50 States Challenge: Colorado

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

August 7 - 8, 2018
Glenwood Springs / Denver

"There's the sign!" Ellen shouted as we crossed the border from Utah. Driving down I-70, we were officially just a tad under two hours away from our next destination - Hanging Lake.

Utah exhausted me. I was feeling burnt, but also (if I'm going for true honesty here) feeling like I was making my way towards the end of a marathon.  There was a bit of a runner's high.  I was this much closer to this being over.  This much further from my fears.

Initially, when Ellen and I discussed a vacation idea, we were really hoping to head to Glacier National Park in Montana but I'm lazy and flights were just too high to justify by the time I was ready to commit.  We settled on traveling from Salt Lake City to Denver where she lives.

We heavily planned our first three days but grew pretty relaxed on the final two.  Ellen tossed in the idea of hiking in Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs.  I shrugged and said sure, as long as it didn't involve any intense ledges.  She assured me it was "just a hike up a mountain."

With a 1.2 mile trip (one way) and boasting 1,000 feet in elevation, Hanging Lake trail was definitely a hike up a mountain...but it didn't have any ledges just a steep climb to the top. After being in the red earth of Utah for so long, vegetation was a welcome sight.
 Along the trail, we talked with those climbing down and discussed their strategies on the way up. One of the first groups of climbers we spoke with were two women and a teenager.  They told us there was a Spouting Rock we had to see but that it did involve climbing up some rocks.  They assured me I could do it, as with every other climber we spoke to.  I felt confident that today, I could best my fears.
Thumbs up for THE LAST HIKE EVER
But then we got to the end of the trail which did involve a climb up some rocks.  There was a metal railing that was the only protection between you and the edge of a mountain.  I watched a girl climb down on her butt and I knew I would happily do the same.  Immediately, I was angry and frustrated that I'd once again been suckered into doing something I hated so much.

And then...I made it to the top.
I was shocked.  I didn't know what to expect, but the water was so clear you could see straight to the bottom - just like Glacier National Park.  It was a full circle moment.  Ellen wanted to see Spouting Rock but with my nerves appeased for the moment I told her I wanted to stay at Hanging Lake and that she should make her way up.
My eyes could not soak in the cool water enough.  In fact, I missed Ellen waving frantically at me telling me she was done.  I wanted to stay there all afternoon.
Eventually, it was time to climb down.  But first, I had to best that big pile of rocks.  And I did...on my butt.  I encouraged others to do the same.  Unfortunately, it left my legs weak after the adrenaline fear pumped into my body and I needed to walk slowly or my feet would fly out from underneath me.  While there was no concern of falling off a ledge, I was still worried that moving too fast would lead to slipping and cracking a bone on one of the many rocks.  Ellen was eager to get down so I waved her on and completed the last 30 minutes by myself.
I stopped a few times, talking with other climbers as they made their way up or down.  I took in the view, the smell, the sound of the little stream next to me.  I didn't want to leave.

Meeting Ellen at the bottom, we grabbed the last of the 5 ham (for Ellen) and 5 turkey sandwiches (for me), settled into the car, and made our way to Denver.

Two hours later, after traveling through Vail and other mountain resorts (super weird to see in the summer!), we rushed into Ellen's apartment, showered, dressed, and called an Uber to grab dinner downtown.  We shared our Uber with a woman heading to the baseball game where she informed me the Rockies were playing the Pirates.  The friggin' Pirates were in town too.

Coincidentally, dinner was right across from Coors Field.  After we had our fill, exhausted and unable to stay up late on a weeknight, I dragged Ellen to the front of the field and begged for pictures.  We wandered around before heading home and promptly bed quite soon after.
Thrifted Zara top NWT ;)
The next day we ate brunch at Jelly Cafe and with sore legs we settled on seeing The Incredibles 2 at the movies.

Getting on my flight that night, I was ready to head home, ready to hug my cat, and ready to hide my hiking shoes for at least a month.  I settled in with Thirteen Reasons Why and let the West fade away.


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