Each year for the last three years I’ve traveled with my friend Jeff to hike in the mountains of Colorado. For the last two years, my life-long friend Dennis has come with us as well. The trips were originally planned as a sort of end of the summer celebration soon after the kids started back to school. And it just so happens that Dennis and my birthdays are one day apart from each other, falling on the 27th and 28th of August. What better way to celebrate a birthday than hiking through some of our country’s most beautiful mountains?
This year has been a bit different. For a while I wondered if we would even be able to take a vacation out of state. My own kids are home from school, as we opted to keep them home to do distance learning via Zoom. Rocky Mountain National Park requires reservations ahead of time to be able to go into the park between 6am and 5pm. We can’t eat in at restaurants, or hang out at any bars to celebrate our climbs each day, or it at least wouldn’t be responsible for us to do so. And even on the trail, as we pass fellow hikers, we’d be expected to wear masks to limit exposure to Covid-19. In the week prior to us leaving we noticed that there were some wildfires that were causing some smoke throughout the area, some of which threatened not only the beautiful views, but the hikes themselves. Thankfully, however, the smoke (or fires) did not end up altering any plans, just caused a bit of a haze.
We got an early start to the trip and headed out around 4:00am. The smoke from the Colorado fires definitely impacted the sunrise. The sun was an orange ball on the horizon for quite a while, the light fighting its way through all the haze and smoke.
Our AirBnB was located in a quiet area of Estes Park. As we took a short walk through the neighborhood we saw a deer in someone’s front yard, as well many nice, photogenic trucks. As the evening came to a close we played with Jeff’s drone to get a different perspective of the mountains around us.
Our first hike of the trip was at Mount Ida in Rocky Mountain National Park. We got an early start and headed into the park before 6:00, and got to the trail just a little after sunrise. We couldn’t have really asked for better weather on our hike. For most of the hike we were protected by the shadow of the mountains from the sun, and later by clouds. The hike was a very scenic one with beautiful views of mountain ranges the entire time. For most of the hike there’s no tree or rock protection, so it was important we did the hike before any afternoon thunderstorms arrived.
We made it to the top to see some incredible panoramic views of the landscape around us. This has to be one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done just because of the wonderful views. We even saw some deer chase away a coyote early on in the hike.
Our second hike of the trip was to see Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Once again we headed there as the sun rose to make sure we avoided any bad weather for the hike. I’m glad we did because the parking lot at the trailhead for Bear Lake, where we started our hike, fills up quite quickly.
It was another beautiful hike, not a strenuous as the day before, but a wonderful hike. It starts off in the trees and works its way up to a large, steep rock ledge and boulder field. The hike had dramatic views around the area of the rock ledge.
Once you head up, you head back down to where Odessa Lake is. And the whole area was very picturesque. A small creek runs out of the lake, and the sounds of the wind, the creek, and small waterfalls helped make all the worries and concerns of 2020 melt away.
Day four was my birthday. And after getting to sleep in a bit more than we had the previous three days, we left our AirBnB to head into Boulder and then Denver. Before we left Estes Park we stopped by a little donut place for some amazing donuts (I can’t believe I didn’t snap any photos of them. They were so good!) In Boulder we stopped for a moment to walk up near the the Flatirons before heading to Denver. We ordered a bunch of sushi in Denver and relaxed in a local park and ate together before heading back home to Omaha.
Another year of hiking in the Colorado mountains in the books. Another birthday with two of my closest friends. I’d call this year’s trip a success!