Getting out and exploring ‘new to me’ places is one of my favorite ways to spend my time off. I literally spread the trail maps out on the floor of my small apartment and begin dreaming. I lay on the floor and trace multiple routes determining their distance and elevation, figuring out which would be best for easy day hikes, longer harder epic day hikes, and longer overnight backpacking adventures – my favorite. I always seek out the new uncharted un-highlighted (yes, I highlight all the trails on the map that I’ve spent time on) trails that I've never explored. Then I begin to list the possible routes in my notebook next to the list of my possible hiking buddies. After spending a couple hours speculating the best route for the perfect weekend, I then email the usual suspects – friends who also share my love and passion for exploring wilderness areas.
After much planning, deliberation, and soliciting partners this time I ended up going by myself. Sometimes this is the best way anyway, solo hiking is a completely different experience than going with my buddies. My awareness of the surroundings is so much greater by myself than when I go with friends and we’re chatting the entire way. I also experience the sacred time of being quiet in the most spectacular places reflecting on my life or not really thinking at all, just walking amongst the mountains. This hike near Marble Colorado was just that – a strenuous yet rejuvenating experience placed in and surrounded by the most stunning of Colorado’s West Elk Mountains. To be out on a very untraveled trail above treeline by myself is always so liberating and yet so simple. All of life’s worries seem to dissolve and all that seems to matter is staying warm, dry, well hydrated, loaded with electrolytes, blister free feet, and spotting squeaking pikas that hide in the scree fields. This sublime reality experienced above 12,000 feet is incredibly powerful, and for sure the most powerful when shared with only the marmots and pikas.
I dare to ask myself where my ‘real world’ truly resides. After 30 years of exploring wild places, it feels that is the most real ‘out there’ and not here in the coffee shop with my laptop, my smart phone, and access to everyone I know in the matter of the push of button. This access to everyone can be wonderful at times, but really, really do I need that all the time? My real world of being ‘out there’ in the wild with my boots, my journal, my camera, and the friendly marmots is about the best real world I can imagine.