The backpack was new, heavy, and blue. Inside there was a six hundred page book about geology, some water purifying tabs, and a sleeping bag. I had never been backpacking before, but I was eager up to my eyeballs.
In late afternoon, we arrived at the trailhead after driving up a long bumpy road. The sun was radiant. Even with my sunglasses on, it was hard to see where I might be going. Mason, in red Hawaiian print swim shorts, and his fishing pole attached to his pack, led the way up the rocky path.
It did not take long for my huffing and puffing to begin, as we climbed up the drainage. The trail followed the stream as we continued upwards and onwards. The discomfort of the load of my pack and my shortness of breath was dulled by the quiet of the trail. The lone sounds were our steps and branches snapping back, as we moved them out of our way, to go further up the trail.
Where I live, is known as the wildflower capitol of Colorado. During good summer, flowers fill the valley. It starts with little edible yellow flowers called glacier lilies, then brilliant blue lupines, crimson indian paintbrushes, alpine sunflowers, and culminates in magenta fireweed. At various times in the summer, there are different blooms. It's an impressive garden in the mountains.
The snow pack from the previous winter decides the number and intensity of the floral bloom. No locals had high hopes for the summer of 2016. The previous winter was mild. Skiers were disappointed with the snow. It was generally thought that the flowers would be unremarkable. I guess that might be true if I didn't keep looking.
For us, summer is ephemeral. Even in June, the mountains are reluctant to melt, to give in to the sun. I have hiked in snow in August. For a brief amount of time, the mountains open up, giving an adventurer access to places usually inundated with snow. The flowers are a reminder that it is not winter in Crested Butte. And for this, the people rejoice. On this particular trail, on this particular day, the flowers were not concerned about the sorry snow pack, or the cold on the way. Far from human gaze, they were showing off.
The flowers were in height of their beauty. This was in sharp contrast to my aching body. The backpack is unrelenting, especially when I bring unnecessary items. I habitually bring too much food and a needless amount of sunscreen. I was falling behind the man in red Hawaiian print shorts.
The sun and my energy were going down. I call this discouraging feeling in the middle of a hike "getting sad." Despite the big red mountains ahead and the lush trail, the backpack begins to win. It seems like that I will never escape the middle part of the trip. The excitement of the first steps are long gone. The awe of the place begins to dwindle. In a few words, there is a desperate need for a pick-me-up. At this time, I turn to my favorite candy - Sour Patch Kids. I put them in the easily accessible zip pocket on my waist belt, just for this blue feeling. They offer sweet distraction for the work that must be done.
We lost the trail in a swampy area filled with bushes that were a foot or two taller than me. I pushed the branches away trying to find how to get further up the stream. We sloshed in our boots out of the swamp and came up to the side of a waterfall cascading over the red rocks.
I was tired. I kept on. There was really nothing else to do. The cardiovascular tug of walking up hill continued. I fantasized about leaving the blue backpack behind. Where were the lakes? The sun set wasn't slowing down. It wasn't waiting for us.
After several hours, the clear lakes appeared reflecting the ever darkening sky. I felt the sweet relief of arriving at the destination. I could see fish swimming in this clear cold mountain water. I couldn't get my big backpack off fast enough. At long last, we had made it. Of course, Mason did not find this shore a suitable place to make camp. He kept walking up hill towards where the mountains began. I so much wanted to take off the heavy load at the shore of the lake. My back ached. I was fussy.
He kept going up the hill to the left. It took me some steps to understand why we had to keep hiking. And that is where I lost it. I laughed in pure delight. Because it turns out, this hill was made of rosy paintbrushes, short stalked with hot pink petals, a pink that is just the right pink, a pink that is almost fuchsia, a pink that is smile-inducing.
That is where Mason dropped his backpack and started to empty the contents of his bag. Out came the two-person tent. And without a word, he began to assemble our little home in the most perfect place on earth. I was teary looking at this flower filled basin, surrounded on all sides with high red mountains, and two transparent lakes. I sat in awe, taking it all in. I wanted to make sure to remember exactly what it looked like here. I felt so lucky to be at this far away place, on the day the rosy paint brushes bloomed.
Mason boiled water and filled up a pouch of freeze dried spaghetti. I ate in joy. And what is funny to me, I don't remember taking off the backpack.