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Friday, September 27, 2013

A tough, but beautiful, alpine hike

Shyla and I were out for a bike ride early yesterday, greeting a sunny and chilly morning. The air at sunrise is now down around 40°F, telling us that winter cannot be stopped.
When I saw the sunshine, the clear sky over the Divide, and a forecast that included no chance of rain, I decided that we had to seize the day. And, we did.
My girl and I did an easy hike, a hike that climbs only about a thousand feet up to a beautiful torquoise lake. Along the path to that lake, small ponds dotted the autumn gold landscape.
I knew fairly early in the hike that my spine was not happy - in fact, it was downright furious. I remembered that this was one of the first "real" hikes that I attempted after I had a three-level fusion in my lower back a number of years ago. I can't remember exactly what year it was but we had K and our yellow lab, S, with us on the hike.

Knowing that more surgery-induced lay-offs are probably in my future, I decided to ignore the pain, and I climbed. I feel so free when I'm up high in the mountains that it is well worth it. (I also know from experience that pain doesn't mean I'm doing any additional permanent damage.)

The lake that we were seeking was below the furthest peaks in the next photo.
Shyla had a fabulous time during the hike. She was fascinated with this new place that she'd never visited before. In this photo, her head was swiveling from side to side as she heard the sounds of marmots whistling from the mountainsides. Fortunately, she has a rock solid "stay" so I could trust her to be leash-free for photos.
As we approached the lake, the intertwined streams draining it were frozen in some spots. Winter is winning.
When we crested the rocky ridge above the lake, I saw that we had the whole huge lake to ourselves! That is a truly rare event. The solitude was due to the flood-destroyed roads that make it almost impossible for city-dwellers to drive to the trailhead. In contrast, we can easily access the mountains right now (but getting to the flats is a heinous drive).
I was mildly disappointed to see the murky water. Of course, it makes sense - we've had "Biblical rains" in the past few weeks. After flooding rains, I shouldn't have expected that the water would be pure, clear, and turquoise like usual.

And, yes, Shyla swam. But, she swam only a tiny bit. She let me know that the water was nearly freezing after her first foray into the water.
As we turned to retrace our steps back to our vehicle, a wind kicked up from the east, and suddenly, the air was cold too.
I'd carried a lightweight down jacket and a stocking cap with me, feeling silly about lugging them as I sweated during the climb upward. I was so glad to snuggle into that jacket and hat for the descent.

On the way down, my spine pain escalated to the point that my eyes brimmed with tears at one point. I sat down on a rock feeling thoroughly sorry for myself, asking the unanswerable question of why a person who loves the mountains has such a terrible spine that visiting the mountains will someday be impossible. As I mulled over those dark thoughts, my sweet Shyla leaned solidly into me while licking my face with concern. She's a special one. I hugged her.

We watched the sun set on our valley.
One thing about the flood disaster all around us is that it's pretty tough to feel sorry for yourself for long. Then, the stories of the loss and devastation endured by others hit me full force. Heck, I can hike with a pain. I'm one of the lucky ones compared to so many others.
It's snowing on those lakes and mountains today. It will be too snowy for hiking very soon. I'm glad that Shyla and I visited them yesterday.


  1. Pain is a hard thing to deal with and we will hope that things work out better than expected. I suppose we dogs handle it better than our peeps cuz we just focus on the moment and don't worry about what is to come. Looks like you two had a beautiful moment.

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  2. 40°! That's like our night time winter temps! And SHE rugs up like an Inuit in a blizzard...BOL!

    Such beautiful scenery and it's all yours! Our river is NEVER clear.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  3. Although our temps are cooling, we have no threat of frozen streams or snow for many weeks yet. Of course, our scenery isn't so beautiful and mountainous either.

    A tiny piece of the Colorado flooding has reached all the way to my life. My agility instructor has a husband who is a search/rescue person. He recently returned from his time in Colorado....with a 9 week old Kelpie refugee pup he found in the mess! What an adorable little baby and oh, so, wild!

  4. What an incredible place! I'd kill to run with Nola there.
    Nola's Mom

  5. You have such an awesome way describing your adventures and your pics is the scenery and Shyla take our breath away. How fortunate to be always so close to the awesome places you hike and bike. Yes having Shyla to share it all with you is wonderful too. hope your back pain has lessened after your hike and that it is a long time before a slowdown in joking and biking is needed.
    Barb...Ernie, Chica,Lucas,Rosie

  6. Shyla understands you- I think she is so aware of your heart and what you need from Mother Earth,,
    You both enjoy the beauty so much- we so sorry your back is hurting like it is,
    Amazing photos

  7. I admire your ability to "go forth" with Shyla and enjoy the moments together. Truly exceptional pix AND dog!



  8. I hope a bike ride today helped you feel better. Your beautiful photos helped me to feel better!

  9. I don't know the answer to "the unanswerable question of why a person who loves the mountains has such a terrible spine that visiting the mountains will someday be impossible" and I hope you find a way to make your back pain less. What I do know is, for now and hopefully a long time, you get to show so many many people more than you will ever know, through your wonderful photos, how great your part of the world is. Without you, your camera and your blog, sitting here in New Zealand, I would never have seen what you and Shyla see. Thank you.

  10. You and your mom are absolutely meant for each other, Shyla. You are a true gem ♥

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  11. HI Shyla
    That looks like a fantastic walk you and your human went on together and such beautiful views :) Milo & Jet

  12. Seizing the day and looking for the positive, despite the pain is a good reminder for all of us--You are a perfect example of that!!

  13. Those pictures are amazingly beautiful! How frustrasting it must be for you (understatement I am sure) to be in pain so often. Enjoy what you can when you can is the best way to do it. Thanks for taking us along on the hike!

  14. I understand your frustration with your pain more than you can know. I'm having some major back surgery in a month myself, fusing several levels and a whole bunch of other stuff, and right now I share your pain but *don't* share your ability to hike in spite of it -- I can barely walk right now. So I really, REALLY appreciate your willingness to show just how much can be done post-surgery, even with pain -- you give me such hope!

    I also hope that next time you get to that little turquoise lake, the water will be clear again. That crystal-clear alpine water is so mesmerizing, even if it IS too cold for even Shyla! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your hike, the good and the bad of it. It means a lot to me to see it all through your and Shyla's eyes!

  15. Ahhh, Ma just loves your photos! I loves the photos of Shyla, she is just gorgeous!! I bets she and I could hunt down those critters and have ourselves a snack! Um, I mean, good time!! BOL
    I'm so sorry to hear that abouts your back pain! Man, that really has got to suck. See, us doggies can always gets you outta your head, and make you feel betters!
    Ruby ♥

  16. what a hike! so beautiful and you are so lucky to experience that beauty every day....
    keep on keepin on with shyla at your side...

  17. I'm so glad the two of you were able to get out and see it again before the snow hit. Your girl is one of a kind! :)

  18. "ONLY a thousand feet" would not be considered an easy hike around here. Guess everything is relative. Loved the pictures.

  19. The hikes and biking you do would be an athletic feat for even the most fit, healthy, and pain-free people on the planet. You continue to amaze and inspire.

    Your mountains are so gorgeous--these photos almost bring me to tears.

    Thanks for the reminder to focus on all we have to be thankful for rather than life's many obstacles and challenges.

    So glad you and Shyla have each other.

    Susan and Wrigs

  20. Wow , great nature you have. THe lake between the mountins is Beautiful.
    You have to be careful so you dont do anything to your spine. You are sure very strong to do these hikes with lot of pain.

  21. Hi Y'all!

    So amazing to go to new places!

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog


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