Standing below staring up at the most beautiful backdrop of glistening snow against the red layers of rock rising before me, I think how wonderful it would be to get a better view. This of course, the Colorado Monument, is a bit more for the advanced hiker and not for someone who can break an ankle looking at it wrong. So, I settle for a walk on a trail that sits just behind the new development that I now call home. I have been watching the giant boulders that appear to be suspended high in the air daring those who live below. Beautiful wonders of the land that call for me to come and see for myself. So, I finally decide that todays the day.
After lunch at my sons school, I headed across the street to find my way through the neighborhood that seems so incredibly lucky to have these wondrous pieces of Earth sitting practically in their back yard. Closer and closer and trail itself appears as I had hoped it to be, flat and easy.
Like a little girl on a new adventure, I happily walk with a skip in my step up higher and higher to get to the actual trail. I veer off of it slightly to climb higher towards the top and touch with my own two hands the beasts that have been staring back at me for days now. It’s as amazing as I imagined with some of the rocks surpassing me in size. Soft and powdery at times with colors of orange and red some parts sharing their surface with green moss.
With that out the way, I head off on a calm easy little stroll along the mountains edge. The trails up behind the house are from old irrigation canals so they are really pretty flat and gently line to side of the landscape. Except for the occasional shaded area causing a catch of mud that would land you on your rear end in a split second, the ground was very dry. Narrow dirt trails dotted with small rocks and flat topped mini boulders lined the clearly marked area alongside the path. Down below, I could see the roofs of the manmade architectural wonders down below. As the trail took me higher above the ground below, trees and shrubs graced the land. Higher up, I could see where water once flowed leaving behind streaks of white and turquoise. As the trail continued, I not only began to notice that this wasn’t exactly a walk in the park but I also wondered exactly where I was going. I looked down and realized just how far up I had become and also that I have a slight fear of heights. Hopefully with more confidence, I will be able to look around more because at this point, the trails became less and less roomy and the way down was covered in jagged rocks and cacti and I wasn’t looking around as much as I was watching my own feet. Instead of fields of corn or sunflowers, there are cactus plants as far as the eye can see in some spots and pretty soon, they’re above and below me.
The road below seems to be so close and yet so far away and I cannot seem to view the way to get to it. There is no way down unless you are an avid hiker and wearing something to repel the spiky needles of a cactus. I still have a half a bottle of water so I keep on trekking and hope for the best. As long as I can see the houses and hear the occasional vehicle below, I am confident. It’s very odd to me that I am surrounded by nature and all I can think is that I wish that my cell phone still had battery. That’s when a slight panic set in. I am walking by myself on a mountain for the first time with no cell phone and no idea of how to get down except perhaps to head back. Yes, that’s it. I’ll simply turn around and walk the way that I came from. Problem solved and just in time because I am not exactly the type that would cut my own arm off!
I noticed that there was a path that was a bit clearer and not so close to the edge going in the same direction so I turn and once again happily start walking. It appears as though other hikers have enjoyed the trail recently, which gives me reassurance and it’s still warm and bright out so I can be home in time to meet my son on the bus. A bicycle’s tires mark the ground as do the prints from a dog’s paws. Pretty rocks line the path and flat steps of thin sheets of rock make an interesting path that winds around green bushes and flowers that have given in to the cold and dryness until summer returns. I hear a knocking and say hello only to discover that it’s a woodpecker searching for bugs to eat. The silence is almost deafening and as I look around, I realize that I am going higher yet. The original path is actually quite a few feet below me. Is the path taking me in the same direction? My mind begins to play tricks on me and I start to talk to myself. My mouth is dry and I’m down to less than a quarter of the bottle. What if I don’t make it back in time? What if I’m actually lost and although so close, no one can hear me up here. Am I alone? What animals are really out here just waiting. There were two large black birds circling overhead a minute ago. What do they know? I had better turn around again and find my way back to the original trail.
I see foot print but I start to wonder if they are my own. The way back down is much steeper and harder to walk than the way up. One would think that it would be easier but really now I have gravity fighting against me and it’s really hard to walk gracefully. I cannot sprain my ankle again! When I finally find myself back to the spot where I originally made the wrong turn heading up the mountain, I stand in contentment to look out over the land. It really is incredible to be that high and have the chance to see everything from a birds view. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before I am back on the edge walking next to plants that can cause serious pain and embarrassment and looking so very far down. I really do not feel like I can make it all the way back to the place where I started so I continue to look for alternate ways down. Nothing looks possible as seas of cacti next to sharp rocks and cliffs are the only thing in site. Fatigue seems to help fear settle in and that fear of heights that I had done so well to keep at bay sneaks out and reminds me of the fact that I am indeed, really high.
Although I can no longer tell where my house is below, I see a path. It looks like an old trail for water dried up and is marked by rocks and declines not normally in my repertoire of walking however, I have to try it. One foot at a time, slowly taking steps and trying to assure that the pitiful excuse for ankles that have carried me along the route do not turn out, I manage to make it down the hill only to see a box with a sign, “Please pick up after your dog.” What! You mean people actually walk their dogs on that trail?
The view is incredible that although I am really exhausted by the activity and lack of oxygen that I am used to, I think that after I recover, I will actually want to do this again. Perhaps next time, with a friend!