I had a nice, long visit with an old friend yesterday. I am not sure we will ever see each other again.
She has been with me throughout most of my life. She has always been challenging, and even a bit dangerous, which is probably why I am so attracted to her. Of course, as a child, I didn’t realize how associating with her could put me in jeopardy. After all, don’t we all think we are immortal when young?
It’s been about two years since I had last seen her. As usual, I went to great lengths, even a bit of pain, to spend more time with her.
You see, this old friend is one of my most personally challenging hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park… Sky Pond. It’s not the distance, (about 10 miles round trip) or even the elevation gain (1780 feet). The problem is the roadblock she has created, right after her first gauntlet, an endless stairway ever upwards, that has already zapped all possible energy and breath. Then you meet up with the waterfall. The only way to reach Sky Pond is to climb through it, over boulders just a bit too large for those vertically challenged. Add in a healthy dose of fear of heights with accompanying vertigo, and you have one heck of a panic soup.
Last time I climbed it, I had Hubs in front lending a helping hand, and a nice strong young man behind me (niece’s accommodating boyfriend) to catch me if (when) I fell. I don’t know why, but knowing if I fall, someone else will fall with me, is somehow comforting.
This time, it was only Hubs. Now this man is a mountain goat. He loves jumping from boulder to boulder, standing on precarious perches, and generally showing off. Hate him. I decided I would feel more confident if he lead the way, me following. This worked for approximately 10 feet, then I got stuck. I looked down, the fear took over, and I froze. I did not like the looks of his chosen path. I stood on a thin ledge, hugging a boulder. I wanted to go back down, but I couldn’t do that, either. I contemplated, and crabbed, for a good two minutes, until I saw people at the top of the waterfall waiting to come down. I had to move, as I blocked their descent. I sucked it up, moved a couple of feet more across the diminishing ledge, and made my way to a spot where I could pull myself up, with a big assist from my soon-to-be ex-husband.
We made our way carefully up and over. Yes! I can’t truly describe the feeling of exhilaration both in pushing your body to its limits and conquering your fears. I would have danced the last 1/4 mile to Sky Pond, but my legs were rubber.
I chuckle at the people who reach the first lake up from the waterfall, assume it is Sky Pond, and don’t continue. That’s Lake of Glass or Glass Lake, depending on who is describing it. Sky Pond is much more enchanting, mountains and spirals, a glacier, crisp, clear water rippling with trout, and weirdly, this year, a white buoy floating in the center?
We made it! Too tired to eat much of the packed lunch, I lay down to rest, a bit concerned how I would get back up. Too soon, clouds rolled in and it was time to race the rain back down the mountain.
The brisk walk back to the waterfall was filled with fear. In my memories, the only thing scarier than climbing up the waterfall was going down. I don’t know why, maybe it was because I was so exhilarated/exhausted, but the journey back was not bad.
I did spend a good bit of the return trip down the waterfall on my rather cushy posterior, but hey, whatever works, a wet tushy is a small price to pay for a visit with my old friend.
Fear now gone, I was able to enjoy the trail on the way down. We heard pikas, saw a bird I had never seen before (white-crowned sparrow), and heard an elk bugle in the distance. Wildflowers are still blooming. At one point, Hubs asked, “How are you doing, Fatty?” but luckily for him, before I could reply, I spied a chubby marmot he surely was addressing, hiding in his den, popping out now and then to view the tourists invading his home.
One of the perks of working at the Estes Park Visitor Center (even though I would name it the Estes Park Visitors’ Center, but that’s just me) is running into guests at places I have recommended. The night before the hike, a personable young man came in asking about Sky Pond. I gave him the information, and told him I would see him tomorrow on the trail. I jokingly asked if he would wait for me at the waterfall, as I could use his assistance.
Not to brag, but we were on our way down as he was coming up. At first he did not recognize me, as I do look a bit different after a day of traumatic hiking rather than a few hours at work. I said, “I’m the lady from the Visitor Center,” and he grinned with recognition, perhaps a bit of shock, and gave me a high-five. “What, did you think I was too old to make it?” I asked. He pointed to his hiking companion, substantially older than I am, and said, “Nope!” We all had a good laugh.
The rain finally caught up with us, but we didn’t care. We both could use a little refresh. At the trailhead, a shuttle bus pulled up, already stuffed with passengers. I knew we would be standing and bus surfing for the ride down. I briefly thought there should be an algorithm created to confirm seat usage, something along the lines of age x distance hiked, but that’s math, so I had to stop.
Later that evening, after a good long soak in the hot tub, we found ourselves in bed. Okay, it was 9 p.m., don’t judge. As I was trying to grab the phone charger cord with my toes, (as I didn’t want to either bend over or get out of bed) I asked Hubs to get up and close the window. He replied, “No, not going to happen. But will you get up and turn on the fan?” “No way,” I replied. We quickly dissolved into uncontrollable giggles and pronounced we were some kind of idiots to consistently try to exceed our physical and age limits yet again.
So Sky Pond, my old, dear friend, I am afraid I will not see you again. Until next year.