• Gretel Enck

Mountain Lake



Somehow in my obsession with the sparsity of the west Texas landscape, I'd forgotten how satisfying I find a hike to a mountain lake. Could be the challenge of trying to see the nature through the people. I forgive myself. And I remedied it today with a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike to one of the easier lakes, although not the easiest--I made my fitbit happy.

My motivation came from my friend Courtney who with her husband is hiking her first Colorado 14-er this weekend, weather permitting. I recall that there was a year when I hiked a couple of California 14-ers. Rebecca Solnit writes of summiting, Mt. Whitney specifically--my last and best 14-er, ten years ago this month: "When you've risen for an hour or more, you see over the range to the next one, and the desert landscape keeps getting larger and larger, until you're looking across basin after range after basin into the distant depths of Nevada. You realize that no matter how much terrain you cover there's far more than you ever will. Mountaineering is always spoken of as though summiting is a conquest, but as you get higher, the world gets bigger, and you feel smaller in proportion to it, overwhelmed and liberated by how much space is around you, how much room to wander, how much unknown."

I also had the more pedestrian pleasure of hiking to a number of lakes in the Sierra Nevada. While nothing compares to the view from Lone Pine Lake, where the far edge appears to tumble straight off into the wide blue world, I think my favorite was Muir Lake because it was relatively easy to get to and relatively unvisited.

Today's hike began in rain which the volunteer at the shuttle station said would blow over, and it did. The trail wandered me up and over a small hill in a pine forest to a small lake surrounded by forest. A few rocks along the edge provided seats for visitors. I had a snack and watched dragonflies in the reeds. An unidentified brown duck dabbled.

Because the park has an efficient shuttle bus, I was able to return by a different route, a much steeper downhill through aspen and flowers with a view across the wide road-and-river-traveled valley to Long's Peak and many others.

Then home and errands and traffic and pavement and people. Days like this make me miss the Owens Valley with the wilds and the desert and the burrito without the blasted city. But I am happy to see so many people enjoying our national parks. The parking lots were full, we waited in line to board the shuttles--but once on the trail, there was plenty of room for all of us. And I couldn't begrudge the hollering children at the lake. My God--the great outdoors--who knew it could be this good, this much.

I came back through the Big Thompson canyon where so much was lost in a flood last September to the real world where much was lost yesterday. I feel like I am waiting for things--which I hate and find inevitable and unavoidable. For today, though, the waiting room raced my heart and smelled delicious after the rain and felt a little smaller in proportion to it all.


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