Disclaimer: If you ever want to go hiking with me and I tell you we’re going on a “moderate” hike, be concerned.
I have every other Friday off of work, and since it has been so warm lately I thought that a hike at Rocky Mountain National Park would be a perfect way to spend my day. I mean I’m not totally oblivious, it’s still early spring and I know there’s still snow at high elevations. Still, I felt that if I chose a hike at a low elevation snowshoes would be unnecessary. I selected Sandbeach Lake, which is a hike out of Wild Basin, the lower part of RMNP. I hiked Sandbeach last summer, and it was really hot and sunny. I figured that if any trail was going to be doable at this time of year it would be Sandbeach Lake.
I recruited Cayce for the hike, and, based on my hike to Sandbeach Lake last summer, I told him it would be moderate. Famous last words.
Serious foreshadowing here.
Cayce and I started out the morning at Buffalo Doughboy, the best bakery in the world. Or at least in Denver. It’s kind of our thing to get pastries from BDB’s when we go skiing, and so now this is translating to hiking as well. We always get a bear claw to split on the lifts, or, in this case, a bear claw to split at the lake.
The hike started out on a great note. The weather was perfect, and the trail was clear.
When we first started running into snow drifts after a couple miles on the trail, we were amused. Cayce and I even thought the snow was kind of fun.
Eventually, the snow started to get treacherous. We basically couldn’t walk more than three steps without falling through the snow. And these falls hurt. Cayce and I actually bruised our shins from falling through the snow so many times. We definitely should have had snow shoes. This hike was turning out to be the most intense “moderate” hike of my life.
I actually have no idea why we kept going. Cayce and I have the same sick, twisted idea of fun I guess. During one especially rough uphill section, I said to Cayce that if we didn’t make it to the lake in ten minutes we were going to turn around. We weren’t even on the trail at that point, and we had no idea if we were heading in the correct direction. Naturally we ran into a couple in snowshoes (show-offs) heading back down who told us the lake was just half a mile away. We couldn’t turn around after learning how close we were! I was determined at that point to make it up to the lake, so I hurried ahead and eventually made it to the lake. I have never been happier to see a lake in my life.
The lake truly was gorgeous. Cayce and I split a much needed bear claw. Bear claws have never tasted better.
It wasn’t until the way back down that I realized how crazy Cayce and I really were for making it to the lake. On the hike back down, we fell through the snow constantly. And I had completely blocked out half of our hike. The hike back was way longer than I had remembered it being. Overall it was such a truly ridiculous situation that all we could do was laugh. My abs were sore at the end of the hike from laughing so much.
Three miles later, when we were out of the worst parts of the snow, Cayce and I were pretty elated to be on the normal trail. We found some excellent walking sticks and leisurely hiked down the trail.
So the moral of this story is be worried if I tell you that we’re going to go on a “moderate” hike. I’ve been on some hikes in my day. This hike was a lot to handle.
No, the real moral of the story is that I learned how lucky I am to have a hiking buddy like Cayce. Our hike turned out to be more intense than either of us had bargained for but we made it. You can’t beat spending a day in the mountains with a great friend, even if my shins are bruised.
Best hiking partner ever.