I’m Hiking Above the Clouds!

I’m dating myself with this headline but when I was up at the top of Flattop Mountain and looking down on cloud cover, this song (listen here) popped into my head.

So yesterday was a bit of a surprise to me, yes, it’s my fault. I went in there with the perspective that it wouldn’t be like a theme park on a Saturday in August. Silly me! That actually brings me to my next point. Perspective.

As I made the ascent up to 12,253 feet (sounds daunting but I started at just under 10,000), I kept wondering what is it that attracts so many people to high mountains? I’m sure for some it’s the challenge of the climb, stretching human strength and spirit, I know that was part of it for me. I was still wondering is that it? Is that the reason people trek from all over the globe to hike a mountain? As I was climbing and taking photographs of spectacular scenery I noticed how my perspective changed. Taking pictures of the same landscape from different altitudes changed the way not only I looked at it, it also changed the way I felt about it.

Standing at the base of the climb, it seemed slightly unattainable to reach that peak. As I climbed and began looking down on the same landscapes I had to look up to see, they suddenly became so touchable. It felt like you could just reach your hand out and touch the mountain top across the way, or tickle the cloud hanging out nearby. Of course, you couldn’t do either of those things but having the feeling you could, that was the reason for me. I went on this trip and climbed these mountains to see a different perspective. It was great to be a part of something so much larger than my daily routine. It energized and humbled me all throughout the weekend.

Now that the deep part is over, here is some logistics to help others if they ever make this trek.

Folks, go early! I was up and at the Park & Ride lot by 7:30am on the shuttle and at Bear Lake by 7:45am. It was much quieter at this time. This time the crowd had shifted. It was a lot of people looking to do longer more strenuous hikes. If you want more peace, solitude and a bit of an escape, take on a hike that is less traveled and a bit more challenging. I climbed up to flattop mountain, it was a challenging 3 hours 15 minute hike up. I did see someone as old as 72 and someone as young as 9 doing the same trek. It can be done by anyone with in decent physical shape. I ate lunch up there with a view of Long’s Peak (360 view).. It was sunny and cold, very cold. Bring gloves, even in August! I hiked back down after 20 minutes up top. It took me 2 hours 15 minutes to hike back down. In the afternoon at Bear Lake, it was packed with people taking an easy stroll.

I drove up the one way dirt road to Alpine Ridge. This is a must do and this is fair warning that if you don’t like heights there maybe a few points in the road where your hands grab tighter to the wheel or you have breath a bit deeper to turn that corner. It is well worth the anxiety and time it takes to go up the road. After a long day and seeing some great wildlife, it was time to head home and get ready for my last adventure in the Rockies.

Travel Tips that worked for me:

  1. GO EARLY
  2. Take 34 in to the park not 36
  3. Bring lots of water, lots of layers and gloves.
  4. Park & Ride is great.
  5. If you can go on a weekday. If it’s a really busy weekend, driving around and up to Alpine might be your best bet.
  6. The park was quietest in early morning and later afternoon/evening.
  7. Go with an open heart and a sense of adventure.

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