Saturday, July 9, 2016

Filling My Bucket

"The mountains are calling and I must go."

How can you not answer this call?

This John Muir quote captures perfectly how I feel about the mountain. So when a work trip to Boulder, Colorado put me an hour away from Rocky Mountain National Park, I took full advantage to explore more of one of my favorite national parks. (My current top five includes, in no particular order: Rocky Mountain, Zion, Yosemite, Isle Royale and Canyonlands. This list is subject to revision upon visiting the remaining national parks.)

Considering Dave just came home from nearly two weeks in Europe, I didn't feel too guilty tacking an extra two nights onto my time away from home. (He had the sitter for three full days while he worked (much shorter days than normal for him) and only one tumbling class where he got to watch AJ. Trust me, I did my best to make it an easy 6 days for him.) I packed an extra bag with a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, hiking stick, hiking boots, daypack and perhaps the most important item: a hammock. Do you know how relaxing it is to lay in a hammock by yourself without feet and arms and children smushing every part of your body? I do now.

I managed to put on more than 20 miles of hiking (with 3 pitiful running miles because I simply couldn't pull in enough oxygen to run) in less than two days. I hiked my pace, when I wanted, where I wanted and loved every moment of it. I saw amazingly beautiful lakes, rivers, forests and mountains.

I thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to carry only what I needed for myself instead of family-sized portions of food, water, diapers and, you know, 35 to 40 pounds of child. But as I enjoyed the serenity of a mountain lake, I also realized that I will carry Teddy wherever I can for as long as I can because he deserves to enjoy the amazing wonders that can only be found by hiking.

Imagine enjoying this view all to yourself.

Plenty of people seemed in awe that I camped by myself. I didn't really.  I mean, there was a bear in the campground as I was setting up my tent ... with a ranger using an air horn to encourage it out of the camp sites. I had a deer wander 25 feet from me in my hammock. I had some random guy open my bear box thinking it was a garbage can. (I'm still a bit confused by that because every site has a bear box, and the rules are explicitly explained to you when you check in that all smellables need to be stored in said bear box ... not to mention that my bear box was in my camp site 10 feet away from my hammock where I was hanging out.)

Hiking alone was also quite concerning, particularly to my mother. I recognize that anything could happen anywhere, but I firmly believe I'm exposed to far more dangers in populated cities than hiking where I did in Rocky Mountain. I've come to to the realization that although I might not want to encounter a rattlesnake or black bear on the trail, they likely will not kill me. Grizzlies and mountain lions, on the other hand, probably would view me as a tasty treat. Thankfully, Rocky Mountain has no grizzlies, so I just kept an eye out for the mountain lions I would never see until they pounced on me.

I love hiking by mountain streams.

My time in the mountains was everything I hoped it would be. There's something magical about the mountains that restores my balance and completes me. I only hope I can answer their calling again soon.

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