Summer in the Rocky Mountains is breathtaking. Summer is also too short. Every summer I make a vow to get out more, get higher (elevation) and take advantage of this magnificent backyard. From Avalanche Ranch there are at least 8 National Forest trailheads within a 5 to 15 minute drive. Most of which service the high country, traveling up to treeline, mountain passes and drainages that lead to Aspen or Crested Butte.
This past Saturday I ventured out with my parents, my husband and my 12 year old son. We drove 15 minutes up the road to Marble. At 9 AM we left our car at the trailhead and headed into the mountains. No hikes from the Crystal RIver Valley start out gradually, so within the first mile we accomplished a lot of elevation gain. Climbing through timber and along a creek we stretched our calves and acclimatized our lungs. Somehow, while I am huffing and puffing, my son can keep a running dialog about the trees, the moss, the rocks and life in general. We passed an Outward Bound course about an hour into our hike. Young faces completing 15 days in the Snowmass Wilderness, brought together into the Mountains from all different backgrounds.
About 1000 feet up from the trailhead the valley opened up before us and our destination was in view. Dauntingly we could see the hanging valley another couple thousand feet up, off trail. This was my dad’s idea. A day trip to a lake up above treeline and off trail. By 2:30 PM we had scrambled through brush, over talus, grabbing onto trees to our destination. High above treeline the lake was still breaking up from the winter. My dad casted his line in next to the ice and brought in a few beautiful cutthroats. Three dogs were carefully monitoring his line.
There is no place on earth I would rather be than the high country. It is not only the beauty that inspires, but also the quiet. The high mountains are rugged and hard to get to (not that hard, but it does take physical work). Being out there awakens the senses.
A day trip is hard, because you realize that you have made it to this incredible place, and now you have to leave it. Wouldn’t it be better to stay a couple nights, decompress and slow down. But we packed up and headed back, grateful for the day we had. Descending was no easy feat and I prefer going up instead of down. My son made up 3 lengthy stories along the way, keeping us distracted from our aching knees.
We staggered to our car around 6:30 PM and drove directly into Marble to Slow Groovin’ BBQ for dinner and cocktails. Even after a mere 9 hours in the backcountry we were a little culture shocked to be around people. But we gladly joined the throngs to enjoy the ambiance and dive into a well earned, delicious meal!
When can I go again?