We arrived late afternoon. The Colorado sun warming our skin; our tired eyes flooded with road exhaustion from the 13 hour cumulative drive from our start point in Iowa City, Iowa but even still we were beaming with excitement. We drive through the quaint hip town of Lyons, Colorado where our Rover was for our three dogters - David, has a beautiful patch of land where the dogs can roam and burn off the same energy as their human counterparts in the National Park that sadly they aren't allowed into. We drive along a winding, hilly road between there and our destination Estes Park.
We tour around the bustling downtown exploring corner shops and hidden gems. We stumble into the Grub Steak Restaurant and gorge on Wild game Meatloaf and Elk Shepards Pie - both two very unique dishes that were far from disappointing though we both found the meatloaf to be superiorly spectacular. Needing to carb load just a little more we find ourselves scoops high of Rocky Mountain Ice Cream before making our way over to the iconic Estes Park Brewery and indulging in their phenomenal Stinger Wild Honey Wheat. We planned to try our luck at first come- first serve Longs Peak Trailhead Campground- and it turns out we were super lucky and snagged a super sweet spot for the night just minutes from our early morning hike. The temperature, like the sun ,dropped for the night and we nestled into our cozy Bronco using the REI car-sleep system. ICONIC roadtrip piece.
Longs Peak Trailhead
Our blaring iphone alarm jolted us awake in the dead of the morning , as all good hikes begin in the pre day darkness. We fold the bed up enough to fit the months work of containers back from the bear box, conduct some teeth hygiene, stuff our overalls with snacks and drive the half a mile up to the trailhead parking - we would have felt guilty holding a camping spot all day. Even at 4 in the morning we squeezed into one of the last remaining open spots. The chilly air and dark forest greeted us at Longs Peak Trailhead where we took our first, of many steps of the day.
Even under headlamp the forest was immediately resoundingly beautiful. The soft echo of birds singing through the tree line ; the towering branches; the tranquility - all dampened of course by our endless heavy breathing. I don't think the inhabitants of these woods find our presence as peaceful and beautiful - certainly not my elephant footsteps under load and shortness of breath gallivanting along the path. Even still, there's an inseparable sense of connectedness - to being rooted and apart of everything and everything apart of you. A sense of walking through the doors to home. The earth wrapping its blanket around you and ushering you in regardless of how long you've been away; where you have been or what you've done doesn't matter here. Only here and now means anything at all and even then nothing more a moment later. Here everything is alive, even in death, and the only measure of time is the present moment.
We're wearing bright red-orange Duluth overalls which is fantastic for its pocket selection - truly snacks in every one of them . We break the tree line as the sun greets the moon where the stars sit and soak in the shifting of colors - black changes to purples, oranges, and blues strokes across the open sky. The scenery changes from canvased greens to an open space of rock and peaks in any and all directions. It goes on this way - stairs of rock. Lunges, step ups, and endless cardiac excitement. It's funny how we can appreciate the unbelievable vastness, beauty, and rarity of these events but in them - well sometimes it just kind of sucks. Literally, the wind was sucked from my lungs and I walked for hours in absolute absence of normal breathing. My heart rate sustained a solid maximal working capacity from the moment we started till we took our first break at the dug in rock pits at the foot of the final ascent up Key Hole Route.
We intended to heat up our lunch of sorts but in the darkened early start we managed to forget the apparatus for our gas canister so instead we snacked on pop-tarts and beef jerky. I'm generally very hungry by lunch time without having hiked 7-ish miles to this point all up hill. Never the less we were wildly excited and continued to walk until we couldn't - well then, it became a bit more of a climb literally. The scramble is always my favorite aspect of a hike, so much so I actively seek out hikes with prominent scrambles. There's just something awesome about climbing around on a bunch of rocks. The hill gets steeper, the boulders bigger, and the views grander. We reach the Key Hole summit totally stoked and chilled as the wind grew fiercer and colder. Ultimately, though close to the true summit we decided not to continue up the final ascent because we noticed everyone coming from or to had safety gear like helmets and such that we simply didn't have. Definitely, believe in taking some risks and enjoying the adventure - and then there's being stupid. We decided to not be stupid this time and began our descent down. The afternoon brought with it increased temperatures and we were soaking it all in - and I got my first layer of tan for the summer. The downhill in many ways has its own element of suck - the beating on the knees and feet really seems to hit on the downgrade in totally different ways. It also seemed like perhaps they added a few miles on the final section of the descent - we can't prove it, but man it felt like it for sure. Our feet were wicked wrecked by the end of the day sitting at just shy of 16 miles and our first 14'er bagged.
We headed back to Lyons to pick up our kids just after 3 and stopped at a BBQ place - it was fantastic and though we don't have the name in our notes there was only one in Lyons. The girls were equally wore out from their escapades with the AMAZING Rover and just passed out in the back as we made our hour trek to Ft. Collins for our ABNB. The quaint cabin was in the backyard of a suburban neighborhood but it had a surreal set up. Cute garden, chickens, fire set up and believe it or not ... puppies. It was super great , comfy, and was an excellent stop post hike and pre drive to our next destination Grand Teton Jackson Hole ,Wyoming- a mere 10 hours away.
See the full video with lifesachase on youtube, insta, or FB. Warning epic views -
With Love, happy Travels <3