birthday party in a cave

My favorite hike is a secret hike, largely, because there is no trail.

I haul myself up a grassy knoll and avoid some cliff bands, and then I'm there. I make it up there, each time, a slightly different way. I always think the path I chose the previous time is the best way.

But this is how it goes when there isn't a trail well traveled or even less traveled. 

It is my favorite hike, because there are fossils of shells, quartz crystals that are line up like teeth, malachite and azurite (more special minerals that are blue and green). My favorite rocks in my collection happen to come from here.

I will bring them for Show and Tell.

I wasn't the first person to find this place. Miners were here before following the veins, trying to get rich or die trying. From my research, I think they died trying.

For my birthday this year, I decided that I wanted to hike up to this high alpine lake at sunrise. My birthday is in late October so this is a little iffy with the weather in the mountains. I tried to dress the part and layered up. It gets very warm walking up steep hills, so in no time, I had to stop and remove my ski pants. Don't worry. I still had leggings on, underneath the ski pants.

We made it up to the cliff bands up at sunrise, not the lake, so the plan didn't go exactly how I imagined. I am well versed in things going awry in the mountains, and I don't get my heart set on one outcome. This always serves me well, leaving room for some adventure, something unexpected.

The clouds were very dramatic that day. They moved fast, inundating one mountain, and then flooding the next. It began to get very windy, right before the good mineralizations start in the cliffs. I dutifully put on my ski gloves and lifted up my buff to cover my face. I also put my pants back on. The ski pants. We picked our way through the rock as gusts of wind threatened to blow us away.

Mason looked at me and said "We'll just go to the lake." There is a peak, not far above the lake, that has views of my favorite mountain, but I didn't care. I was having a lot of fun in my favorite hiking place with the bad weather and all.

I can't leave shiny minerals and pretty rocks alone. Despite the conditions, Mason helped me put these rocks in my backpack. We kept going, the wind blowing us the opposite direction that we wanted to go. We could barely hear each other, or feel our fingers. By mustering up some more effort, we made it to a broad plane above the cliff bands. At the this spot, boulders blocked the view of the lake below. This lake, perched up on the side of mountain, was carved out by a glacier in the last Ice Age.  We walked down a bit further to get closer to this lake.

It was too inhospitable to spend much time up here with the weather. There were already snow drifts forming at this elevation.


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Wind just takes it out of you.

Blowing snow directly at your face is cold.

In my tentative plan, we would have eaten bagel sandwiches, talked about our favorite animal (English Bulldogs) and admired the Maroon Bells. Instead, Mason took a quick photo of the lake where ice had begun to gather, and then we hustled down to get out of that wind.

I walk like an old lady down scree fields. But it was my birthday, and I can cry if I want to and also really take my time getting out of the weather if I want to.

Down below us (we missed it on the way up) were lots of test pits dug by the miners of past. They dug at the quartz veins and produced both small and big test pits. 

Much to my delight, we re-found what I had called previously on my last hike here "my favorite hole in the world." It is one of the bigger tunnels up there. I know that is a weird to pick out favorite holes, but this particular test pit goes about 20 feet into the side of the mountain. It is made up of competent rock, so it is relatively safe to explore. But to get to the shelter, one must shimmy past a another pit that goes straight down into the ground - maybe 60 feet? DANGER.

For this visit, snow had blown into these tunnels, and it was a little nerve wracking walking past the deep pit to get to the dry tunnel. Mason knocked some snow out of the way, and I clung to the side as I took very focused steps to get back to the little cave.


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We used our head lamps to follow the traces of silver and reveled in being out of the cold. 

I also did something risky, that I haven't told you about. I had put a cylinder of to-go coffee in my backpack standing straight up, just asking to be spilled. For whatever reason, I was confident that it wouldn't spill. And it didn't.

Mason and I shared the hot coffee in the cave and ate bagel sandwiches. It was a good place for a birthday party.