When mellow beats medal

Yesterday, I went for mellow instead of a medal.

Originally, during my quick visit to Colorado, my plan was to climb two of Colorado’s 52 14ers, 14,264-foot Mt. Evans and its little brother, 14,060-foot Mt. Bierstadt. A 10-mile loop connects the two from a trailhead at Guanella Pass. With a minimal total elevation gain of 3,900 feet (albeit all above 11,000 feet) it seemed a doable accomplishment for a flat lander in reasonable shape. Besides, I was looking for new conquests, new goals. Last Sunday I ran my first half marathon, in July I’d done my first mountain century ride. Adding a couple of 14,000-foot peaks to my summer resume would put me in the gold star category.

Then I met Nancy Dale.

The aspen are beginning to change at higher altitude.

Nancy works with my wife, at Loveland-based Interweave. Interweave puts out an array of online and print publications covering all realms of the crafting world, from crochet (my Marcy’s domain) to quilting to beading. I’ll write more about Nancy next week, but suffice it to say that Nancy’s world extends well beyond the crafting world. She liked my 14ers choices, she’d done them both. She said maybe I should consider something closer. Rocky Mountain National Park, less than 30 miles up the Big Thompson Canyon, has some nice hikes, she said. She mentioned Longs Peak; deeper into the conversation she mentioned that she has climbed it — several times. Deeper still into the conversation she mentioned that she was the first woman to climb every peak in the park (there are 60 alone over 12,000  feet). She offered to share her library.

Since I’m more into hiking than driving, I opted for the half hour drive to the park’s Lumpy Ridge trailhead over the two-hour trek (through Denver) to Guanella Pass.

My next 14er patch waits for another day.

Lumpy Ridge is a 10.1-mile loop that’s an ideal day-hike sampler of Rocky Mountain National Park. Hiking counterclockwise, you climb for 1.7 miles up to Gem Lake, a community pool-size lake five feet deep. Much of the lake is rimmed by a 40-foot-high granite wall. It’s a destination unto itself. The trail then drops down to the north side of Lumpy Ridge, through pine and aspen, following Cow Creek north before turning the corner and returning along the mountain’s west flank, offering a wide-angle view of the valley below and a brooding Longs Peak — on an otherwise clear day, Longs Peak remained shrouded in clouds — beyond. I’ll put up a slide show next week.

It may not have been a goal-setting day. But it sure set my mind right.

Photo at top: Clouded-enveloped Longs Peak, as seen from the Lumpy Ridge loop trail.

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