Most of the hiking I do in the Twin Cities is on trails and fairly flat ground in local parks. On our trip to Colorado, we planned to be active every day, and Sunday’s plan included driving and hiking. And hiking here means elevations of 5,400 feet. (Our next stop is Estes Park, where elevations are 7,500 feet.) Quite a difference from St. Paul’s 702-feet elevation.
We started along Flagstaff Road and began the slow climb up the mountains in our rental SUV. We stopped at Panorama Point to see the city of Boulder below us, drove on to Realization Point, then all the way around to Eldorado Canyon State Park. As our car climbed the hills, we noticed smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe once we had stopped (we turned off the air conditioning and didn’t have issues after that) — even the car couldn’t handle the ascent. We were feeling good, but I could definitely tell the elevations were affecting me: even walking at a normal pace was feeling a bit tiring.
And the sun! So bright!
I felt a bit like a vampire emerging from her gray cubicle cave hissing at all the natural light. I get outside for a bit at lunchtime, and then again at the end of the day, but so much sun all day was a new sensation. Even on weekends, I’m generally running around between errands and events, or cleaning the house, and sadly have only had a handful of days each warm season where I’m outside all day. (Note to self: schedule daily nature breaks.)
Once we got to Walker Ranch, we were worried we might have gotten lost, although there are few wrong turns one can take. Our goal was to drive to Eldorado Canyon State Park and hike, but we clearly had taken the longer route. When I opened up the map on my smartphone and we saw how far we were from our destination, both Kyle and I became frustrated. There was obviously a shorter, easier way, yet we chose the longer, winding road.
Suddenly, the topography shifted and on our right, we saw an a open, glassy lake surrounded by mountains. We stopped at the picnic area of Gross Reservoir to better appreciate the landscape. It was beautiful, and a vista we wouldn’t have witnessed had we taken the direct path to the state park.
That’s the fun of vacations. Plan all you want, but it’s often the moments of unexpected that turn out to be the most memorable. We tend to get frenzied and so caught up in the destination that we forget to breath and appreciate the sights along the way. Maybe for you that means a work or home project, maybe a stage of life like pregnancy or nearing retirement, or maybe it’s weight loss like me.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve thought, once I get back to 125–130 pounds, life will be better. Or when busy times challenge me and I start thinking, I just have to make it through the holidays. I hear that “once this” thinking and it drives me mad — the end point becomes the obsession and I forget to celebrate the milestones along the way. When I gained weight freshman year of college and later lost those 36 pounds, and rather quickly, I didn’t take notice of how I was improving during the process. I’d pack my meals, eat a rather bland diet (this was during the end of the low-fat craze), do my 30-minute workout, and repeat the following day. I felt like I was navigating my way through a fog, only I wasn’t conscious enough to notice my environment was even clouded, and the clearing I was seeking wouldn’t come until the scale read 125.
Focus is one thing, but hyper-focus can be trouble. The markers of achievement, improved strength, overcoming barriers and the lessons along the way are tools for future challenges. I missed both the milestones and education the first time I gained and lost weight, thinking I’d only need to remember the rules if the weight came back. And it did, but the teachings didn’t. I hadn’t retained any healthy lessons for life.
Back on the road to Eldorado Canyon State Park, we were taking our time — and a lot of pictures. Every new photo I snapped looked similar to the one before it, except in each I could almost hear us saying “wow.” The scenery was so inspiring, we wanted to capture each mile along the way.
As much as this day and the longer-road-taken paralleled weight loss for me, maybe it’s the general message of the vacation itself that I’d always be wise to remember: slow down, look around, experience adventure, honor accomplishments, and appreciate the beauty of a life well lived.