Every time I travel, my goal is to get to a place where I can look around and believe that nobody else has ever been there before. This doesn’t always mean I need to be hundreds of miles from civilization or somewhere that is not listed on any map. Instead, more reasonable criteria include a lack of roads, unnatural erosion, or any sign of humans.
The numerous remote alpine lakes in Indian Peaks Wilderness, near Rocky Mountain National Park, qualify. Because I grew up near the ocean, I am constantly seeking water, and one evening last block break, I was fortunate to find myself with three friends, watching the colors evolve in the reflections on one of these alpine lakes, named Lower Coney Lake.
My friend, Faith D’amico and I alternated between bouncing around in the back of the pickup and running alongside it on our way to a trailhead as Maverick Mammel and Sawyer Connelly navigated over boulders and through waist-deep puddles. The following hike was just about three miles, our backpacks carried only the essentials, and the fall air was crisply refreshing. The trail grew steeper and rockier the farther we walked. As we neared the towering peaks, we began to ask questions familiar to those who search for alpine lakes: “Do you think it’s over that ridge?,” and then, “Oh, no. Maybe the next one?”
Panting, we reached a bluff overlooking the surface of the water, which reflected exact replicas of the snow-drizzled mountains. We gobbled down Clif bars, the boys assembled their fly-fishing rods and tied their tippets to their leaders, Faith found the perfect napping spot, and I tried to capture the view with pen sketches in my journal. Dry flies were cast and beautiful cutthroat trout were pulled from the cold water. They lent themselves readily, allowing us to admire them. They were easy to spot in the crystal water, so I tried a cast. My gaze and thoughts wandered from my fly, to the cliffs, to the light on the ice, and by the time I realized that my line was being tugged, it was too late— my cutthroat trout had nibbled, then glided away.
Time passed quickly in this manner and before we knew it, the sun was going, then gone. Afterwards, it was back down the trail in the fading light, moving more quickly now to stay warm. We reached the pickup just as the stars began to appear.
As I lay in a mummy bag cocoon a few hours later with my stomach full of marshmallows and my feet wrapped in two pairs of wool socks, I felt both exhausted and at peace. This is why we have block breaks: to rejuvenate, explore, and to find new and wild places. If we do it right, even just a few days can leave us with a feeling of inspiration and appreciation.