Boulder is only about an hour outside Rocky Mountain National Park.
I have mixed feelings about National Parks. All the parks are all incredibly beautiful- we are very fortunate to have so many breathtaking places in the US which deserve the public's appreciation. It's important to preserve them. However, they were made very accessible to the masses with paved roads. Without the roads, the Parks system probably wouldn't have made it into this day and age. However, the roads created a situation that meant the parks usually end up being so overcrowded and packed, it doesn't seem like you're escaping from anyone or anything. A lot of the trails can seem like your only scenic view is of the derriere of the person in front of you. All you can do is cross your fingers and hope it's a nice one.
Rocky Mountain is no exception. It was bumper to bumper to drive in, several parking lots were full, and the easiest walking trails close to the trailheads were reminding me a little too much of trying to get someplace in a hurry in Times Square. Some of the high-traffic trails were even paved, which helps cut down on the erosion, but it's basically a sidewalk.
Happily, it's not too hard to figure out where you can find a nice quiet trail. You just have to find a steep elevation change and go for it.
Hiking is probably the least glamorous activity I can think of. It's sweaty and dirty and muddy and you're either too hot, too cold, or too wet to be comfortable. I usually have a bit of a freak out the first half hour until I find my stride- I'll sweat like crazy and get super tired in a way that makes me doubt that I can keep going. Then, like magic, it all clicks. The pain goes away. My temperature adjusts. I can go for miles without too much more effort. It's the most peaceful zen feeling I could possibly imagine.
The altitude was a big adjustment for me. The trailhead started out from was well over 9,400 feet, and it only went up from there. The lack of oxygen at the height was really noticeable, and I found myself out of breath and needing a break frequently.
Which was fine, because it seems like every time I stopped for a breather, I ended up gazing out over the most incredible landscape.
It can snow any day of the year at this elevation. The melting snow creates scenic, near-freezing clear lakes that are a good spot to have a mid-morning picnic. Or just trail mix if you aren't a sophisticated hiker.
This is Emerald Lake.
I had an 18mm lens on my camera for these shots. That's the best wide-angle lens that I have. It still couldn't capture the enormity of the place.
I find myself over-using words like "stunning" here.