After our successful jeep safari I felt I was ready for a real hike up the mountains. Lenore decided to do a yoga class, so I geared up to do a solo hike with one of the trainers from the Beaver Creek Resort and Spa. After discussing options, we chose a 6 mile switchbacked trail through the upper alpine and aspen forests that would take us up to 9500. The day started sunny and mild so all signs pointed to an enjoyable journey.
We started up with few other hikers on the narrow trail so we were able to proceed at our own pace. At the beginning of the trail there was mostly scrub and bushes and few trees, so while the sun beat down on us a bit, the climb was without impediments.
We came upon this strange-looking contraption:
This is a snow making machine. Despite the fact that Beaver Creek gets over 310 inches of snow (for you skiers out there it’s dreamy powder) the locals don’t leave anything to chance – they have some of the most state of the art snow making capabilities.
Snow wasn’t on our minds or agenda so we continued up. I wasn’t bothered too much by the altitude but still made sure to make several stops to keep hydrated. And the scenery was so pretty:
We didn’t run into wildlife which was a bit surprising, but the hike was still fun. After about 2.5 hours we reached the summit where there were hawks soaring with the thermals, though too high to get a photo (I did try lying flat on the ground for a shot). Still, the view was lovely.
After a short rest we decided to take a different trail down, one that would be in the thick of the forest and would be a little more challenging. There was not as clear a path as before so we would have to watch out for sneaky tree roots and loose rocks and our thighs were going to get a great workout on climbing down some uneven declines.
Now for this part of the journey my trusted camera had to stay firmly encased in my backpack. I have learned through past hikes that downhill in particular needs total focus.
The weather at this juncture was started to change – the sun had gone behind some clouds and it got noticeably cooler. The air was damp and the foliage smelled wonderfully earthy.
There is no word to describe the enormity of a thunderclap when you are up at 9500 feet – it’s as if the sound is literally exploding right above your head. Now it’s not a great idea to be stuck in a forest with lots of trees around but fortunately there was no lightning. Still, we increased our pace a bit, energy added by the adrenaline now coursing through our veins.
Nature wasn’t through, however. The thunder continued, but instead of lightning and/or rain – we got this:
Theabove is from the internet for as you will remember my camera was in my backpack. Unfortunately neither my guide nor I had a place to hide from the icy onslaught as the aspen trees provided no cover whatsoever. I had on my cap which provided a measure of cover, but my poor guide had not put hers on so she was pelted without mercy until she found hers and put in on.
Hail is hard.
Thunder and hail, so what did we do? Laughed hysterically. We were at the mercy of the elements but surprisingly the one thing I didn’t feel was fear. This was a totally immersive journey and I just wanted to be in the moment.
Going down now was getting a bit treacherous. Since it was still warm, once the hail hit the ground it melted, so now we also had to traverse muddy, slippery slopes in addition to the roots and rocks. And other hikers – and their dogs traveling up in the opposite direction. It was so slippery that even the dogs were having a bit of trouble and had to be helped up, all while I tried to stay upright.
As Shakespeare wrote: “All’s well that ends well.” We made it back to the resort without mishap after another 2.5 hours and I met up with Lenore who after her totally relaxing yoga class had been taking photos and videos of the hail all the while assuming I was up in the forest having a blast.
Totally true – but I had now a hankering for the apre’s hike acitivites – more on that next week.