Boogixote Scout Log #2

I had forgotten to get sandwiches for our hike. Not being 100% prepared for a trip was typical, it was always just a matter of what detail I was going to have to scurry around for at the last minute: food, gas, reservations, something else I was forgetting. 

Luckily, King Soopers was just across the street. I drove over then paused in the car before I stepped out. What made me pause before going wasn’t about what was missing from my internal list, it was what was going to be missing from my face. Going outside of my apartment for the past 15 months has always required the ubiquitous mask to be on, they hung like ornaments from my rearview mirror so I could always have one handy. 

If there was anything that represented the pandemic, the 3.5 million people who had died, the political and cultural tug-of-war that we had all experienced and were still experiencing, it was this piece of cloth. This exact King Soopers was the first place I had worn a mask after the national order went into effect and my fiance Rachael and I had finally run out of a couple essentials and needed to stock up. I’d never ever felt such freaky anxiousness anywhere in my life, wondering if we had just exposed ourselves to a deadly virus for some toilet paper and bread. 

Now I was vaccinated, the orders had been dropped that week and people were essentially free to do what they wished. I left my mask on the mirror, an ornament forevermore, and strolled into the store. 

For the times they are a-changin’

We were on the road by 7:45 A.M., an idyllic spring Sunday of warm sun and a light breeze with the snow capped Front Range scrawled boldly on the horizon. On this blog I write about the people who follow their passions and careers into the mountains, streams and deserts that surround them; I count myself as one of them. Yet, I hadn’t spent nary a second out in anything that felt wild since I put up my skis in late March due to my six day work week. Sundays were a rest day as much as I wanted them to be an adventure day. 

That’s nothing to say of the time Rachael and I had spent outside together, it had probably been close to a year. I had always been the one who found great pleasure in finding a point on a map and bustin’ ass to get there, Type 1.5 Fun. Rachael is more on a Type .5 Fun scale, much more excited about relaxing in a spot rather than getting there. Our wavelengths have never quite matched in that regard and quarantine had presented so few opportunities to get out to do things we were excited about that we tended to do our own thing when it came to finding pleasure outside the apartment. But here we were driving together for a hike, marveling at the vibrant shades of green the spring rains had brought to the trees and pastures that lined our way down to Conifer, Colorado. 

For the times they are a-changin’

We had chosen the Eagle View Loop trail as our first foray into nature together in Reynolds Park. It was a relatively mild 4.5 miles that would lead us to an expansive view of sunbaked mountains and the beginning of the Colorado Trail, a 567 mile backcountry trail between Denver and Durango. I knew it’d be a little daunting for Rachael and I was appreciative of her pushing her limit a little while I would be perfectly content in mine. I would have to adjust my speed and expectations to make it our time instead of my time, something I wasn’t used to. We parked, put together our packs and our shoes crossed over the rubicon from asphalt to dirt trail and we headed up. 

It felt so fresh and new to be on a trail again, pulling my weight up the side of a hill. Tiny bits of new growth pine sprouted forth like neon-lime frosted tips. The air felt weightless and life-giving, even as we huffed up and puffed up the trail. Other groups passed us as we took breaks, we passed them as they paused for their breaks. The pace wasn’t one that I would have set by myself, but I realized that what I gained in a heightened pace up the mountain I lost in an appreciation of the mountain. Each flower felt worth my time and attention, the birds calling were music and the mountain ecosystem of animals, plants and minerals felt more apparent than most times I had been on a trail. 

Rachael was more adept in these subtle and essential wavelengths than I was. Watching her soak up every minute of greenery outside of our breaks felt like a welcomed reminder of what I potentially could have missed. It was enriching to see her in a curious element that surpassed mine, one I hadn’t witnessed in a lot of our time together outside. 

For the times they are a-changin’ 

Our pace had become slower. I could tell Rachael was close to hitting a wall and getting to a place where this whole thing was becoming an arduous task instead of an enjoyable time. I realized we needed to switch courses and cut off a mile or so from our roundtrip; Rachael was more than happy to oblige. I knew this was the right move because it kept our wavelengths in sync, kept us vibing on the same experience. We headed from the incline to the cross path that kept us on more stable and level ground. We would just get to the top another way, or so I thought.

About a half a mile in we came to another fork in the road. To our left was an enticing stream shimmying down along the trail as a welcomed companion. To the right the trail snaked upwards. Rachael wanted left, I wanted right. She was supportive and allowed us to keep going right even though it wasn’t the level and easy trail she had envisioned.

For the times they are a-changin’ 

We continued uphill along the red dirt and green canopy. At a bend in the road, Rachael turned to me. 

“I really thought we were going back down towards the car. I wouldn’t have agreed to this way if we’re just going to do the same amount of mileage as we could have climbing up from the first direction,” she said. 

“Well, I thought I tried to explain this wasn’t always going to go downhill towards the parking lot. It was just a different way to the top,” I retorted.

I knew she was working hard and pusing herself. “Why couldn’t we just go a little farther?” I asked. She looked bummed out.  

This is where we became detached from each of our expectations. I had expected to get to the top, she had expected an easier exit strategy. Ultimately her goal was to just “be” outside, mine was to feel like I worked a little outside. She was definitely working hard, I could see it on her face. I could also see the life of the hike was gone for her. I felt I had compromised on the overall scope of the hike and was being asked to stop early. She felt like she had compromised already on the effort she was willing to put in and now was asked to do it again, when she was even more tired. It was the beginning of a Cold War on a hot day. 

Then I looked at her and remembered the real reason I wanted to be here was to be with her. This was our time, not my time and I was on the verge of choosing to ignore that. What good would that do, for both us and the hike? I looked up the trail. I thought it would top out soon, I thought we could get there, but I realized I’d have to give up my ambition and practice some graciousness. 

I looked at her and sheepishly asked, “Do you have five more minutes in you? I promise we will turn around no matter what in five minutes.”

Her compassion shined through and she agreed. One more time we continued up the trail, more together than we had been the last half hour, back on the same wavelength. I got lucky and we got to the top right in five minutes. It was a beautiful expansive view of gently rolling mountains and a small bowl of a valley. The wind chilled our warm bodies. Ultimately, I got what I was looking for in the view, but it had no longer turned into the goal. It was just a nice perk to a beautiful walk with my love. 

On the way back our speed and banter picked up as we felt the relief of hitting the homestretch. It was just our luck that the trail criss-crossed the eagerly flowing stream a dozen or so times on the way down. It was quite magical walking along a stream in the woods under a canopy of green, life bursting forth in grasses and flowers around us, no more so beautifully than in Rachael’s face. 

“This has made the whole trip worth it. This is ultimately what I wanted,” she said as we splashed through the water in one of our little mini crossings. She smiled the whole way down and so did I. To see her back in a playful mood after our stalemate was something special. We even came upon a small bump of a waterfall that I just had to shower myself in for a bit. At the base, we had ourselves a perfect little lunch, sprawled out on my poncho by the stream. 

We couldn’t have planned it better but it might not have turned out like this. We each had to be unselfish with our time together and as the one who had kind of led the way, I needed to be most aware of taking care of her more than myself. That’s not always easy for me outside in these big woods where I feel like I’m on borrowed time from the grind of life. But I’m not just managing my time anymore, it’s Rachael and I’s time. And why would I want to spoil any of our time together in the precious little bit of it we get to have loving each other on this blue little marble, before we both turn back to dust and back to nature? 

Type 2 fun is great but I’m realizing it’s not worth it if it sucks the fun out if for both of us. 

For the times they are a-changin’ 

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