To be 100% truthful, hiking is not my idea of a vacation nor is it my first thought on ‘where can I celebrate my birthday.’
The idea to spend my birthday vacation was a combination of visiting my kids in Denver and the news articles I’d read about the 100th birthday of the U.S. National Parks. Sounded like a good idea.
On the two-hour car ride from Denver through Boulder and up to Rocky Mountain National Park, we shared stories of other wilderness adventures, like the king snake in our tent at Refugio State Park, falling over unseen logs, being chased by Canadian geese and the family of deer we once spotted.
The story I didn’t think would come up, but did, was a result of this photo:
This cloud shaped UFO, although much larger, closely resembled the ‘real’ UFO I saw when I was nine years old. My younger brother and some other kids saw an object hovering above our apartment complex. Not only was it us who saw the object but about twenty other people who were in their front yards, looking up into the sky. A grainy photo of the object made the newspapers, so at least my mom didn’t think I was crazy.
This story fascinated my kids. They’re fans of X-Files so it doesn’t take any convincing about my UFO story to have them believe that I saw what I saw.
Along the way up the mountain, we stopped to take in the gorgeous vista of pines, lakes, and mountains.
The kids scrambled up some rocks and waved to me to come up and see the chipmunks drinking water in the crevices of some boulders. I made my way up, rested a bit, heard birds singing, looked up and caught the silhouette of this mountain chickadee on a branch.
Our hike on the Alpine Tundra up to the Mushroom Mountains, at approximately 11,500 feet was a little difficult.
The hike is short, maybe a mile, but the winds can be 150 miles per hour. On the day we hiked up there it was a temperate 55 degrees with winds at a manageable 50 miles per hour. You have to wear a hooded jacket. The altitude can be tough on people. The air feels so thin you can hardly take a full breath, but my daughter and I trudged step by step and arm in arm behind (way behind) my son who pretty much race walked up the steep trail. On the way down, we heard the whistle of the yellow-bellied marmot.
We went on to the highest point, the Alpine Visitor’s Center, at 11,725 feet. Way below the deck of the visitors center a group of elk grazed. We couldn’t get a decent photo on our cell phones at that height but at least we were able to see these beautiful animals, the males with massive antlers, through binoculars.
I felt a little bit of melancholy when I realized that this trip wasn’t about me ‘taking care’ of the family by planning the trip, reminding them to bring this or that, or watching them constantly. Instead, they were the ones who did the planning, encouraged me to keep climbing, and took my hand from time to time.
This is what happens on the long road of parenting. We move from one place and perspective to another. As long as it’s together it makes the trip so much more special.