trudged up--probably because we were looking at
our next steps.
We knew where we were--after a fashion. We were above tree line--a long way above tree line for most of our hiking day. When the thunder clouds threatened, and we hiked toward tree line, it was farther than we thought--and by the time we reached a small clump of pines, the danger had passed. We started uphill again, up a flower-filled gully, was it? The melting snowbank above us was bigger than it first seemed. The sky was huge; the flowers profuse; the ripping streams that coursed down the mountains sides lovely. But where was our trail?
We had left the trail for a lunch spot--an inspiring overlook of the Gorge Lakes (top photo) near Mt. Ida. We had decided ahead of time not to climb to the peak. We had been there. We wanted a leisurely hike and had been on the trail by 8:30 am, early enough to enjoy the mostly above tree line hike and get back to the trailhead and our car by early afternoon. We could have done that. We didn't.
We set off from our gorgeous lunch spot and marched across the tundra, taking a few photos as we went. I was in the back, following along without thinking until suddenly it seemed that perhaps we had gone too far. I hadn't taken my share of responsibility for getting us back to the trail. I was being present to the flowers, to the tundra underfoot. I was not being present to the need to reach the path, although I knew we needed to hike out before the thunder clouds that had unexpectedly rolled up over the Divide earlier than usual dropped hail, rain, and worse--lightening--in our path.
We are seasoned hikers, me the junior at twelve or so years out here. My companions have trekked many more miles over more than twice as many years. We weren't lost, were we? When we reached the top of that gully and found no path, not even a familiar sight, our senior companion pulled out her cell phone and got reception. She let a friend know where we were--that we were off the trail in the vicinity of Mt. Ida. She left instructions about who to call if we were not back to Estes Park by 6:00 pm (we had about an hour's drive back from the trailhead). Of course, we would be back before that time, but just in case. We looked at a not-so-good map. We consulted a compass, then lost it. Where to go next?
Our fearless leader could get us back to the spot where we started down the steep incline toward the trees. We all agreed that was the best plan. Back through the flowers, across the streams, not taking pictures, barely noticing the luscious green moss (in photo above) we had photographed earlier. Now we needed our strength to trek back up that mountain I had said I wouldn't be able to get back up (as we headed down). I would have what I needed to trek back up that mountain, the top of which kept seeming farther away as false summits came into view. Would our 79-year-old friend be okay? We had assured her that this would be only a 6 or 7-mile hike since we weren't going to Ida's summit!
At the top of that climb, no trail was in view. What was in view was Grand and Granby Lakes in the distance--closer than they had been from the trail earlier. We turned in the other direction, more puzzled than anything else. As we rounded the next hill, I thought i saw a sliver of a trail. In front of me, our leader exclaimed, "there it is!" The trail was below us--several hundred steep feet below us. I would like to have a photo of that scene, but a bit of mountain sleet was hitting my head and reaching the trail was upper most in my thinking.
We got there! The sleet had changed to light rain, and marmot hill was in sight. (Marmot
hill is a big pile of rocks on either side of the Mt. Ida trail. Usually marmots are perched there in the sun, but not that day!) Our leader trekked on ahead. Our older companion and I stepped carefully (and sometimes reluctantly) over the rain-slicked rocks. My poncho, put on hastily, blew out over the trail in front of me, blocking my view. After fighting it for a few minutes, I decided the rain wouldn't bother me as much and took it off. In front of me, our older friend took it, folded it, and told me to turn around. After stuffing it into my backpack, she said, "There. Now I feel better." Yes, we were on our way back to the trailhead and our car. We all felt better!
An interesting aside--we were fearful only of the possibility of lightening. We were puzzled but calm as we trekked around the valleys and peaks, admiring of the beauty surrounding us. (We do look as if we are having a good time in the photo!) We did pull out reserve strength. We did overcome aches and pains. But fearful we were not. Our elder hiking friend was an inspiration, as she had been leading the Estes Park Centering Prayer group for fourteen years.
PS: My usual photo uploading sight froze so I got to these another way. Sorry most are so dark!