the trail was never going to end! It took us about three hours to get back down; I have never been more thankful for the ability to sit down.
After packing up camp, we started our journey back to Boulder with physically exhausted bodies, but mentally stimulated brains and happy souls. Getting away often is critical as is being in nature. We all commented around the campfire how much more calm and peaceful we all felt, compared to being at school. Nature does that. It puts you down and reminds you of what is vital in life and without fail, reminds you of what you don’t need.
All I can say is what an incredible twenty-four hours and I can’t wait to to it all again….