A Cabin in the Sky in Colorado
Just shy of twelve-thousand feet, surrounded by the remnants of a log cabin, and mountainsides that look as if they belonged on the Tibetan Plateau, my girlfriend and I each took a seat on adjacent rocks. Our stomachs growled, but rather than dig into our packs for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that were waiting, we just stared at the tiny waves that rocked across Crystal Lake, just south of Breckenridge, Colorado.
We left Connecticut on a whim, with only a backpack each, intending to soak in as much of the Rocky Mountain State as we could before we were forced back on a plane for the East Coast. We had 72-hours and had already spent 24 of them in Denver. We had other activities planned: the Denver Science Center; a drive to Boulder with a walk through the Pearl Street Mall; but when we took those makeshift seats the idea of jetting back to the Spruce Creek Trailhead and our rental car had vanished. We were utterly consumed by the sereneness of what we were looking at. Surrounded by Mount Helen, Father Dyer Peak, and Crystal Peak, the basin became our temporary home, providing more comfort than any hotel we had stayed in.
Hiking in Breckenridge
The hike had been strenuous, not so much in grade or technical difficulty, but in dealing with the increased altitude and its effects on our ability to climb long stretches without taking quick breaks. Patches of snow lined the edges of the trail. If we stopped for more than a few moments we threw on an extra layer as we gazed back across the valley and watched the wind blow through the tops of the trees.
We both came with hiking experience, completing day trips on the Appalachian Trail, as well as peak-bagging expeditions up Mount Washington and across Franconia Ridge, but even the highest point in New England was just half of the elevation of Crystal Lake. Not one second of it was detrimental to the experience though, it only added to the achievement of reaching our destination.
A Jeep Wrangler with Texas plates had been parked and left behind at the end of the trail, the occupants more than likely proceeding on foot to reach the higher of the two lakes. Behind us, birds swooped down into the valley, oblivious to our presence, accepting us, and even the vehicle as part of the environment. We had reached that point, the crux where our modern lives filled with miles per gallon, text messages, and social networking notifications melted away, replaced by dirt beneath our feet, cold water lapping at the shore, and a sense of belonging, rather than just one of existing.
Loving the Moment
We eventually did trek back to the car and further on to Breckenridge. We stopped at an Irish bar where we ordered cider and Jameson. And while most people would classify it as a stop for a quick drink, we didn't gulp down our beverages. We took each sip with a smile and savored every drop.