DAY ONE, DENVER

I arrived in the world’s weirdest and hardest to escape airport last night around 7pm, mountain time. My friend Josh picked me up, after a hard fought battle through winding concourses, four confounding escalators and a tram. In between, I stopped and stood, stupefied in front of what looked to be a medium-sized recreation of Machu Pichu in the center atrium. Did i mention that when you leave, you are bid farewell by a 20 foot blue sculpture of a horse with eyes that light up red? Just. Weird.

Now, I’m trying not to get all schmoopy-pants about how beautiful Colorado is. And I’m trying to avoid that little niggle of wanderlust that makes me want to pack up and move, because I’m pretty damn sure I want to stay in Ohio. But, JESUS, guys! Sunset-sunshine blasting through the damn mountains like a cut-out in a Monty Python sky makes me want to give up and say, “You’re right, Ohio is a hole of sadness. Take me, Colorado.”

Came back to Josh and Amy’s. (Sadly, I just missed Amy as she is in Africa doing work as a Child Life Specialist) Josh made tempeh tacos (favorite food) and we sat on their horrifyingly charming little patio while we watched the full moon rise over pine trees. Fuck this place. Seriously. Fuck this place.

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Got up at 6:30 this morning. Josh made oats and coffee. I packed my comically-large fastpack and took their car out to Lookout Mountain. Ah, I love trail maps. Instructions to the trail usually appear as follows: TURN LEFT AT THE UNMARKED DIRT ROAD. THIS WILL LOOK LIKE SOMEONE’S DRIVEWAY. THAT’S BECAUSE IT IS. DO NOT PARK HERE. TAKE TWO MORE LEFTS AND PARK AT THE UNMARKED TRAIL HEAD.

Hey, dingalings, are you trying to make it hard to get the top of the mountain? Why is everything so god damned unmarked? No mind. I made it. A five mile hike-run up dusty, winding, cactus laden, beautiful trails. Two miles from the top, there is a road crossing. Lo and behold, there is a bike race happening right before my very eyes. Juniors on crazy carbon bikes, panting and puffing up the mountain. Way to go, little dudes. It kind of blew me away. I complain about the Zanesfield road race being hard. This looked…insurmountable.

I carried on and came upon a young nerdy dude in basketball shorts moving at a good clip. I made friends. Matt is from Boston and moved here because it’s cheaper (duh) and more beautiful (duh). He’s a tech consultant. We shared a delightfully odd mile together and ended up at a nature center at the summit. We looped around displays of wonky-eyed, stuffed bobcats and baby black bears. Eventually, I took my leave as old basketball shorts had run out of things to say. Luckily, I was about to meet Mack.

I came upon Mack near the mansion at the top of Lookout Mountain. He was standing at the bottom of his own driveway in a cotton shirt and white sneakers. “Ooh. You look like an adventurer!”
What? Really? In a sea of extreme sports enthusiasts cruising around the top of this mountain today, I look like the adventurer? Groovy. Sometimes you do become the thing you are pretending to be. He asked me where I was going, I told him right back down the mountain. I said, “Is this the top?”
“It sure is”. I did a little Lauren-jig. “Awesome. I feel great” I let him know that I hail from the flat lands and he let me know that I was at 8,000 feet. I really did feel pretty good.

Mack had been heading out for a walk and told me that there was another way down that might be more interesting. We walked a half mile before he let on that he was, or is rather, a runner. He said, “Let’s jog eh?” HELL YES. We ran down the mountain on perfectly paved switch backs. The roads were closed for the race. We watched elite cyclists get the top, where there was a USA Cycling stage and tent set up. They turned around and barreled back down the mountain. We probably could have gotten clipped and killed by one, but we were delightfully unawares. We ran a good four or so miles before he dropped me off at the trailhead from whence I came.

I do love meeting strangers on top of mountains. It’s just about my favorite thing.
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I would like to say that I bounded down the rest of the mountain. But it was more like a cautious tumble. By then it was nearly 95 degrees F and my brain was le cooked. Went to a local natural foods grocery for goodies and juice. Tried to head back out to do another pass, but I only made it about 2.5 miles total. It was so hot, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. I made a total of 13 or 14 for the day and I’m quite pleased that I don’t feel like total garbage.

After failing at summiting Apex Trail, I met some awesomely weird hippie dude with long red hair named Bernard who asked me if I wanted to go check out a dead deer on the side of the road, so that he could use it for meat. I said why the hell not. We took a two mile hike together, looking for the deer that he came upon earlier. Bernard, an unlikely hippie from Georgia, is 26 and hitchhiked up here to see his sister. Yep, that still happens. We parted ways when his sister pulled up in an immaculate white Suburu, her hair pulled into a perfect blond tail, Jason Mraz on the stereo. I saw what role he played in the family, and I respected it, because it’s mine too.

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