Thursday, July 24, 2014

On A Clear Day

Pikes Peak in the distance, under the cluster of clouds

On a clear day
Rise and look around you
And you'll see who you are
On a clear day
How it will astound you
That the glow of your being 
Outshines every star
You'll feel part of every mountain
sea and shore
You can hear
From far and near
A word you've never heard before ...
On a clear day...
On a  clear day ...
You can see forever ...
And ever ...
And ever ..
And ever more...

I guess you could say I'm a Barbra Streisand fan, sort of.  Her movie, "On a Clear Day," which had a lot about re-incarnation is absolutely against what I believe; but like so many others, I was fascinated with her hairstyles, costumes, and the clear pronunciation of the lyrics with her perfectly lipsticked mouth.  

I didn't especially enjoy the story in "Funny Girl" but I loved "Hello Dolly" (and wish we girls could still dress like that, complete with the updo hair and beguiling hats). 

However, this post is not about the actress or a movie, but a hike Denise and I took earlier this week. Those who have read my blog for a long time know that I am passionately in love with the state of Colorado, my home on and off again (depending on job transfers) for the last 46 years.  This is the second summer that Denise and I have unabashedly left our husbands on weekdays to slave for a paycheck while the two of us go on long leisurely hikes with a lunch in our backpacks.

Denise at the trailhead
This week's hike took us to the most popular hiking adventure in Colorado, a 1.4 mile trek on a well-maintained  trail to the base of a fire ranger's station (and beyond).  

trail at Devil's Head

Denise and I have hiked Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, Castlewood Canyon, Roxborough, and Spruce Mountain.  All of them led us to gorgeous views, but my favorites are the ones that take us up high so we can see far and wide On a Clear Day.

sights along the path; that's me waving from behind a rock
The "joy is in the journey" as well, with lots of flowers, trees and hugeomongous rocks along the trail. (there's a reason they call it the Rocky Mountains)

a peek through the trees toward the northwest
The higher we climbed, the more glimpses we got of the surrounding mountains and the wonderful view that was yet to come.

the fire ranger's cabin
When we reached this cabin nestled into the pines, we knew we were near the top of the mountain. A fire ranger lives there nine months of the year.  

the fire ranger's station on the very top of the mountain
His commute to work is nearly straight up and although he has no traffic to slow him down, he does have to be hearty of body and mind to defy gravity.

Denise measures the distance to the top
One is tempted to be disheartened when they realize 143 very steep steps need to be climbed to reach the pinnacle of the hike, but after coming this far, we proceeded upward. Some of the other hikers tried the steps and then backed back down (literally!) to sit on benches to await their friends. 

the steps
While I could hear Denise counting the steps as we climbed, I just focused on breathing and holding onto the hand rails!!

looking at where we've been
Sometimes people say to not look down.  I do, but only when I'm standing still and leaning against something I feel is secure!

Denise reaches the last step

We made it to the top, but the last 10 steps were more an act of will than of delight. In the far distance behind Denise, you can see the eastern plains of Colorado.

Devil's Head Fire Lookout
Ranger Bill, looking a lot like a happy Santa Claus, greeted us as we approached his work station.  He spends 9 months of the year working in this incredible location. 

the official information
The weather on this day was Barbra Streisand clear (I even sang a few lines of the song for Denise, who was very polite with my antics).  There was just a slight breeze and a surprising number of flies and gnats.  Ranger Bill said the bugs like the cooler temperature, explaining why we were batting away more of them way up high than while down on the ground.

inside the ranger station
The walls of the station are all glass so Ranger Bill can see everything all the time.  We signed the guest book and then glanced around to see snapshots posted of forest fires in the past.  His job is to walk along the outside deck on all four sides every 15 minutes, looking for smoke.  

Pikes Peak in the distance
The views from the ranger station are remarkable. If one is familiar with the geography of Colorado, this sight is especially thrilling.

looking northwest, toward Mount Evans

If you study this photo closely, you can barely see a band of whitish brown above the horizon that is smoke from the huge forest fires in Washington state, blowing down our way.

leaving the ranger station

We could not remain at the station for long. Ideally, the forestry department doesn't want more than about 5 people in the station at one time.  We needed to head back down so more visitors could have their turn to look around.

me, on descent
It's probably needless to say that the trip back down the steps was easier and faster than heading up. I was amazed at what I had just experienced. At the same time, I doubt I will climb this way again. 

snack time
At the base of the steps we stopped to snack on trail mix.  The agreement we have is that for our hikes, Denise does the driving and I provide the food.  She likes to drive and I like to cook.  It's a good match. 

our picnic after we got back to the car
But on the subject of the food, I'll let you in on a little secret.  I don't always do the cooking. For this trek I bought wonderful salads-to-go from Panera Bread and packed them in a cooler until lunchtime.

dress appropriately for hiking

As I close this post out, I need to at least mention some precautions that are wise when taking a hike in the Colorado mountains. Dress in layers, wear good shoes with socks, take water, healthy snacks, wear sunscreen, and a walking stick is really helpful. We brought a can of insect repellant (and used it!). We often have sudden hard rain storms with thunder and a lot of lightening, so it's best to start hikes early in the morning and try to be done by lunchtime or shortly thereafter. 

One of us (who will go unnamed but likes to break out into song) lost her footing on some loose gravel on the hike back to the car and took a tumble. Aside from a small skin abrasion on the heel of one hand and a little wounded pride, the victim survived.  The backpack probably spared more serious injury during the backward fall.  

Take the precautions you always hear about from the experienced hikers and you should do well.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful adventure! I may have been one of those who sat on the bench waiting instead of climbing the stairs, but perhaps the thought of these views would have encouraged me to try!

    I wish I had a walking partner like Denise. I'd also be the one cooking and not driving :) Actually, my husband is going to retire in the fall, and we hope to do many walking and hiking trips together.