Hiking to Blue Lake: moose, mosquitoes, and a really fit old man

Sign at trailhead for Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake

Sign at trailhead for Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake

Hiking. The Rocky Mountains. Waking up before dawn (well, not me) to beat the traffic to the best trailheads. It’s all synonymous with summers in Colorado.

My first confession: I haven’t hiked all summer. Not that I’m some fancy, gear-toting, Powerbar-eating, mountain goat like some of the people who live here, but I do enjoy climbing the hills every so often.

My second confession: Hiking always sounds like a good idea the night before. Then, 6:00 a.m. rolls around and I wake up wondering why I so foolishly uttered the words: we should go hiking tomorrow.

Around 6:30 yesterday morning, I was in full denial mode. We should have been up at least thirty minutes ago, the bed was unusually comfy, and I could always go hiking next weekend instead. I rolled over and pulled the blanket over my shoulder.

Then my husband did the unthinkable. He sat up and stumbled out of bed.

Crap. He’s actually getting up. I think we’re actually going to go. Fine, I guess I’ll have to go enjoy the fresh mountain air and beautiful scenery.

I doddled. He kept forgetting things. Whole Foods had nothing appetizing in their prepared foods section. Everything seemed to be standing in our way.

We got to the Brainard Lake Rec area at *gasp* 9:10 a.m. We knew this meant certain misery. We wouldn’t be able to park at the trailhead.

Since we hadn’t been there all summer, we didn’t realize they had a new day use parking area. You can no longer park along the road. Now, we had to walk an additional (I’m going to guess) mile (I have been known to exaggerate) to the trailhead. On the way there, it’s not so bad. On the way back you begin to wonder why they couldn’t install one of those moving walkway things like at the airport.

The hike started off okay. I tried to pace myself.

We hadn’t even made it to Mitchell Lake and I began to struggle. My thighs were trembling, my heart was in overdrive, and I couldn’t get enough air to satiate my demanding lungs. I began to wonder if I was too young to have a heart attack.

“I don’t know if I can make it,” I said to my husband after the first big push past Mitchell Lake. Like a good husband he was encouraging and sympathetic.

Then, during our 18th stop for me to rest, he asked if we could get moving again. Why was he in such a hurry? Because he was getting cold! Cold! I had already stripped down to my tee-shirt, my face was flushed, and I was dreaming of diving into the next pond I saw. And he was cold. What a show off.

I was becoming more and more dejected. I was ready to give up. But I found motivation–twice.

At the last big pond, before the trail gets rocky in a very ankle-twisting way, we saw moose. Two of them. They were just relaxing, watching all of us gawk at them. The Brainard Lake rec area is a great place to see moose. We’ve seen them here before. The last time we were so close he could have trampled us in four strides if he wanted.

Moose we saw last summer on the hike to Blue Lake

The moose we saw last summer on a hike to Blue Lake

This time they were off in the distance, but no less remarkable. My hubby and I lingered and I got to rest before my husband dragged me farther up the mountain.

Moose relaxing by the pond

Moose relaxing by the pond

The trail steepened and I continued to struggle, but the joy of seeing the moose kept me motivated enough to continue. Descending hikers began to bounce past us, laughing, talking, big smiles plastered on their faces. I hated them. I’m always jealous of the hikers going downhill.

I looked up to make way for the next pair coming down and I felt ashamed. Embarrassed. The guy in the lead was like 100 and pretty feeble looking.

After they passed, my hubby looked back at me with a big grin on his face. He didn’t need words. I knew what he was thinking.

I set my jaw and plastered a look of determination on face. I was going to make it to the top with what little dignity I had left.

The final ascent was glorious and well worth it. As we rounded the final corner, we were greeted by chirping marmots, bright pink wildflowers and the clear blue lake. We marveled at the scenery, ate a few dollops of hummus, and repeatedly brushed away mosquitoes. Seriously, at 11,000 feet you can’t get away from these things. People say cockroaches will be the last creatures on earth. I think mosquitoes might be right there with them.

Snow at Blue Lake CO

Snow at Blue Lake captured during our hike last year

As usual, I excelled at the descent. Hiking is much easier when you’re working with gravity, not against it. I smiled and waved at all the folks going up, happy to no longer be gasping for breath.

Now I’m sore and a little tired, but I’m glad we went. I’m glad we pushed past the little obstacles that can easily become excuses to quit. We got some great pictures of the moose, and I was able to enjoy my shrimp boil without remorse. We’ve even talked about heading back up next weekend. He he. We’ll see.

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8 thoughts on “Hiking to Blue Lake: moose, mosquitoes, and a really fit old man

  1. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    I agree that hiking is a strange activity. We torture ourselves by waking up early and doing strenuous exercise but in the end there is this amazing, spiritual moment when we reach a special view or arrive at a beautiful destination. It makes all the misery worth it. Or maybe the shock to our body is causing us to hallucinate. Not sure.

    And as far as mosquitoes go, I agree. They live in all climates. Check out this link from Alaska Dispatch that will give you nightmares. http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130728/north-slope-mosquito-swarms-worst-worst It is Hitchcockian.

  2. Marcy Blankenship says:

    The way you felt on your last hike was me several years ago trying to hike the l.2 miles nearly vertical up to Hanging Lake. I, like you, had to stop numerous times while watching little old people twice my age make it to the top and back while I was ‘resting’ half way up. As for the bugs, they are my nemesis. I wish they gave a ‘bug index’ that you could look at before thinking about a new place to live. I never thought they would be that high though. I have known about the monsters in Alaska, but never thought about them being that high up in the mountains.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      I’ve never hiked Hanging Lake, but I’m sure I’d be huffing and puffing my way up that one too.

      The bugs can be terrible even in the mountains. I guess the altitude doesn’t really get to them and they still have plenty of food sources 🙂

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