Of Altitude and Attitude: A Rocky Mountain Story

All right, before the grammar hawks start swooping in trying to take my scalp for using altitude when I meant elevation, it’s a play on words, not a scientifically correct title! Anyway, my attitude at altitude on this trip was not the best either.  My love-hate relationship with American Airlines hit a rough patch on this trip, but that is a tale I’ve already shared on TripAdvisor. 

Shifting back to less lofty altitudes or elevations, let me share the tale of my birthday/anniversary surprise for the love of my life. For years, she has been campaigning for us to take a mountain vacation, and for legitimate, and sometimes contrived reasons, I managed to avoid the mountains.  

I mean, we both love the tropics. Not only that, we invested a not insignificant amount in resort memberships giving us access to beautiful beaches, pools, great restaurants, entertainment, and dolphins.  Who needed mountains, babbling brooks, and rustic cabins? Besides, we’d been to the mountains in southern Colorado, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska, and New Mexico. 

Truthfully, no one needs mountains, beaches, babbling brooks, or vacations for that matter.  Still, spending time with the people you love in locations such as those can be more than just a diversion.  You share joys, challenges, learning experience, and time you might otherwise miss.  For example, I learned that the time I spend on the treadmill 5-6 days a week is only marginally useful if someone my age is attempting to hike three miles up a mountain trail beginning around 9,000 feet above sea level.

Yes, our attempt to hike to the peak of Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park lasted about a quarter-mile.  If we’d purchased some oxygen before striking out, we might have made it far enough to need rescue, but we were spared that embarrassment.  On the other hand, we had a closeup, as close as the Park Rangers recommend, with two denizens of Deer Mountain. 

One was an exquisite mule deer buck who was peacefully feeding just below a rock outcropping we climbed to photograph the landscape.  The other was the nosey little Chipmunk featured at the top of the page. He was cheeky enough to have his (her?) own wildlife show. Their presence and the beautiful countryside made our first foray into the park more than satisfactory, but as I learned in the following days, we had not seen anything yet!

Yep, the scenery, the first sighting of native wildlife, and discovering my limited lung capacity at this altitude, oops, elevation was going to limit my adventures made for an interesting start of our time in the area. Still, as it turned out, the experiences of our first full day were not over.

Our next discovery started out as a disappointment. Realizing our ability to explore the higher reaches of the park would be limited by our lung capacity, we decided to explore a less arduous trek, according to the RMNP list of trails, sights, and locations.  So we headed toward Bear Lake, only to find it was inaccessible temporarily due to road work.

More than a little disappointed, we decided to return to our campsite. All right, campsite is an exaggeration. It was a nice little cabin next to a beautiful small river, the Big Thompson, but it was rustic and nothing like a 5-star resort in Cabo.  Heck, the Wifi seemed slower than my first dial-up service back in the dark ages of the internet. 

Sitting next to the river watching the sunlight play across the ripples while another guest tried his hand at catch and release fly fishing helped mitigate our disappointment.  Once we were suitably relaxed, we decided to dip into the next adventure on vacations such as this, exploring local restaurants. We’d already sampled one that was fantastic and had a list of other recommended establishments.

We freshened up, headed for the SUV, planning to start our next culinary adventure.  Before we made it to the car, another guest asked if we’d seen the elk yet. The blank look on our faces, let her know we had no idea was she was talking about. Thus began our second close encounter with indigenous creatures.  The clearing just east of our lodging was currently the resting place of a bull elk and his harem. 

It was that time of the year in the mountains. The elk came down from the upper elevations to the lower, relatively speaking, meadows.  This meadow was in front of the cabins just north of ours, and while people are told not to approach the animals closely they make themselves readily available for photographs and oglers.  On this evening, everyone kept a respectful distance, including a younger bull lurking around out of sight. All of the elk seemed oblivious to the other gawkers and me.

It was the perfect ending to our first full day in the area.  Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures.

About S. Eric Jackson

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3 Responses to Of Altitude and Attitude: A Rocky Mountain Story

  1. Anonymous says:

    Every turn in the hikes revealed just a snippet of His creation…what majesty!!
    Thank you for my surprise vaca, honey!
    I was literally breathless!

  2. oldcowdog says:

    Makes me wish we had spent more time in the mountains this year. Thanks fo sharing.

    Sent from my iPhone

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