FROM: L. Hagan (email@example.com)
SUBJECT: Twin Sisters trip, Late August, '96.
This is, hopefully, a motivational story, for "flatlanders" who dream.
During the first two weeks of July, 1995, my family and I explored the southwest. This was somewhat of a homecoming for me since I was born in Tucson, Arizona, and spent my first nine years crawling and walking Mt. Lemon's slopes.
I stayed several days in Boulder, Colorado, with my aunt. We spent a windy, snowy Fourth of July driving around Rocky Mountain National Park, with stops at Bear Lake trailhead and, of course, Longs Peak trailhead. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. I bought every local hiking book I could find.
Back home, in the middle of Michigan, which is at an awesome altitude of 760', I read, looked at maps and planned until I became so depressed my doctor wanted to put me on medication. (She tries to get to Colorado for skiing twice a year, and when she can't, her partners have to seriously discuss treatment options for her.) I declined medication and, my condition didn't change throughout the winter or spring. By early summer my family talked about permanent living quarters for me in the back yard. Everything came to a head one day in early July, 1996.
When I arrived home from work my wife was waiting on the porch.
"Sit down," she said and, I did.
"You've got two choices. Quit whining and go climb, or get over it and quit whining. Just quit whining!" And with that said, she handed me a CMS (Colorado Mountain School) summer catalog.
"By the way," she said with a grin, "I found it stuffed in one of your mountain books."
Six weeks later, after a twenty-six hour drive, and checking in at CMS, I found myself at the Twin Sisters Trailhead. It was 2 p.m. local time when I hoisted my overloaded pack (I was prepared for everything) on my back and took my first steps. Lack of sleep nor warnings to keep an eye on the weather could stop me. I was pulsating with nervous energy.
The guidebooks led me to believe I would be walking on scorched land, a result a fire. Instead, I walked through a beautiful forest. I heeded the warnings to stay on the trail since I was travelling through private land, and my good behavior was rewarded when I passed by the most magnificent teepee.
As the trail got steeper, and I began to feel the lack of sleep, or oxygen, or something, I started to have doubts. The books said this was a training hike and easy! I was starting to struggle. I stumbled on the rocks littering the trail and became quickly aware of the real meaning behind the name "Rocky Mountains". I was getting tired. Was I making a mistake? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. Was I getting too old for this?
"Relax," I said to myself and took a water break. At least I needed to get to treeline. I could not go back down in defeat and not have at least reached treeline. So I started, one step, then another, and another until a rhythm, not smooth, but a rhythm was established.
Next it started to rain. It poured as I struggled to pull out and put on my rain gear. One-eighth to one-quarter inch hail pounded me. I looked for shelter, perhaps under a big tree just ahead, but the loud booms of thunder reminded me of the lightning dangers. Then came the loudest "crack" I've ever heard. The lightning strike had been close. Too close!
I stood in a nervous posture, feeling the stinging of each hailstone. I watched an embryonic stream quickly mature as it flowed over my boots on its course down the trail. I wasn't at treeline and I wanted to quit.
"Up or down?" I said out loud as if talking to the trees.
To my surprise, "UP," came a response. "We're going up!"
I turned to the voice and a short moment later two young men turned the corner of a switchback.
"Where you from?" asked the second hiker, "We're from Oklahoma."
"Michigan," I answered.
"This is great! Just great!" the first hiker added, "See you at the top." I watched them as they started up another switchback.
I looked back at the northwest sky. It did seem to be clearing somewhat. The hail had stopped, and the booms were to the east.
"To treeline," I said to myself and sloshing my way up the trail followed the two young men. I was closer to treeline than I knew.
As soon as I stepped out of the trees I felt better. TREELINE!! After forty years I finally made it back to treeline. As an adult I've been all over the Smoky Mountain "balds", but nothing compared to this. I was finally out of the woods. And to be melodramatic, the sun came out.
(I don't have the skill to justly describe the views from the summits of Twin Sisters. To the east are the plains, and of course the famous east face of Longs Peak to the west.)
I was home! I stayed as long as I dared amazed at where I was, what I was seeing and what I had done.
I did a lot of introspective thinking on the way down. Would I have gone on if the two young hikers had not shown up when they did? Was part of their purpose the light hearted encouragement they extended? I learned the need to more carefully watch the weather, but also realized rewards come from taking reasonable risks.
"This is great!" punctuated every step.
I was tired when I got back to my van, very tired, and I was satisfied, very, very satisfied. My next goal was Flattop, then Ypsilon, and finally a try at Longs Peak. But that was for tomorrow. Today I still wanted to remember my homecoming.
Three months later back in Michigan (but not home anymore) my mind still echoes, "This is great!". To parrot a well known phrase, "I'll be back!"