Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On top of the world

Okay, not the top of the world, but it felt pretty close. We did a little hike yesterday, and it was as gorgeous and enjoyable as any hike in Oregon. I have to admit I was skeptical at first, because it's hard to beat the Columbia River Gorge; its lush forest, expansive views of the Cascade Range and the mighty Columbia, impressive waterfalls and challenging terrain. This was silly of course. Colorado is equally impressive in different ways. We started out at a trailhead a little above Breckenridge and hiked our way through the forest. It was mostly evergreen, but quite a bit drier than the northwest. The trail was well-maintained, with bridges over creeks and care taken to prevent erosion, and well-marked. We made our way past some abandoned log houses, and I imagined grizzled mountain men and miners living there. Eventually we got above the treeline, although there wasn't a stark demarcation. Tall trees gave way to smaller trees, which gave way to "shrubberies" and eventually mainly lichen and grass. Some hikers pointed out a patch of Columbine, and I had to ask Sascha which ones were the Columbine; after that I kept an eye out for it, in addition to the other alpine flowers in bloom right now. The trail intersected a steel cable used for mining, although I thought it was a helpful cable for us hikers and used it to scramble up a rocky face to the dilapidated structure. Turns out I did it the hard way, and Sascha later pointed out the little rock piles that marked the trail above the treeline.

Eventually we arrived at a pristine alpine lake that I thought was our destination. There were hardy fish in the ice cold water formed by melting snow, and the water was crystal clear. But wait, there's more! We continued hiking and after a while arrived at another alpine lake that spilled over into the one we'd just seen. It was quite impressive, because you arrive at the lake with the water at eye line as it spills over into the stream that leads down to the other lake.

Also at the eye line level was a gorgeous Columbine. I could swear the whole vista was composed to be photographed, and so I obliged. I think this has to be one of the best pictures I've taken in a while, and I'm glad I brought my better digital camera. I wished for my SLR with the polarizing filter, but its battery cover is borked at the moment. We had lunch (PBJs) at this lake, and I scrambled up to a big rock pile and added to it to "mark my territory" (no, I didn't pee on it too!). I explored a bit a saw a chipmunk scurrying around, but I didn't see any "rock hamsters" although we could hear them. The hike back was less eventful. I zigzagged along the path on the way down to ward off impending blisters.

Took my bike out again today to Tiger Rd. (an excellent suggestion from Jared) and finally saw and heard a "rock hamster", zooming on an intercept course with my bike before its navigational systems recalculated its trajectory to the accompaniment of some loud squeaking. I'm really enjoying my new Fort Cross.Max. Of course it might just be the thrill of being back on the bike, or the sweet Alpha Q fork, or its overall sexiness, but whatever the case, I'm very happy with it. My fitness blows right now, and I don't have the strength in my left shoulder to do any bike carrying, but at least I'll look good off the back come cyclocross season with the new bike and our new kits.