Into the Mountains

"I'm losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. 
I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. 
I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news." John Muir

He had taken the words right out of our mouths and we didn’t even know it. And of all people, we could say this; the work at home, build your own schedule and choose-your-own-projects-and-adventures-types. And so we followed suit.

We needed practically nothing, but we threw a few things in the car. Made sandwiches. Poured enough coffee to last us until we got to one of the little mountain towns on the way, turned the key in the ignition and went. We didn’t take mountaineering gear, had no intention of ice climbing, or getting completely lost in the backcountry. We just wanted to go where it was a little quieter, a little slower, and the normal scenery had faded away. And a couple of hours from home, we were there.

Even having grown up in Colorado, there is a whole world of wildness here to explore. It’s taken us a few months to realize that we haven’t even scratched the surface – on bikes, in our running/hiking/mountaineering shoes. There are so many places to pitch a tent, hang a hammock, rest our heads. So many exquisite vistas to soak up, right in our backyard. With every mile that ticked over in the truck, we knew that we were getting closer and closer to proverbially writing our names on a handful of these wild places, and that in and of itself was exciting.

Once you leave the landscape of the front range, the Rocky Mountains are sprinkled with quaint, sleepy old mining towns that were once the home of gunslingers, gamblers and prostitutes of the frontier. Most of them have kept some of their edgy, rough charm, while others have been gobbled up by the mountain sports industries at varying degrees of audacity. Our goal was to avoid the audacious, the lines, the schlep of the crowds, and the bustle of the ski mountains. There is a lot to explore in those mountains. I don’t mean on the groomers.

Hanging Lake

It seems that the further and further we drove away from the city, the more relaxed we became. The more our conversation shifted from the mundane daily tasks to the larger lot of life. We didn’t have a plan and so we made it up as we went along, doing what seemed natural. As such, it wasn’t hard at all to enjoy walking town with a warm mocha watching the smoke curl from the chimneys of the tiny houses. We drank beer for lunch, sat in hot springs, had a perfectly charming and modern meal as trains pulled in and out of the station across the street, and we listened to their horns blowing hauntingly through the dark night. We climbed to hidden lakes, noticed the bird songs in the trees, ran in snow-dusted canyons, and peered over their icy edges to remind ourselves just how tiny we are in the world. We tubed down snow-packed hills and laughed like little kids until our bellies hurt. All in 48 hours. The simplicity of our enjoyment was so elemental, and we needed the mountains to remind ourselves that those elements of simple joy are always there, or just around the corner. 

Into the Mountains

In the days since we’ve been home, the sense of freedom from our little escape has leaked into our other, urban-and-very-adult-tasks. It’s a subtlety I notice, and appreciate. It wasn’t until we announced to friends that we’d returned that we realized just how rare it is to literally say “fuck it let’s go,” and I think we might have inspired a few of them to take advantage of those strange Wednesdays and Thursdays when life is feeling a little stale and you need to catch your breath again. We all have them. We forget that all the things we think are big in the city shrink in amidst the mountains. All of the things we think are small seem to glow a little more up there. We all forget, sometimes, that in the mountains, is where all the news is.