We pulled into our campground after dark in Wellington, Colorado. Celeste drove the huge stretch through Wyoming to Colorado, a long 9-hour drive after exploring Yellowstone. We were both beat-- and simultaneously wired from our increased caffeine intake over the 9 hour period. I knew this part of the trip was going to be a killer as I planned it, but we both accepted our fate and took the challenge. This year's trip brought up new obstacles and less time. It took me two days to get to Celeste, and we had a wedding to get to 6 days later- and wedding prep before that. So we crammed a normal size road trip into 5 days rather than 6 or 7, not wanting to compromise Colorado and RMNP in the summertime. We were staying at a KOA, which is rare for us because we are frugal (cheap? Broke?). After taking our nice private KOA showers, we crashed, promising to wake up at 5:30 to get on the road to Rocky Mountain National Park so we could get on the trails before the crowds.
Our alarms went off and we crawled out of the tent and packed it away with sleep in our eyes. We made it to the park by 7 am and found a prime parking spot at the Bear Lake trailhead. I packed up my camera gear and packages of tuna (that I was forcing myself to eat at this point) and plenty of water. The weather in the mountains was absolutely beautiful. We hiked to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake, then we decided to go further to Lake Haiyaha, which was the bluest of all we had seen, and less populated. We sat on a rock beside the water and shoved tuna in our faces, with the icy breeze from the lake blowing against our skin. In those quiet moments, I try to recharge and drink in the experience for later (like now, as I sit here in a cubicle on a mundane Wednesday).
We left the lake and took the long way back to our trailhead, passing Alberta Falls and a ton of new hikers on the trail. This part of the trail cut through forests and over small streams. There were moments of isolation and moments we were surrounded by kids and families. Every few groups that passed us going the other way asked 'how far is the lake' or 'is it worth it'? Celeste and I gave a grim smile and told them the truth- that is was far from where they were but it was worth it. Having hiked through the woods for hours, I was tired, and couldn't help feeling lucky that we were at the end of our trip rather than the beginning. We made it back to the car carrying our accomplishment in our hearts-- and in the soreness of our limbs. I think we counted something like 7 or 8 miles. That was a good morning.
We drove to Denver and had Empanadas that cured our hangriness before finding a park to rest at. We somehow always end up in a park somewhere in Colorado. Sitting on the blanket with Celeste, I knew our trip was over and we had 7 hours of Kansas ahead of us. We called our campground to make sure we had an open spot. The man on the other end of the line offered us their primitive cabin for the same fee. We were so excited and relieved to not have to set up our tent that night. Four walls and a door is LUXURY. There was even an AC unit and a small cable tv. We crashed in the hard beds, wrapping our fourth road trip as we closed our eyes. (driving through Kansas doesn't count as a road trip--it counts as hell)
We are veterans of road travel-- and we get better every year. We took our first trip the summer after our freshman year in college. Our friendship was on rocky-ground at the end of high school and that first-year in different cities. I remember thinking it was another one of those transitions--where you grow in new directions-- away from old friends and towards new ones. We planned a trip to the desert, half believing it would happen. Then it did. And we spent hours with each other nonstop-- we talked until our voices hurt. And by the end of the trip, we had grown back towards each other, and we have grown that way since. I love ya, Celeste. Even when we make each other's eye's roll(and roll and roll and roll), but that's how I know I love ya REAL. And we can get better at it every year-- like road trips.
Photographer on the road